Based on the average exchange rate for 2020, the Vietnamese dong depreciated by -5.8% against the US dollar since 2016 and declined by -0.7% from 2019 to 2020. Vietnam’s weaker local currency makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
The latest available country-specific data shows that 71.9% of products exported from Vietnam were bought by importers in: United States (23.2% of the global total), China (15.7%), Japan (7.7%), South Korea (7.5%), Hong Kong (2.7%), Netherlands (2.6%), India (2.5%), Germany (2.5%), United Kingdom (2.2%), Thailand (1.9%), United Arab Emirates (1.8%) and Taiwan (1.7%).
From a continental perspective, 51.5% of Vietnam’s exports by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 26.2% were sold to importers in North America. Vietnam shipped another 17.7% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (2%), Oceania led by Australia (1.6%) and Africa (1.1%).
Given Vietnam’s population of 97.4 million people, its total $348 billion in 2020 exports translates to roughly $3,600 for every resident in the Southeast Asian nation.
Vietnam’s Top 10 Exports
The following export product groups represent the highest dollar value in Vietnamese global shipments during 2020. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Vietnam.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$153.5 billion (44.1% of total exports)
- Machinery including computers: $23.9 billion (6.9%)
- Footwear: $23.8 billion (6.8%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $15.5 billion (4.5%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $15.5 billion (4.4%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $15.2 billion (4.4%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $5.7 billion (1.6%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $5.5 billion (1.6%)
- Fish: $5.1 billion (1.5%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $4.6 billion (1.3%)
Vietnam’s top 10 exports accounted for over three-quarters (77.1%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Machinery including computers was the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 82.3% from 2019 to 2020.
In second place for improving export sales was furniture, bedding, lighting, signs and prefabricated buildings via a 63.2% gain.
Vietnam’s shipments of electrical machinery and equipment posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 58%.
Year over year, the sole decliner among Vietnam’s top 10 export categories was fish thanks to a -18.5% drop.
At the more granular four-digit Harmonized Tariff System code level, phone system devices including smartphones are Vietnam’s most valuable exported product coming in at 20% of the country’s total. In second place were integrated circuits or microassemblies (10.7%) trailed by TV, radio or radar device parts (3.4%), textile footwear (3.2%), miscellaneous furniture (2.6%), leather footwear (2.1%), computers including optical readers (1.8%), insulated wire or cable (1.7%) then microphones, headphones and amplifiers (1.5%).
Vietnam posted an estimated overall $67.7 billion trade surplus during 2020, up by 506.2% from the $11.2 billion in black ink one year earlier.
The following types of Vietnamese product shipments represent positive net exports or a trade balance surplus. Investopedia defines net exports as the value of a country’s total exports minus the value of its total imports.
In a nutshell, net exports represent the amount by which foreign spending on a home country’s goods or services exceeds or lags the home country’s spending on foreign goods or services.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$57.5 billion (Up by 196.6% since 2018)
- Footwear: $21.6 billion (Up by 20.5%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $14 billion (Down by -4.7%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $13.1 billion (Down by -11.9%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefab buildings: $12.6 billion (Up by 47.7%)
- Gems, precious metals: $3.6 billion (Up by 122.8%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $3.5 billion (Up by 8.2%)
- Fish: $3.5 billion (Down by -25.2%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $2.7 billion (Down by -13.9%)
- Toys, games: $2.7 billion (Up by 63.9%)
Vietnam has highly positive net exports in the international trade of electrical machinery and equipment. In turn, these cashflows indicate Vietnam’s strong competitive advantages under the electrical products category.
Below are exports from Vietnam that result in negative net exports or product trade balance deficits. These negative net exports reveal product categories where foreign spending on home country Vietnam’s goods trail Vietnamese importer spending on foreign products.
- Plastics, plastic articles: -US$9.7 billion (Down by -12.3% since 2019)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$6 billion (Down by -49.8%)
- Iron, steel: -$5.4 billion (Down by -22.7%)
- Knit or crochet fabric: -$5.1 billion (Up by 19.9%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$4.3 billion (Up by 16.4%)
- Vehicles: -$3.7 billion (Up by 8.9%)
- Organic chemicals: -$3.1 billion (Down by -1%)
- Machinery including computers: -$3 billion (Down by -70.8%)
- Food industry waste, animal fodder: -$2.6 billion (Down by -11.6%)
- Manmade filaments: -$2.5 billion (Up by 11.7%)
Vietnam has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for plastic materials and items made from plastics.
Vietnamese Export Companies
Two Vietnamese corporations rank among Forbes Global 2000. One company, Vietin Bank is a regional bank.
The other large business, Petrovietnam Gas is part of the following list of Vietnamese international trade businesses.
- Petrovietnam Gas (petroleum/natural gas)
- Samsung Electronics (electronics)
- Viettel Group (telecommunications)
- Vinamilk (dairy products)
- DOJI Gold and Gems Group (gold, jewelry)
- FPT Group (information technology)
- Hoa Phat Group (metals)
- Habeco (beer)
- World Auto (cars, motorcycles)
- Danang Rubber Company (rubber)
In macroeconomic terms, Vietnam’s total exported goods represent 30.3% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2020 ($1.148 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 30.3% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2020 compares to 30.4% for 2019. Those percentages suggest a relatively decreasing reliance on products sold on international markets for Vietnam’s total economic performance albeit based on a short timeframe. Please note that metrics in this article include a significant amount of re-exporting activity as well as estimates.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Vietnam’s average unemployment rate was 2.37% for 2020 up from 2.15% one year earlier, according to Trading Economics.
Vietnam’s capital is Hanoi, a city nicknamed “Paris of the Orient” and “Paris of the East”.
See also Vietnam’s Top 10 Imports and Top Asian Export Countries
Central Intelligence Agency, The World Factbook report on East Asia/Southeast Asia: Indonesia. Accessed on May 25, 2021
Forbes 2020 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on May 25, 2021
Foreign Trade , United States Census Bureau. Accessed on May 25, 2021
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on May 25, 2021
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on May 25, 2021
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on May 25, 2021
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on May 25, 2021
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on May 25, 2021
Wikipedia, Hanoi. Accessed on May 25, 2021
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Vietnam. Accessed on May 25, 2021
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on May 25, 2021
Wikipedia, Vietnam. Accessed on May 25, 2021