Based on the average exchange rate for 2019, the Vietnamese dong depreciated by -6.2% against the US dollar since 2015 and declined by -2% from 2018 to 2019. Vietnam’s weaker local currency makes its exports paid for in stronger US dollars relatively less expensive for international buyers.
From a continental perspective and based on finalized 2018 data, about 54% of Vietnam’s exported goods by value were delivered to fellow Asian countries while 22% were sold to importers in North America. Vietnam shipped another 18.4% worth of goods to Europe. Smaller percentages went to Latin America excluding Mexico but including the Caribbean (1.9%), Oceania led by Australia (1.8%) and Africa (1%).
Given Vietnam’s population of 95.5 million people, its total $304.3 billion in 2019 exports translates to roughly $3,200 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 2019. Also shown is the percentage share each export category represents in terms of overall exports from Vietnam.
- Electrical machinery, equipment: US$126.9 billion (41.7% of total exports)
- Footwear: $24.7 billion (8.1%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $16.9 billion (5.5%)
- Machinery including computers: $16.7 billion (5.5%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $16.1 billion (5.3%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $12.3 billion (4.1%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: $5.8 billion (1.9%)
- Fish: $5.6 billion (1.8%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $4.6 billion (1.5%)
- Plastics, plastic articles: $4.5 billion (1.5%)
Vietnam’s top 10 exports accounted for over three-quarters (76.9%) of the overall value of its global shipments.
Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs and prefabricated buildings represents the fastest grower among the top 10 export categories, up by 66.3% from 2018 to 2019. In second place for improving export sales was footwear via a 47% gain. Vietnam’s shipments of electrical machinery and equipment posted the third-fastest gain in value up by 46.5%.
The leading decliner among Vietnam’s top 10 export categories was optical, technical and medical apparatus due to its-25.2% drop year over year.
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 20.7% of the country’s total. In second place were integrated circuits or microassemblies (8.6%) trailed by textile footwear (3.9%), TV, radio or radar device parts (3%), leather footwear (2.4%), miscellaneous furniture (2.4%), insulated wire or cable (1.7%), printing machinery (1.5%), knitted or crocheted jerseys and pullovers (1.5%) then rubber or plastic footwear (also 1.5%).
Overall, Vietnam posted an estimated $41 billion trade surplus during 2019, up by 500.1% from the $6.8 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$49.1 billion (Up by 162.6% since 2018)
- Footwear: $22.8 billion (Up by 44.1%)
- Knit or crochet clothing, accessories: $15.4 billion (Up by 12.8%)
- Clothing, accessories (not knit or crochet): $14.4 billion (Up by 2.3%)
- Furniture, bedding, lighting, signs, prefabricated buildings: $10 billion (Up by 48.5%)
- Leather/animal gut articles: $4 billion (Up by 34.5%)
- Fish: $3.6 billion (Down by -25.6%)
- Coffee, tea, spices: $2.8 billion (Down by -27.6%)
- Wood: $2.2 billion (Up by 91.5%)
- Rubber, rubber articles: $2.2 billion (Up by 48.7%)
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.
- Machinery including computers: -US$10.1 billion (Up by 1.2% since 2018)
- Plastics, plastic articles: -$10 billion (Down by -9.7%)
- Mineral fuels including oil: -$8.7 billion (Down by -21.6%)
- Iron, steel: -$7.8 billion (Up by 5.7%)
- Knit or crochet fabric: -$6.1 billion (Up by 51.8%)
- Vehicles: -$4 billion (Up by 116%)
- Optical, technical, medical apparatus: -$3.5 billion (Up by 118.9%)
- Aircraft, spacecraft: -$3.3 billion (Up by 5221.6%)
- Organic chemicals: -$3.1 billion (Down by -8.3%)
- Manmade filaments: -$3 billion (Up by 63.3%)
Vietnam has highly negative net exports and therefore deep international trade deficits for printing machinery and computers under the machinery including computers product category.
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 30.4% of its overall Gross Domestic Product for 2019 ($1 trillion valued in Purchasing Power Parity US dollars). That 30.4% for exports to overall GDP in PPP for 2019 compares to 39.1% for 2018. 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.
Another key indicator of a country’s economic performance is its unemployment rate. Vietnam’s average unemployment rate was 2.21% for 2019 same as one year earlier, according to the International Monetary Fund.
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: Vietnam. Accessed on April 21, 2020
Forbes 2019 Global 2000 rankings, The World’s Biggest Public Companies. Accessed on April 21, 2020
Foreign Trade , United States Census Bureau. Accessed on April 21, 2020
International Monetary Fund, Exchange Rates selected indicators (National Currency per U.S. dollar, period average). Accessed on April 21, 2020
International Monetary Fund, World Economic Outlook Database (GDP based on Purchasing Power Parity). Accessed on April 21, 2020
International Trade Centre, Trade Map. Accessed on April 21, 2020
Investopedia, Net Exports Definition. Accessed on April 21, 2020
Wikipedia, Gross domestic product. Accessed on April 21, 2020
Wikipedia, Hanoi. Accessed on April 21, 2020
Wikipedia, List of Companies of Vietnam. Accessed on April 21, 2020
Wikipedia, Purchasing power parity. Accessed on April 21, 2020
Wikipedia, Vietnam. Accessed on April 21, 2020