Economy of Vietnam
|Economy of Vietnam|
$187.848 billion (nominal, 2014 est.)$509.466 billion (PPP, 2014 est.)
|5.62% (9 months of 2014)|
GDP per capita
$2,073 (nominal, 2014 est.)$5,621 (PPP, 2014 est.)
GDP by sector
|Agriculture: 19.3%, industry: 38.5%, services: 42.2% (2013 est.)|
|4.39% (March 2014)|
Population below poverty line
|11.3% (2012 est.)|
|52.93 million (2013 est.)|
Labour force by occupation
|Agriculture: 48%, industry: 21%, services: 31% (2012 est.)|
|Unemployment||2.22% (October 2013)|
|paddy rice, coffee, rubber, cotton, tea, pepper, soybeans, cashews, sugar cane, peanuts, bananas, poultry, fish, seafood|
|Exports||$128.9 billion (2013 est.)|
|clothes, shoes, marine products, crude oil, electronics, wooden products, rice, machinery|
Main export partners
United States 17.8%
South Korea 5%
Malaysia 4.1% (2012 est.)
|Imports||$121.4 billion (2013 est.)|
|machinery and equipment, petroleum products, steel products, raw materials for the clothing and shoe industries, electronics, plastics, automobiles|
Main import partners
South Korea 13.9%
United States 4.3% (2012 est.)
Gross external debt
|$68.38 billion (December 2013 est.)|
|50.4% of GDP (2013)|
|Revenues||$42.82 billion (2013 est.)|
|Expenses||$50 billion (2013 est.)|
|Economic aid||$2.8 billion pledged (2000)|
Standard & Poor's:
BB- (T&C Assessment)
Main data source: CIA World Fact Book
All values, unless otherwise stated, are in US dollars.
The economy of Vietnam is a developing planned economy and market economy. Since the mid-1980s, through the Đổi Mới reform period, Vietnam has made a shift from a highly centralized planned economy to a socialist-oriented market economy which use both directive and indicative planning (see Five-Year Plans of Vietnam). Over that period, the economy has experienced rapid growth. Nowadays, Vietnam is in a period of being integrated into the global economy. Almost all Vietnamese enterprises are small and medium enterprises (SMEs). Vietnam has become a leading agricultural exporter and served as an attractive destination for foreign investment in Southeast Asia. As the planned economy of Vietnam lost the momentum for productivity and sustainable growth, like most of the Communist economies in the world after the Cold War period, nowadays the economy of Vietnam relies largely on foreign direct investment to attract the capital from overseas to support its continual economic rigorousness.
In 2013, the nominal GDP reached US$170.565 billion, with nominal GDP per capita of US$1,902. According to a forecast in December 2005 by Goldman Sachs, the Vietnamese economy was expected to become the 35th largest economy in the world with nominal GDP of US$436 billion and nominal GDP per capita of US$4,357 by 2025. According to a forecast by the PricewaterhouseCoopers in 2008, Vietnam may be the fastest growing of emerging economies by 2025, with a potential annual growth rate of about 10% in real dollar terms, which would increase the size of the economy to 70% of the size of the UK economy by 2050.
Vietnam has been named among the Next Eleven and CIVETS countries. Despite economic achievement following Doi Moi, there exist issues that cause many analysts and researchers to remain worried about the pace of development in the country.
- Development since 1997 1.1
Economic sectors 2
- Agriculture, fishery and forestry 2.1
- Energy, mining and minerals 2.2
- Industry and manufacturing 2.3
- Services and tourism 2.4
Banking and finance 2.5
- Banking 2.5.1
- Finance 2.5.2
Currency, exchange rate and inflation 3
- Currency 3.1
- Exchange rate 3.2
- Inflation 3.3
- Mergers and acquisitions 4
Foreign economic relations 5
Foreign trade 5.1
- Trades and trading partners 5.1.1
- Export 5.1.2
- Import 5.1.3
- External debt, foreign aid, and foreign investment 5.2
- Free trade agreement 5.3
- Foreign trade 5.1
- Major economic areas 6
- Economic indicators and international rankings 7
- Literature 8
- References 9
- External links 10
Civilization in Vietnam had been built on agriculture. The feudal dynasties always considered agriculture as the main economic base, and their economic thoughts have been predicated on physiocracy. Land ownership was regulated, and such large-scale works as dykes were conducted in the Red River Delta to facilitate wet rice cultivation. In peaceful times, soldiers were sent home to do farm work. Furthermore, the court prohibited slaughtering water buffalo and cattle and held many agriculture-related ceremonies. Handicrafts and art were valued, but commerce was deprecated, and businessmen were called by the derogatory term con buôn. The national economy was self-sufficient.
From the 16th century, Confucianism was losing its influence on Vietnamese society and a monetary economy began to develop. Early commercial ports, such as Hội An, were constrained, and foreign countries with their different cultures and their invasion ambitions were seen as a threat. This policy of closure led to a degree of stagnation in the Vietnamese economy, and contributed to Vietnam becoming a French colony.
Until the French colonization in the mid-19th century, Vietnam's economy had been mostly agrarian, subsistence-based and village-oriented. French colonizers, however, deliberately developed the regions differently as the French needed raw materials and a market for French manufactured goods, designating the South for agricultural production as it was better suited for agriculture, and the North for manufacturing as it was naturally wealthy in mineral resources. Though the plan exaggerated regional divisions, the development of exports — coal from the North, rice from the South — and the importation of French manufactured goods stimulated domestic commerce. The separation distorted the basic Vietnamese economy by overly stressing regional economic differences. In the North, while irrigated rice remained the principal subsistence crop, the French introduced plantation agriculture with products such as tea, cotton, and tobacco. The colonial government also developed some extractive industries, such as the mining of coal, iron, and nonferrous metals. A shipbuilding industry was begun in Hanoi; railroads, roads, power stations, and hydraulics works were constructed. In the South, agricultural development concentrated on rice cultivation, and, nationally, rice and rubber were the main items of export. Domestic and foreign trade were centered around the Saigon-Cholon area. Industry in the South consisted mostly of food-processing plants and factories producing consumer goods.
The development of exports—coal from the North, rice from the South—and the importation of French manufactured goods, however, stimulated internal commerce. A pattern of trade developed whereby rice from the South was exchanged for coal and manufactured goods from the North.
When the North and South were divided politically in 1954, they also adopted different economic ideologies: communism in the North and capitalism in the South. Destruction caused by the Second Indochina War from 1954 to 1975 seriously strained the economy. The situation was worsened by the country's 1.5 million military and civilian deaths, and the subsequent exodus of 1 million refugees, including tens of thousands of professionals, intellectuals, technicians and skilled workers.
The government's Second Five-Year Plan (1976–1981) aimed for extraordinarily high annual growth rates in industrial and agricultural sectors and national income and sought to integrate the North and the South, but the goals were not attained. The economy remained dominated by small-scale production, low labor productivity, unemployment, material and technological shortfalls, and insufficient food and consumer goods. The more modest goals of the Third Five-Year Plan (1981–85) were a compromise between ideological and pragmatic factions; they emphasized the development of agriculture and industry. Efforts were also made to decentralize planning and improve the managerial skills of government officials.
Since reunification in 1975, the economy of Vietnam has been plagued by enormous difficulties in production, imbalances in supply and demand, inefficiencies in distribution and circulation, soaring inflation rates, and rising debt problems. Vietnam is one of the few countries in modern history to experience a sharp economic deterioration in a postwar reconstruction period. Its peacetime economy is one of the poorest in the world and has shown a negative to very slow growth in total national output as well as in agricultural and industrial production. Vietnam's gross domestic product ( GDP) in 1984 was valued at US$18.1 billion with a per capita income estimated to be between US$200 and US$300 per year. Reasons for this mediocre economic performance have included severe climatic conditions that afflicted agricultural crops, bureaucratic mismanagement, elimination of private ownership, extinction of entrepreneurial classes in the South, and military occupation of Cambodia (which resulted in a cutoff of much-needed international aid for reconstruction).
From the late 1970s until the early 1990s, Vietnam was a member of the Comecon, and therefore was heavily dependent on trade with the Soviet Union and its allies. Following the dissolution of the Comecon and the loss of its traditional trading partners, Vietnam was forced to liberalize trade, devalue its exchange rate to increase exports, and embark on a policy of economic development.
Throughout the 1990s, exports increased significantly, growing by as much as 20% to 30% in some years. In 1999, exports accounted for 40% of GDP, an impressive performance in the midst of the economic crisis which hit other countries in Asia. Vietnam became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO) in 2007, which freed Vietnam from textile quotas enacted worldwide as part of the  The MFA placed restrictions on the import by industrialized countries of textiles from developing countries. For China and other WTO members, however, textile quotas under the MFA expired at the end of 2004 as agreed in the Uruguay Round of trade negotiations in 1994.
In 1986, Vietnam launched a political and economic renewal campaign (Đổi Mới) that introduced reforms to facilitate the transition from a centralized economy to a "socialist-oriented market economy". Đổi Mới combined government planning with free-market incentives and encouraged the establishment of private businesses and foreign investment, including foreign-owned enterprises. By the late 1990s, the success of the business and agricultural reforms ushered in under Đổi Mới was evident. More than 30,000 private businesses had been created, the economy was growing at an annual rate of more than 7%, and poverty was nearly halved.
Development since 1997
Vietnam's economic policy following the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis has been a cautious one, emphasizing macroeconomic stability rather than growth. While the country shifted toward a more market-oriented economy, the Vietnamese government still continues to hold a tight rein over major state sectors, such as the banking system, state-owned enterprises and foreign trade. GDP growth fell to 6% in 1998 and 5% in 1999.
The signing of the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) between the USA and Vietnam on July 13, 2000, was a significant milestone. The BTA provided for "normal trade relations" (NTR) status of Vietnamese goods in the U.S. market. It was expected that access to the U.S. market would allow Vietnam to hasten its transformation into a manufacturing-based, export-oriented economy. Furthermore, it would attract foreign investment, not only from the U.S., but also from Europe, Asia and other regions.
In 2001, the ruling Communist Party of Vietnam approved a 10-year economic plan that enhanced the role of the private sector, while reaffirming the primacy of the state. Growth then rose to 6% to 7% between 2000 and 2002 even in the midst of the global recession, making it the world's second-fastest growing economy. At the same time, investment grew threefold and domestic savings quintupled.
In 2003, the private sector accounted for more than one-quarter of all industrial output. However, between 2003 and 2005, Vietnam fell dramatically in the World Economic Forum's global competitiveness report rankings, largely due to negative perceptions of the effectiveness of government institutions. Official corruption is endemic, and Vietnam lags in property rights, efficient regulation of markets, and labor and financial market reforms.
Vietnam had an average GDP growth of 7.1% a year from 2000 to 2004. The GDP growth was 8.4% in 2005, the second-largest in Asia, trailing only China's. The government estimated that GDP grew in 2006 by 8.17%. According to the Minister of Planning and Investment, the government targeted a GDP growth of around 8.5% in 2007.
On November 7, 2006, the General Council at the World Trade Organization ( The country's access to the WTO was intended to provide an important boost to the economy, as it ensured that the liberalizing reforms continue and created options for trade expansion. However, the WTO accession also brought serious challenges, requiring the economy to open up to increasing foreign competition.
Vietnam’s economy continues to expand at an annual rate in excess of 7%, one of the fastest growing in the world, but it grew from an extremely low base, as it suffered the crippling effect of the Vietnam War from the 1950s to the 1970s, as well as the austerity measures introduced in its aftermath. In 2012, the communist party was forced to apologise about the mismanagement of the economy after large numbers of SOEs went bankrupt and inflation rose. The main danger has been over the bad debt in the banks totalling to 15% and forecast growth is 5.2% for 2012 but this is also due to the global economic crisis. However the government have launched schemes to reform the economy such as lifting foreign ownership cap from 49% and partially privatizing the countries State owned companies which have been responsible for the recent economic downturn by the end of 2013 the government are expected to privatize 25–50 percent of most SOEs only maintaining control on public services and military. The recent reforms have created a major boom in the Vietnamese stock market as confidence in the Vietnamese economy are returning.
Over the last 2 decades, Vietnam experienced a rapid construction booming that contributed a big part in economic growth but also caused "bubble" to the economy. Skyscrapers mushroomed in big cities. According to data of Skyscrapercity website, in 2013, the top three tallest buildings in Vietnam were the Hanoi Landmark 72 (336m), the Hanoi Lotte Center (267m) and the Saigon Bitexco Financial Tower (263m).
However, Vietnam's current economic turmoil has given rise to question of a new period of changing political economy.
Agriculture, fishery and forestry
In 2003, Vietnam produced an estimated 30.7 million cubic meters of wood. Production of sawn wood was a more modest 2,950 cubic meters. In 1992, in response to dwindling forests, Vietnam imposed a ban on the export of logs and raw timber. In 1997, the ban was extended to all timber products except wooden artifacts. During the 1990s, Vietnam began to reclaim land for forests with a tree-planting program.
Vietnam’s fishing industry, which has abundant resources given the country’s long coastline and extensive network of rivers and lakes, has generally experienced moderate growth. In 2003, the total catch was about 2.6 million tons. However, seafood exports increased fourfold between 1990 and 2002 to more than US$2 billion, driven in part by shrimp farms in the South and "catfish", which are a different species from their American counterparts, but are marketed in the United States under the same name. By selling vast quantities of shrimp and catfish to the U.S., Vietnam triggered antidumping complaints by the U.S., which imposed tariffs in the case of catfish and was considering doing the same for shrimp. In 2005, the seafood industry began to focus on domestic demand to compensate for declining exports.
Vietnam is one of the top rice exporting countries in the world, but the limited sophistication of small-scale Vietnamese farmers causes quality to suffer.
Vietnam is the world's second largest exporter of coffee.
Energy, mining and minerals
Petroleum is the main source of energy, followed by coal, which contributes about 25% of the country’s energy (excluding biomass). Vietnam’s oil reserves are in the range of 270–500 million tons. Oil production rose rapidly to 403,300 barrels per day (64,120 m3/d) in 2004, but output is believed to have peaked and is expected to decline gradually.
In 2003, mining and quarrying accounted for 9.4% of GDP, and the sector employed 0.7% of the workforce. Petroleum and coal are the main mineral exports. Also mined are antimony, bauxite, chromium, gold, iron, natural phosphates, tin, and zinc.
Crude oil is Vietnam’s leading export, as it exported a total of 17 million tons in 2002. In 2004, crude oil represented 22% of all export earnings. Petroleum exports are in the form of crude petroleum because Vietnam has a very limited refining capacity. Vietnam’s only operational refinery, a facility at Cat Hai near Ho Chi Minh City, has a capacity of only 800 barrels per day (130 m3/d). Refined petroleum accounted for 10.2% of total imports in 2002. As of 2012, Vietnam had only one refinery, the Dung Quat refinery, but a second one, the Nghi Son Refinery was planned and was scheduled for construction in May 2013.
Vietnam’s anthracite coal reserves are estimated at 3.7 billion tons. Coal production was almost 19 million tons in 2003, compared with 9.6 million tons in 1999. Vietnam’s potential natural gas reserves are 1.3 trillion cubic meters. In 2002, Vietnam brought ashore 2.26 billion cubic meters of natural gas. Hydroelectric power is another source of energy. In 2004, Vietnam confirmed plans to build a nuclear power plant with Russian assistance, and a second by a Japanese group.
Industry and manufacturing
Although the industrial sector contributed 40.1% of GDP in 2004, it employed only 12.9% of the workforce. In 2000, 22.4% of industrial production was attributable to non-state activities. From 1994 to 2004, the industrial sector grew at an average annual rate of 10.3%. Manufacturing contributed 20.3% of GDP in 2004, while employing 10.2% of the workforce. From 1994 to 2004, manufacturing GDP grew at an average annual rate of 11.2%. The top manufacturing sectors — food processing, cigarettes and tobacco, textiles, chemicals, and electrical goods — experienced rapid growth. Almost a third of manufacturing and retail activity is concentrated in Ho Chi Minh City.
Services and tourism
In 2004, services accounted for 38.2% of gross domestic product (GDP). From 1994 to 2004, GDP attributable to the service sector grew at an average annual rate of 6.0%.
In 2012, Vietnam welcomed 6.8 millions international visitors and the number is expected to be more than 7 millions in 2013. Vietnam keeps emerging as an attractive destination. In Tripadvisor's list of top 25 destinations Asia 2013 by travellers' choice, there are four cities of Vietnam, namely Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hoi An and Ha Long
Banking and finance
Most efficient and reliable banks are the largest (also state-owned) ones: VietinBank, BIDV, and Vietcombank. The banking sector is dominated by the three institutions. There is also a trend of foreign investment into profitable banks. For example, VietinBank is currently owned by Bank of Tokyo Mitsubishi UFJ (20%) and International Finance Corporation (10%) while Vietcombank is owned by Mizuho (15%).
Vietnam's top five banks by registered capital (as of May 2013, USD/VND exchange rate = 21,000 VND)
- VietinBank $1.56 billion (32,661 billion VND)
- Agribank $1.39 billion (29,154 billion VND)
- Vietcombank $1.10 billion (23,174 billion VND)
- BIDV $1.10 billion (23,011 billion VND)
- Eximbank $0.59 billion (12,355 billion VND)
Vietnam currently has two stock trading centers, the Ho Chi Minh City Securities Trading Center and the Hanoi Securities Trading Center, which run the Ho Chi Minh Stock Exchange (HOSE) and the Hanoi Stock Exchange (HNX), respectively.
Currency, exchange rate and inflation
Vietnam's currency is the Vietnamese dong.
The exchange rate between the U.S. dollar and the Vietnamese dong is important because the dong, although not freely convertible, is loosely pegged to the dollar through an arrangement known as a "crawling peg". This mechanism allows the dollar–dong exchange rate to adjust gradually to changing market conditions. As of June 28, 2013, 1 U.S. dollar was equivalent to about 21,036 Vietnamese dong.
Gold still maintains its position as a physical currency to a certain extent, although it has seen its economic role declining in recent years.
Latest foreign exchange rates can be found here.
Vietnam's economy experienced a hyperinflation period in its early years of the extensive reform program, especially from 1987 to 1992.
In 2008, inflation was tracking at 20.3% for the first half of the year, higher than the 3.4% in 2000, but down significantly from 160% in 1988.
In 2010, inflation stood at 11.5%, and 18.58% in 2011.
At the end of 2012, inflation stood at 7.5%, a substantial decrease from 2011.
Mergers and acquisitions
From 1999 to 2010, Vietnamese companies have been involved as either an acquiror or an acquired company in 1,320 mergers and acquisitions with a total value of US$7.7 billion. The number and value of deals hit US$2.0 billion in 2010, nearly US$3.5 billion in 2011, and US$3.7 billion in 2012. The number of deals rose from 50 in 2006 to nearly 200 in 2008 and almost 400 by 2011. The mergers and acquisitions activities faced many obstacles, lowering the rate of success of the transaction. Common obstacles come from culture, transparency and legal aspects.
Foreign economic relations
Economic relations with the United States are improving, but are not without challenges. Although the United States and Vietnam reached a landmark bilateral agreement in December 2001, which helped increase Vietnam’s exports to the United States, disagreements over textile and catfish exports are hindering full implementation of the agreement. Further disrupting the economic relations between the two countries were efforts in Congress to link non-humanitarian aid to Vietnam's human rights record. Barriers to trade and intellectual property are also within the purview of bilateral discussions.
Given neighboring China's rapid economic ascendancy, Vietnam highly values its economic relationship with China. Following the resolution of most territorial disputes, trade with China is growing rapidly, and in 2004, Vietnam imported more products from China than from any other country. In November 2004, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), of which Vietnam is a member, and China announced plans to establish the world’s largest free-trade area by 2010.
Vietnam became a member of the
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|Economist Intelligence Unit||Resilience amid turmoil Bechmarking IT industry competitiveness 2009||56 out of 66|
|International Monetary Fund||Gross Domestic Product (PPP)||38 out of 182|
|World Economic Forum||Global Competitiveness||70 out of 148|
|World Bank||Ease of Doing Business||99 out of 188|
|Heritage Foundation/The Wall Street Journal||Index of Economic Freedom||147 out of 177 - mostly unfree (2013)|
|Transparency International||Corruption Perceptions Index||116 out of 177|
Economic indicators and international rankings
Major economic areas
Vietnam is negotiating to join the Trans-Pacific Strategic Economic Partnership.
- ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA)
- ASEAN–Australia–New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) is a free trade area between ASEAN and ANZCERTA, signed on 27 February 2009 and coming into effect on 1 January 2010. Details of the AANZFTA agreement are available online.
- ASEAN–China Free Trade Area (ACFTA), in effect as of 1 January 2010
- ASEAN–India Free Trade Area (AIFTA), in effect as of 1 January 2010
- ASEAN–Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP)
- ASEAN–Korea Free Trade Area (AKFTA), in effect as of 1 January 2010
- Comprehensive Economic Partnership for East Asia
Vietnam signed most of the free trade agreements under the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which currently include:
Free trade agreement
Pledged foreign direct investment US$21.3 billion for 2007 and a record US$31.6 billion for the first half of 2008. Mergers and acquisitions have gradually become an important channel of investments in the economy, especially after 2005.
The World Bank's assistance program for Vietnam has three objectives: to support Vietnam’s transition to a market economy, to enhance equitable and sustainable development and to promote good governance. From 1993 through 2004, Vietnam received pledges of US$29 billion of official development assistance (ODA), of which about US$14 billion, or 49%, has been disbursed. In 2004, international donors pledged ODA of US$2.25 billion, of which US$1.65 billion actually was disbursed. Three donors accounted for 80% of disbursements in 2004: Japan, the World Bank, and the Asian Development Bank. From 2006 to 2010, Vietnam hopes to receive US$14 billion to US$15 billion of ODA.
 From 1988 to December 2004, cumulative foreign direct investment (FDI) commitments totaled US$46 billion. By December 2004, about 58% had been dispersed. About half of FDI has been directed at the two major cities (and environs) of Ho Chi Minh City and
In 2004, external debt amounted to US$16.6 billion, or 37%, of GDP.
External debt, foreign aid, and foreign investment
Vietnam import rose 6.6% in 2012, valued at US$113.79 billion. Major import countries were 
In 2004 Vietnam’s merchandise imports were valued at US$31.5 billion, and growing rapidly. Vietnam’s principal imports were machinery (17.5%), refined petroleum (11.5%), steel (8.3%), material for the textile industry (7.2%), and cloth (6.0%). The main origins of Vietnam’s imports were China (13.9%), Taiwan (11.6%), Singapore (11.3%), Japan (11.1%), South Korea (10.4%), Thailand (5.8%), and Malaysia (3.8%).
In 2013, export rose 15.4%, valued at US$132.17 billion, of which export of electronics now comprised 24.5% of total export, compared with a 4.4% in 2008. Textiles and garments are still an important part in Vietnam's export, valued about US$21.5 billions in 2013.
In 2012, export rose 18.2%, valued at US$114.57 billion. Vietnam's main export market included the 
In 2004, Vietnam’s exports of merchandise were valued at US$26.5 billion, and, were growing rapidly along with imports. Vietnam’s principal exports were crude oil (22.1%), textiles and garments (17.1%), footwear (10.5%), fisheries products (9.4%) and electronics (4.1%). The main destinations of Vietnam's exports were the United States (18.8%), Japan (13.2%), China (10.3%), Australia (6.9%), Singapore (5.2%), Germany (4.0%), and the United Kingdom (3.8%).
|Year||Total trade (US$ Billions)||Export (US$ Billions)||Export change (%)||Import (US$ Billions)||Import change (%)||Account Balance (US$ Billions)|
In 2012, Vietnam recorded a trade surplus of US$780 million, the first trade surplus since 1993. Total trade reached US$228.13 billion, an increase of 12.1% from 2011.
In 2007, Vietnam ran a trade deficit of US$14.1 billion, but the trade deficit for the first half of 2008 alone was measured at US$14.8 billion.
Trades and trading partners