Vietnam Q1 growth highest in a decade

HANOI (AFP) – Vietnam’s economy saw its strongest first-quarter growth in a decade, data showed yesterday, driven by a surge in electronics manufacturing and exports.

The reading comes as the country is poised to expand its overseas markets after signing an 11-nation Asia-Pacific trade deal this month that replaces the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), scrapped by the US last year.

Observers said a spike in exports was a promising sign that Vietnam’s market has not been dented by US President Donald Trump’s protectionist agenda.

The 7.38 per cent GDP expansion in January-March was sharply up from the rate of just over five per cent seen in the same period last year, according to the Government Statistics Office (GSO), and well above the government’s annual target of 6.7 per cent.

The figures are the best since a 7.40 per cent reading in the first quarter of 2008.

Vietnamese employees welding in the body shop at the Ford automotive plant in the northern province of Hai Duong. – AFP

While agriculture and wholesale and retail trade saw steady rises year-on-year, manufacturing remained the pillar of growth, expanding more than 13 per cent, the GSO said.

Vietnam is a manufacturing hotspot in Asia especially for electronics, drawing industry heavyweights such as LG Electronics, Samsung and Canon with its cheap labour and open-door trade policies.

First-quarter growth sagged last year after Samsung – which accounts for about 25 per cent of Vietnam’s overall exports – announced a massive recall of its Galaxy Note 7 phone over an exploding battery debacle.

But exports bounced back, topping more than $54 billion in the first quarter, a 22 per cent rise on-year, the GSO said.