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Belarus-Vietnam trade in numbers: plans vs reality

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Friendship!

On June 27, Aliaksandr Lukashenka hosted the visiting President of Vietnam Trần Đại Quang in Minsk. "The parties will discuss the entire spectrum of bilateral cooperation issues. Negotiations will focus on the development of trade and economic cooperation," says the press office of Belarusian President.

$ 500 million trade turnover. Where?

The last time Lukashenka and Quang met before the summit in Minsk was just 7 months ago in December 2016. They agreed "to boost economic interaction, industrial cooperation, to increase trade turnover up to $500 million in 2017." However, this agreement is currently no more than a cheerful declaration. In January-April 2017, the trade turnover between Belarus and Vietnam amounted to $31.866.000.

Yes, this is 36,3% more than in January-April 2016 but a way short of the $500-million target.

Threefold over 10 years. How big is that?

In early 2017, Belarus Industry Minister Vital Vouk talked about fruitful cooperation with Vietnam. "Over ten years, trade turnover between our countries has grown threefold,"  the official is quoted as saying by Minsk News agency.

Vouk did not exaggerate. In 2006, trade turnover between Belarus and Vietnam amounted to $49.3 million. In 2016, it reached $121 million - an almost 2.5-times growth over ten years.

It is worth noting that $121 million is around 0.2% of Belarus' total turnover - hardly enough to call Vietnam a significant trade partner. But in the time of crtisis, Belarus treats all partners as significant.

The main items of Belarusian exports to Vietnam in 2006 were  potash fertilizers ($25.6 million), tractors ($4.1 million), dump trucks ($3.5 million), spare parts ($1.2 million), engines ($1.2 million), machines ($0.6 million), bearings ($0,5 million). The structure of export has not changed much over the past ten years. Apart from fertilizers, we continue to sell in small numbers tractors, dump trucks and spare parts to Vietnam.

 

Belarus-made tractor MTZ-50 on a Vietnamese banknote.

What was the deal with Vietnam's previous president about?

It may be a coincidence but the presidents of Belarus and Vietnam meet in December. For example, on December 9, 2015, Aliaksandr Lukashenka held talks with the then Vietnamese president Truong Tan Sang. The leaders "agreed to promote trade turnover and investment and adjust the trading balance."

Did it happen? No. The trade turnover in 2015 amounted to $149.9 million against $121 million in 2016.

The trading balance was adjusted in a strange way. Belarus' exports to Vietnam in 2016 dropped 31.1% down to $76.8 million, while imports grew 15.3% up to $44.2 million.

What does Belarus export to Vietnam??

Interestingly, the 200 Vietnamese Dong banknote depicts a Belarus tractor in memory of the assistance Vietnam received from the Soviet Union after the war with the United States. Assistance in the past aside, what does Belarus export to Vietnam now?

The latest data available on the website of the National Statistics Committee (BelStat) are for the year of 2015. Belarus sells potash fertilizers, polyamides (used in car-making, machine-manufacturing and other industries), tyres, engines, spare parts and accessories for trucks and tractors. In 2015, Belarus sold 75 tractors worth of $1.1 million - 18 tractors more than in 2014 but 108 tractors less than in 2013...

Footwear dominates Belarus' imports from Vietnam! In 2015, we imported 50,6 thousand pairs of footwear.

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