Free trade deal boosts South Korea’s exports to Vietnam

Vietnam was the world’s third largest importer of South Korean products during January-October, data show. The Korea-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement, which took effect a year ago, has largely expanded exports from South Korea to Vietnam.

South Korea’s shipments to Vietnam in the first 10 months climbed 12 percent from the same period last year to $26.4 billion, citing reports from the trade ministry and the Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency.

South Korea’s trade ministry said the rising exports made Vietnam the world’s third-largest importer of South Korean products during the January-October period, after China and the U.S.

Vietnam’s General Statistics Office on Friday released trade data for the first 11 months, putting South Korea among the top exporters to Vietnam in a wide range of products from iron and steel and garment materials to phones and consumer goods.

In particular South Korea was the biggest seller of computers and electronics to Vietnam, with a total value of $7.94 billion, up 26.3 percent from the year-ago period. It was also the second biggest supplier of machinery to Vietnam, with exports of $5.12 billion, up 9.5 percent.

Fuel shipments from South Korea increased fivefold to 1.6 million tons, the biggest expansion from all suppliers.

Statistics showed that Vietnam has been recording a larger trade deficit with South Korea since 2010. The decifit hit nearly $19 billion last year.

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A survey by the Korea investment promotion agency found 42 percent of 60 South Korean exporters increased their shipments to Vietnam following the enactment of the Korea-Vietnam FTA in December 2015. A majority expected the free trade deal to continue helping their business in 2017.

For years, South Korea has been the biggest foreign investor in Vietnam, driven by major projects of electronics giants LG and Samsung.

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