Exports in 2019 rose 8.4% to US$264.189bil, while imports rose 6.8% to US$253.071bil, the Customs Department said in a statement.
Key imports were electronics and machinery, the department said.
Vietnam’s exports of smartphones and spare parts, mostly produced by Samsung Electronics (005930.KS), rose 4.4% last year to $51.38 billion, the data showed.
In December, Vietnam’s exports fell 1.0% from November to US$22.56bil, while imports were up 4.5% at US$22.30bil, resulting in a trade surplus of US$259mil.
The General Statistics Office late last month forecast the 2019 trade surplus at US$9.94bil, and December’s trade deficit at US$1bil.
Monday’s data also showed Vietnam’s trade surplus with the United States, Vietnam’s largest export market, widened to US$46.98bil last year from US$34.87bil a year earlier.
Vietnam is at risk of being labelled a currency manipulator by the US because of its trade surplus with the US, a highly positive current account balance and because its central bank has been quite active in terms of net foreign exchange purchases.
Vietnam has been seeking to import more US goods to help narrow the trade gap following threats by President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on its products amid the Sino-US trade war.
Vietnam’s trade deficit with China rose to US$34.04bil last year from US$24.15bil a year earlier. Vietnam relies on China, its largest trading partner, for materials and equipment for its labour-intensive manufacturing. - Reuters