In the year to October, Vietnam’s import turnovers from China topped US$30.37 billion, sending the trade deficit to $19.6 billion, up by nearly 50 percent compare to the ten-month period of last year.

Shockingly enough, Vietnam trade deficit to China rose 100 times, not taking inflation into account, in a dozen years from 2001 to 2013, according to Nguyen Viet Chi, an official from the Asia-Pacific Market Division, under the Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Chi said Vietnam began to report trade deficit to China in 2001, at only $210 million.

Chinese products have increasingly penetrated the Vietnamese market, beating local manufacturers on their home soil. These goods are especially preferred by wholesalers and traders because they bear attractive designs while fetching cheap prices.

Consequently, local importers have brought in a great variety of Chinese goods, from needles to elephants, to Vietnam.

“They imported everything, from student notebooks to cooking utensils,” said a customs officer in Ho Chi Minh City, who also expressed his astonishment at “the commodities they put in the customs declaration” sent to him.

Throwaway prices

As Tet, or Lunar New Year, is less than two months away, red envelopes, traditionally used to give lucky money to children, have been imported from China en masse and sold well thanks to their cheap prices, according to traders.

Ly Phung Kieu, a wholesaler in HCMC, said she has imported some 300 different types of red envelopes made in Guangdong (China) to embrace the Tet season.

Vietnamese manufacturers only introduced a couple of designs while their products are expensive, she said.

In 2006, the Chinese products fetched VND6,000 for a pack of six envelopes, and now the price is nearly halved to VND3,500 a pack. Meanwhile, Vietnamese products cost between VND7,000 and VND10,000 for six envelopes.

Data from the customs agency shows that the products were imported at only VND19,000 per kg in November, while the wholesalers distributed them at as much as VND360,000 a kg.

This huge disparity has encouraged local traders to turn to Chinese products instead of those that are locally manufactured.

The HCMC customs agency said that besides red envelopes, other trivial products such as hairpins, rubber bands, erasers, combs, and greeting cards are also imported in large quantities to Vietnam.

Some Chinese-made products are even sold under Japanese or South Korean brands. The Mochi Sweets biscuit, for instance, is not a Japanese product as its name suggests, but a Chinese product brought to Vietnam by DL Sweets Co Ltd.

The dirt-cheap products sell well in rural areas across the country, where Vietnamese goods fail to compete because they are more expensive, despite being of higher quality.

But in some wholesaling markets such as An Dong in HCMC’s District 5, Chinese goods are also rampant.

Wholesalers there have stocked a huge quantity of Chinese products of all kinds to distribute to smaller markets in the city and other provinces to take advantage of the high demand brought on by Tet.

A wholesaler revealed that retailers can keep 100 percent of the profit when selling Chinese goods sourced from the market.

Tuoi tre News - December 9, 2013