Vietnam, Thailand, and Burma (Myanmar) are part of the fastest developing region in the world and account for roughly 221 million of Southeast Asia’s population. These three countries benefit immensely from intraregional trade and over the last two decades, they have established robust export-led economies and sustained healthy growth. Formerly agrarian-based economies, Vietnam, Thailand, and Burma no longer rely on domestic agricultural production as the primary source of food and just last year imported a combined total of more than $42 billion in agricultural goods. Of that total, the United States exported over $2.1 billion to Thailand, $4.0 billion to Vietnam, and $126.7 million to Burma. Going forward, U.S. agricultural producers should concentrate on expanding partnerships within the three countries, especially as their economies continue to develop and per capita incomes rise.
U.S. exports to Vietnam reached a record $4.0 billion in 2018, making Vietnam the seventh-largest destination for U.S. agricultural products. With a population over 97 million, Vietnam offers a bustling economy with robust real Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 7.1 percent in 2018. Vietnam has also kept the unemployment rate at only 1.9 percent, maintained stable inflation near 3 percent, and kept more than 90 percent of its population above the national poverty line. Simultaneously, the country has shifted its economy away from agriculture towards manufacturing, increased exports, and effectively integrated itself into the global market. Yet, the agricultural sector still employs 40.3 percent of the labor force and accounts for 15.3 percent of the nation’s GDP. Likewise, Vietnam exports billions of dollars in tree nuts, coffee, rice, and other goods. Still, Vietnam imports large quantities of agricultural products from across the world. Fortunately, as the second-largest exporter to Vietnam behind China, the United States holds an established position in the Vietnamese market and has many opportunities for growth.
With the combination of a growing middle-class and high GDP growth, Vietnam is becoming an important market for consumer-oriented products. World exports of consumer-oriented products to Vietnam totaled $14.7 billion in 2018, up 5 percent over 2017. Exports to Vietnam of U.S. consumer-oriented products enjoyed a record year in 2018, reaching $977 million. This amount is up 21 percent since 2017 and is expected to reach $1 billion in 2019. The top five global exports of consumer-oriented products to Vietnam include fresh and processed vegetables, beef and beef products, fresh fruits, tree nuts, and food preparations and miscellaneous beverages.
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