Vietnam 2012 trade gap may shrink to $1 bln-report

HANOI, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Vietnam's trade deficit couldshrink to just $1 billion this year from nearly $10 billion in2011 due to sharp declines in imports, a state-run newspaperquoted a government minister on Monday as saying.

Imports could rise 6.8 percent from 2011 to $114 billion,while exports are expected to increase 16.6 percent to $113billion, the official Vietnam News daily quoted Deputy Industryand Trade Minister Nguyen Nam Hai as saying.

In 2011, imports jumped 25.9 percent from the previous yearwhile exports expanded 34.2 percent.

A low 2012 trade deficit would help improve Vietnam'sbalance of payments and foreign exchange market, Hai said.

In July, the trade ministry revised down its projected 2012trade deficit by nearly half to $5.5 billion, based on an annualexports of $109.5 billion and imports of $115 billion.

Vietnam's trade deficit was $9.84 billion in 2011.

In January-September this year, Vietnam recorded a $34million trade surplus, with exports estimated at $83.789 billionand imports at $83.755 billion, the government said.

In the same period of 2011, there was a deficitof $7.6 billion.

A slowdown in domestic production and demand is contributingto a much lower trade deficit, the Vietnam News daily cited thegovernment's General Statistics Office as saying.

In the first nine months of 2012, economic growth slowed to4.73 percent from a year earlier, compared with 5.77 percent inthe same period in 2011.

(Reporting by Ho Binh Minh; Editing by Richard Borsuk)

((ho.minh@thomsonreuters.com)(+844 3825 9623)(ReutersMessaging: ho.minh.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))