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

HANOI, Oct 8 (Reuters) - Vietnam's trade deficit could shrink to just $1 billion this year from nearly $10 billion in 2011 due to sharp declines in imports, a state-run newspaper quoted 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 $113 billion, the official Vietnam News daily quoted Deputy Industry and Trade Minister Nguyen Nam Hai as saying.

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

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

In July, the trade ministry revised down its projected 2012 trade deficit by nearly half to $5.5 billion, based on an annual exports 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 $34 million trade surplus, with exports estimated at $83.789 billion and imports at $83.755 billion, the government said.

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

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

In the first nine months of 2012, economic growth slowed to 4.73 percent from a year earlier, compared with 5.77 percent in the same period in 2011.

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

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