The nation's trade deficit declined sharply to 5 percent of total export turnover in June, compared with 22.6 and 19.6 percent in April and May respectively.

This has helped reduce the overall trade deficit for the first six months of this year to 15.7 percent.

The sharp decline is attributed to the spurt in export of gold and gems last month, reaching 630 million USD, compared to 242 million USD in May.

However, the "significant gold export in June might not have had such a big impact on narrowing the trade deficit," Phan Van Chinh, head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade's Export – Import Department, told the Thoi bao Kinh Te Vietnam (Vietnam Economic Times) newspaper.

Chinh said that for the first six months of this year, gold exports reached 1 billion USD, accounting for 2.43 percent of the total export turnover, while for the same period last year the figures were 1.5 billion USD and 4.65 percent.

"The trade deficit of 15.7 percent is the lowest figure for the last five years," he said, adding that this reflected the effectiveness of measures taken by the ministry to tighten imports.

The ministry's effort has been recognised by the Government, which has said that the target set by the National Assembly has been met. The National Assembly had said that the trade deficit for the first six months of the year should not exceed 18 percent.

But the Government, in a first-half economic review, also noted that the trade deficit could increase in the future. It said foreign currency rates and price for imported goods had been fluctuating. All this might impact efforts to improve the balance of payments, control inflation, stabilise the market and boost production and commerce, it said.

Many senior officials also agreed that gold export was not sustainable and without it, the trade deficit was still over 18 percent.

"Looking carefully at the list, we can see that import of several luxury commodities that should have been curtailed, like automobiles and motorbikes, have increased 70 percent. Therefore, the trade deficit still needs more control," said Ha Van Hien, chairman of the National Assembly's Economy Commission.

He said that the foreign exchange rate was stable at present because of administrative management.

"The most important factor in stabilising the foreign currency balance and the exchange rate is trade deficit control, and that has not improved basically," he said. /.