The trade deficit in the first quarter of this year reduced to 3.028 billion USD compared with 3.5 billion USD in the same period last year due to a sharp increase in export value, said the General Statistics Office (GSO).

The export value in the first quarter grew 33.7 percent to 19.25 billion USD against the same period last year.

The Government has a 10-percent target in export value growth for the year.

"This export value growth for the first quarter was the highest rate since 2004," head of the statistics office's trade department Le Thi Minh Thuy said.

The export activities had increased sharply since early this year in line with the world economic recovery. The total export value showed a year-on-year increase of 18 percent in January and 41.3 percent in February and reached 7.5 billion USD in March, compared to 4.8 billion USD in February.

In the first quarter, the export value's year-on-year increase was 1.47 billion USD for coffee, up 115 percent; 774 million for rubber, up 134 percent; 1.29 billion USD for footwear, up 29.7 percent; 2.79 billion USD for textiles and garments, up 27.9 percent, the statistics office said.

Meanwhile, the export value of crude oil jumped 15.7 percent in line with world crude oil prices, though the volume dropped by 12.3 percent to 2 million tonnes.

The export value in the first quarter increased by 40 percent to 8.79 billion USD in the State-owned sector and by 28.7 percent to 10.46 billion USD in the foreign-invested sector.

The largest export markets during the first three months of the year included the US, the European Union, ASEAN and Japan.

"There were not signs of reducing exports from Vietnam to Japan since the tsunami and earthquake hit that country in the first half of this month," Thuy said.

The growth rate of total import value in the first three months was up 23.8 percent to 22.3 billion USD compared with the same period of last year. This was lower than the export value growth rate.

"However, the total trade deficit had a trend of increase month by month due to surges in the world prices," Thuy said. "The deficit jumped from 766 million USD in January to 1.11 billion USD in February and to 1.15 billion USD in March."

During the first quarter, the import value jumped by 20.7 percent to 12.8 billion USD for the State-owned sector and by 28.4 percent to 9.5 billion USD for the foreign-invested sector.

The import volumes of some products fell while their values increased due to a high price on the world market, the statistics office said. They included petrol, plastics, cotton, fibre, steel, electronic products, computer and auto./.