As companies impacted by U.S. tariffs on shipments from China scramble to find reliable and tariff-friendly countries of origin, shifting sourcing to Vietnam has emerged as the most popular solution.
In the first quarter of 2019, as trade was diverted to other countries, China suffered a 13.9 percent drop in exports to the United States. The biggest beneficiary of this trade diversion was Vietnam, which enjoyed a 40.2 percent increase in exports to the U.S.
But as more shipments that used to come from China now emanate from Vietnam, there are three reasons to pause before shifting your sourcing to Vietnam.
The U.S. has already started taking steps to reverse its substantial trade deficit with Vietnam, and more may be on the way. Consider these points:
In June, in response to a Fox Business News question on whether he wanted to impose tariffs on Vietnam, President Trump called Vietnam, “almost the single worst abuser of everybody”.
The next action could be the imposition of tariffs on a broad range of goods from Vietnam, an action that could wipe out the benefits of shifting sourcing to Vietnam. The executive director for Southeast Asia at the US Chamber of Commerce warns that, “There is a real possibility that this administration could slap tariffs on Vietnam.”
Vietnam is a rapidly-growing nation with an inexpensive labor supply, stable government and business-friendly environment, but its infrastructure is not mature or sophisticated. Already, Vietnam’s ports, airports and roads are straining to keep up with demand as companies fleeing China set up shop in Vietnam. And the rise in demand shows no signs of abating.
More than 1,720 projects were granted investment licenses in the first half of 2019, a 26 percent spike over the previous year.
Meanwhile, the World Bank ranks Vietnam’s logistics network 39th in the world (13 places behind China). A Ho Chi Minh City metro rail project has suffered major delays and cost overruns. As the need for infrastructure improvements grows, the government hopes that foreign direct investment will ease the crunch.
A healthy supply chain relies on a healthy infrastructure. Vietnam’s may be nearing the breaking point.
Four of the five top container ports in the world are located in China. Combined, they handled just under 118 million TEU in 2018.
The top two ports in Vietnam (the only ones to make the worldshipping.org Top 50 list) combined to handle less than 10 million TEU in 2018.
If the current boom continues, Vietnam will need to expand its ports or face a capacity crunch.
Shifting your sourcing might be a good idea, but it also might be too soon to make that move. With such rapid growth and a trade war in progress, circumstances are bound to change. At this point, taking a pause to see what’s next might be your best option.
This is a developing story. Stay tuned for updates. If you’d like to discuss your particular circumstances with us, contact Jaguar Freight today.