HANOI - Vietnam slashed its first half trade deficit almost tenfold as exports surged, official figures showed Thursday, following on from recent government measures to curb inflation as growth slows.The nation’s trade deficit shrank to $690 million, a fraction of the $6.65 billion reported in the same period last year, the General Statistics Office said. Exports in the period were up 22 per cent, or $53.12 billion while imports rose at a slowed pace of 6.9 per cent, reaching $53.81 billion.“This is a very good sign because while the economy is in difficulties, Vietnam’s exports remain high,” said Vu Dinh Anh, deputy director of the state-backed Institute of Economy and Finance. “This helps Vietnam improve payment balance and increase foreign currency reserve.”In June, Vietnam’s inflation rate stood at 6.9pc year-on-year, the weakest pace in more than two years. Economists said the sharp slowdown in consumer prices is the result of the tighter monetary policy and the fall of purchasing power in local market. S&P’s revised Vietnam’s outlook to stable from negative earlier this month, citing the government’s successful fiscal tightening measures.But Anh said there was still a “negative sign”, with the decline in imports showing “domestic enterprises are in a very difficult period.”According to government figures more than 21,000 businesses have gone bankrupt in the first five months of the year.Vietnam’s economic growth has slowed to 4.0 per cent in the first quarter of 2012, the weakest pace in three years.Last year, Vietnam’s economy grew 5.9 per cent while the government aims for a 6.0 to 6.5 per cent expansion this year.