* Robust exports, tourism boosting growth, prime minister says
* Q1 trade surplus likely $2 bln
* Official GDP data to be released on March 29
HANOI, March 12 (Reuters) - Vietnam’s economy is likely to grow by 7.41 percent in the first quarter this year, led by robust exports and tourism, according to Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, a statement posted on a government website said on Monday.
The tourism sector in the January-March period likely grew by 60 percent while total trade will be up by 40 percent from a year earlier, Phuc told a gathering of Vietnamese during an official visit to New Zealand, it added.
If achieved, the figure would be the highest first quarter growth in years, well above the expansion of 5.15 percent in the first quarter of last year.
Vietnam’s growth is often lower in the first quarter than the rest of the year, due to a week-long holiday for the Lunar New Year, which often falls in February.
Phuc also said Vietnam is likely to post a trade surplus of nearly $2 billion in the three-month period, according to the statement.
Vietnam’s economic growth was seen expanding by 6.83 percent this year from 6.81 percent last year, the investment ministry said on Wednesday, citing its socio-economic forecasting and information agency.
The government’s General Statistics Office is scheduled to release official GDP data on March 29.
After visiting New Zealand, Phuc will pay an official visit to Australia later this week, to attend the ASEAN-Australia Summit in Sydney. (Reporting by Hanoi Newsroom Editing by James Pearson and Clarence Fernandez)