Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (L) and US President Barack Obama at ASEAN-​US Summit. (Photo: AFP/VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – The US has become Vietnam’s leading trade and investment partner, which has been reflected through impressive trade values between the two countries over recent years.

Bilateral trade has expanded from zero since the day Vietnam and the US normalised their diplomatic ties 20 years ago to 36.3 billion USD in 2014. The figure is expected to hit 40 billion USD in 2015.

According to Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade Tran Tuan Anh, among the free trade agreements Vietnam has engaged in, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement is expected to afford favourable conditions for Vietnamese exports.

Nguyen Duy Khien, head of the American Market Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT), said Vietnam shipped 30.6 billion USD worth of goods to the US in 2014, up 24 percent against the previous year.

According to the MoIT, Vietnam began to access the US market in 1995. Vietnam’s export turnover to the country reached 800 million USD in 2000 – the year the Vietnam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement was signed.

The US has become Vietnam’s largest importer,purchasing garments, electronic products, footwear, rice and fish from the Southeast Asian nation.

In the sphere of investment, the US ranked seventh among the countries and territories investing in Vietnam with a total direct investment of 10.7 billion USD by June this year.

Vu Duc Giang, President of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association, said Vietnam is the world’s fifth largest garment-textile exporter, and the US remains the country’s top market in this field.

However, the garment-textile and footwear sectors are forecast to face difficulties as a result of Vietnam’s TPP membership as the US has initiated the “yarn forward” rule of origin.

In order to benefit from tax breaks, Vietnamese companies must use materials imported from other TPP members, Giang said, noting thiswill be a real challenge for Vietnamese businesses when up to 70 percent of materials they are currently using are purchased from foreign countries, mainly China – a non-TPP member.

Deputy Minister Tran Tuan Anh said the TPP will be an impulse for Vietnam’s economy to gear towards comprehensive renovation, a higher competitive edge and a better business environment.

Anticipating opportunities afforded by the TPP, lots of US businesses have suggested expanding footwear orders with Vietnam, while many others have invested in weaving and dyeing projects in the country.

The trend sparks the hope that the TPP will continue creating a momentum for the two countries’ relationship, he said.

Economists also stressed the need to provide more information about the two countries’ markets and conduct trade promotion activities such as exhibitions, workshops and market surveys.

The US now has more than 720 valid projects in Vietnam. In the first quarter of 2015, US investors poured nearly 68 million USD into eight new projects in the country.-VNA