Vietnam’s exports are forecast to enjoy a good year in 2014 thanks to the country’s efforts to expand markets and new opportunities generated from trade deals that are expected to be concluded next year.

The assessment is based on the country’s positive export growth in 2013, rising by 15.3 percent (or 132 billion USD) over the previous year and surpassing the target of 126 billion USD.

Strong growth was seen in almost all of Vietnam’s export markets such as the US, Japan, European and ASEAN countries.

Vietnam enjoyed 22.5 percent growth in the US this year with revenue of 25 billion USD, accounting for one fifth of the country’s total figure.

In 2014, the US will continue to be Vietnam’s largest market with 10 percent growth, said Dao Tran Nhan, Trade Minister-Counsellor in the US.

However, Nhan also reminded enterprises of difficulties in entering the US market caused by trade barriers, and anti-dumping and subsidy lawsuits launched by the US side against Vietnam’s high revenue generating products such as shrimp, tra fish, catfish and apparel.

He held that in order to maintain stable exports to the US, it is necessary for the firms to update and study the country’s new policies in the field.

Apart from the impetus from 2013’s good results, trade deals that Vietnam is negotiating for are also expected to open up new opportunities for Vietnamese exports.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement involving Vietnam is being finalised, while five rounds of the free trade agreement between Vietnam and the EU have also concluded, with the rest expected to be finished in 2014 .

According to Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang, the 12 countries engaged in the TPP deal make up 40 percent of global GDP and over 30 percent of total world export-import revenue.

Joining the TPP means Vietnam will enjoy chances to extend its market to the world’s leading economies like the US and Japan, he said.

“Vietnam’s strengths in agricultural products, apparel, leather and coffee can record even higher export growth. On the other hand, Vietnamese businesses will also suffer from fierce competition. Unless they improve their competitiveness, the risk of losing market share to competitors is high,” Minister Hoang commented.

Meanwhile, Vu Ba Phu, Minister-Counsellor in Belgium and Luxembourg, said the European Union will still be the largest market for Vietnamese apparel, leather and agricultural products.

He noted that total trade between Vietnam and the EU hit nearly 30 billion USD in 2013.

Once the Vietnam-EU free trade agreement takes effect, Vietnamese enterprises will benefit from tariff preferences and fewer trade barriers.

“Chances are abundant but challenges are great too,” said Phu. “The important thing for Vietnam is overcoming itself, improving product quality and design, and enhancing its competitiveness in order to maintain markets,” he added.

To maintain growth in 2014, Minister Hoang said the ministry will exert more effort to strengthen promotion and expand export markets, while speeding up negotiations for trade agreements and making full use of the opportunities created from the deals.

The ministry will step-by-step incorporate Vietnam in the distribution system abroad by boosting dialogues with global distribution chains and focusing on building Vietnam’s trademark in promising markets, thus ensuring the fulfilment of the target to record about 10 percent growth in 2014, he said.-VNA