Apparel enterprises have proved to be the best in capitalising on the country’s WTO membership to increase export earnings.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, apparel exports expanded 32 percent more than the 2006 figure to 7.8 billion USD in 2007, the year Vietnam joined the world’s largest trade organisation.

The value then steadily rose to 9.1 billion USD on average in 2008 and 2009, the time when orders were trimmed down due to effects from the global financial crisis.

However, a record value of 11.2 billion USD was made in 2010, taking apparel past crude oil, the country’s leading hard currency earner.

Such gains placed Vietnam firmly in the world’s top ten apparel exporters.

In January 2007, the US switched off a quota mechanism for Vietnamese apparel, opening the door to wider product presence in its demanding market.

At present, it is the largest importer of Vietnamese apparel, accounting for 55 percent of the Southeast Asian country’s export value. The US is followed by the EU and Japan , with each posting a growth rate of 10 percent a year.

The Most Favoured Nation (MFN) status has freed made-in-Vietnam apparel from any kind of discriminatory treatment and enabled it to compete equally with products of the same kind from other WTO member countries.

To maintain strong export growth rates, apparel producers need to diversify export lines alongside increasing the added value of products and expanding markets, said Nguyen Son, Deputy General Secretary of the Vietnam Apparel Association (Vitas).

The sector targets an export value of 12.7-13 billion USD this year./.