Vietnam earned around 35 billion USD from its exports to ASEAN nations and spent about 40 billion USD on importing goods from this market in 2013, which does not reflect the bloc’s full trade potential, heard a conference in Hanoi on December 19.

Le Hoang Oanh, Deputy Director of the Trade Promotion Agency under the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MIT) made the remarks at the conference themed “ASEAN – opportunity for Vietnamese businesses”.

To utilise trade exchange opportunities with the region, especially when the ASEAN Economic Community will be established by 2015, domestic businesses must spare no efforts to renovate their technology, improve the quality of products and specify market chances, delegates said at the event.

Vietnamese firms need to pay much attention to legal regulations on agricultural products, particularly those on food safety, said Nguyen Manh Dung, Director of the Agro-Forestry, Seafood Processing and Salt Industry Department under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.

They also must actively reform their production technologies and food processing equipment to better meet the market’s requirement, Dung added.

At the conference, experts said ASEAN is the third largest market of Vietnamese exporters, following the US and EU. The country has paid sufficient attention to the trade liberalisation process of ASEAN and extensive ASEAN free trade agreements (FTA).

The participation brought opportunities and also difficulties to Vietnamese businesses such as non-tariff barriers, quality standard regulations, and certificates of origin of exports.

By 2015, 90 percent of tariff categories in ASEAN will be reduced to zero percent.

Meanwhile, domestic exporters still do not take full advantage of tax cuts from FTAs while many small and medium–sized enterprises lack information on the market. Thus, they need to further consult useful information and learn about tax incentives.-VNA