Local companies must seek new export markets and improve product quality to raise overall export growth, experts recommended at a seminar held in HCM City on Sept. 22.

Co-organised by the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV), the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MIT) and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI), the seminar was held to assess the current export situation in the country and propose measures to boost export in the coming time.

Pham Quang Tung, deputy general director of BIDV, said despite facing many difficulties, the country had achieved growth in exports in the first eight months of the year.

Exports reached an estimated 60.8 billion USD, up 33.7 percent over the same period last year, and exports of many products, including agricultural, forestry and fishery, had increased strongly.

However, the country mainly exports raw and pre-processed products with low added value.

The number of exports of products made with high technology was much lower than that of China and other ASEAN countries.

Higher export growth of the past was mainly due to higher prices, he added.

Delegates at the meeting agreed that multiple challenges lie ahead for the export sector because of import barriers set by other countries and competition among other exporters in price and quality.

Do Thang Hai, director of the MIT's Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency, said that the crisis in Egypt and the EU would continue to affect the rest of the world, including Viet Nam .

Some importing countries have been inclined to increase applications of new trade barriers, while large import markets had increasingly required higher product quality and adherence to food safety and environmental regulations, Hai said.

They also agreed that Vietnamese products' competitive advantage of low prices would gradually disappear because exporters in other countries had also focused more on cutting prices to raise competitiveness.

In addition, the current high interest rates and difficulties in accessing capital from banks have caused difficulties for businesses to develop, Uong Tien Thinh, executive director of the Vietnam Garment and Textile Group, said.

Hai said in the current situation enterprises should look to new markets, especially in eastern, western and southern Asia, the Middle East and Latin America .

"Companies should also take advantage of free trade agreements and preferential tariffs under the ASEAN Free Trade Area to boost exports, especially to China and Japan ," he said.

He also suggested that companies strengthen market research and forecasting so they can make products that meet consumer demand and improve product quality to avoid export risks.

"Despite financial difficulties, local firms should invest more in trade promotion programmes to market their products in other countries," he said.

Vu Tien Loc, VCCI Chairman, said the country should work to raise competitiveness of the economy and enterprises.

"The period of boosting exports at any cost has ended," he said. "We must think of exporting high value-added products or advanced processed goods."

Hai said the MIT had submitted to the Government an export strategy until 2020, with a focus on reducing exports of raw products while raising exports of high value-added ones.

The country also plans to pay more attention to developing its support industry and to set up Vietnamese trade promotion offices in provinces of China and other countries to provide market information for Vietnamese firms, he said.

Enterprises at the meeting called on the Government to have a long-term, stable macro-economic policy and a suitable foreign exchange policy that would facilitate their operations./.