Exporters should increase their focus on Germany , Vietnam 's sixth leading export market, suggested participants in a conference in HCM City on Dec. 27.

Do Thang Hai, director of the Ministry of Industry and Trade's Trade Promotion Agency, told the conference that Germany had been one of Vietnam's major trading partners since 2007, ranking only behind the US, Japan, China, Australia and Singapore as one of Vietnam's leading global export markets.

Germany , with a population of 82 million, is the EU's largest economy and the world's second largest importer, bringing in machinery, vehicles, chemicals, tobacco, food and beverages, metals and petroleum.

However, exports to Germany are modest compared to those of China , Thailand and India , Hai noted. Vietnam mainly exported footwear, garments, coffee, furniture, and seafood to Germany , which was also a small but significant market for such products as handbags and wallets, crafts, and farm produce.

Germany , which offered a market of greater potential for such key Vietnamese exports as garments, footwear and seafood, Hai noted, has also shown interest in negotiating a free trade agreement with Vietnam .

Hai said that the advantages would open up opportunities for Vietnamese exporters to boost shipments to Germany – although Germany was considered a fastidious market with a high demand for quality.

He noted that Germany had a GDP per capita in 2010 of 35,700 USD. To boost exports to Germany , Hai recommended exporters carefully explore German consumer tastes, as well as customs and tax regulations.

Thomas Hundt, the chief representative in Vietnam of Germany Trade and Invest, said that businesses needed to meet both EU and German standards, noting that German regulations were frequently stricter. Top priority was given to product quality, food safety and social responsibility.

Hundt also suggested that Vietnamese businesses thoroughly vet their German partners before signing export contracts since not all German businesses had records of good performance. Exporters needed to develop long-term business strategies and ensure adequate supplies to meet large orders, Hundt added.

The Ministry of Industry and Trade reported that bilateral trade between Vietnam and Germany in 2010 exceeded 4.1 billion USD, of which Vietnam 's exports to Germany accounted for 2.37 billion USD. By the end of the third quarter this year, bilateral trade had already reached 3.99 billion USD. /.