Export restructuring will continue in HCM City until 2015, with an emphasis on more service exports, according to officials speaking at a seminar held in HCM City on Jan. 6.

Huynh Khanh Hiep, Deputy Director of the city's Department of Industry and Trade, said by the end of 2020, the city aims to have service exports to be 60 percent of total export turnover.

The city targets an average export growth of 17 percent per year in the 2011-15 period, with total export turnover by the end of 2015 of more than 100 billion USD (excluding crude oil).

More staff will be trained for service export activities as well.

Export support programmes on software products and services will be continued, with the aim of enhancing added value, from software outsourcing to production activities.

Many export support programmes will be implemented, including the expansion of e-custom procedures, support-industry development, and the construction of an export-goods introduction centre.

In general, the city's export turnover is on a recovery trend and has had a fairly good growth rate.

Last year, despite economic difficulties, the city's export turnover (excluding crude oil) reached 19.7 billion USD, an increase of 21.7 percent compared to 2010.

The US , ASEAN, the EU, Japan and China are still key markets for the city's key export items, such as agricultural products, textiles and garments, seafood, computers and electronic parts, Hiep said.

In 2010, the Asian region accounted for a large proportion (62.6 percent), thanks to a Free Trade Agreement between ASEAN and China . This was followed by Europe (33.5 percent) and the Americas (20.5 percent).

Bui Thi Thanh An, Head of the HCM City office for the Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency, said exporters should be more active in participating in international exhibitions and seek partners to increase business transactions.

Companies should also schedule more business trips to survey foreign markets.

At the seminar, Prof Dr Vo Thanh Thu, a member of the Vietnam International Arbitration Council, noted that one of the major challenges for the export industry is to reduce its heavy dependence on imported raw materials.

The textile and garment sector imports nearly 60 percent of its raw materials, and the footwear and electronic industry imports 90 percent.

Every year, the seafood sector spends about 500 million USD for raw material imports.

Each key sector exports to more than 100 countries, but the US , the EU and Japan account for more than 60 percent of export turnover.

If these markets applied strict trade protection measures or trade barriers, the country's exports will be damaged heavily.

Another challenge for the export sector is the small scale of many companies, which makes it difficult to access the world market and hinders the development of the support industry.

High interest rates and an unstable exchange-rate policy are also worrisome issues for Vietnamese exporters./.