The HCM City Investment and Trade Promotion Centre (ITPC) has identified the US and Japan as the largest markets for exports this year, the ITPC director said on Jan. 26.

Speaking at a meeting in HCM City, Tu Minh Thien said the Japanese market was now wide open to Vietnamese-made products because of the signing of the Vietnam-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (VJEPA), under which many of the country's export items to Japan will enjoy a zero-percent tax rate.

With the tax cuts, Vietnamese businesses can compete on price with other rivals in the Japanese market.

ITPC plans to open a centre in Japan 's Nagoya City in April, aiming to push up business co-operation and trade promotion programmes in the Japanese market.

Thien noted that the US Government would also strengthen business cooperation with Vietnam this year.

Last year, the US President in his State of the Union address announced a National Export Initiative (NEI) to double exports over the next five years.

A core mission of the NEI is exploring ways to seize opportunities in countries with high-growth potential.

China, India and Brazil are critical countries where resources will continue to be directed.

In addition, federal agencies have identified "next tier markets," including Saudi Arabia, South Africa and Vietnam, where the US aims to develop longer-term commercial engagement strategies to cultivate future opportunities.

In January, ITPC also organised a business trip to the US, aiming to promote trade and tourism between the two countries.

There will be one more business trip to the US in March and to Japan in August.

Apart from the US and Japan, ITPC will increase trading activities in other markets such as Cuba, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos, Africa and the Middle East.

Together with organising many exhibitions and business trips, the centre will map out specific strategies for every market with the aim to make investment more effective.

The key export sectors include food, processed foodstuff, handicraft, household appliances, industrial products and electronics products.

For example, ITPC will focus on investing property and tourism in Cuba and strengthening consumer goods and household appliance products in Cambodia and Myanmar this year.

For the domestic market, Thien said the distribution network and trademark building were key points in developing the market.

In addition, the businesses need to combine trade activities with tourism and service activities to promote their products.

Also, they should update information about trade and technical barriers, foodstuff hygiene and safety regulations for their exports, he said.

This year, ITPC will coordinate with the Netherlands' Centre for Promotion of Imports from developing countries to assist Vietnamese exporters in their efforts to increase exports to Europe.

They will hold export coaching programmes that will offer technical assistance, training and market entry activities.

At the meeting, ITPC signed a cooperation agreement with the HCM City Credit Guarantee Fund for Small- and Medium-Sized Enterprises, Minh Tran Ltd Co, Economic News and Vietnam Investment Review.

Its aim is to help ITPC's Vietnam Exporters Association members to easily access the credit fund and support them in further penetrating the Japanese market./.