Vietnamese exporters are eagerly looking to the birth of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) at the end of next year as their export markets could be significantly expanded, the Saigon Times Daily reported.

Vietnam’s exports to ASEAN countries are expected to grow steadily within the next two years before they leapfrog as a result of the inception of AEC, according to a report by the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Domestic firms can enjoy a zero percent rate of 99 percent of tariff lines applicable in the ASEAN 6 group of countries as per the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), including liberalising tariffs, removing non-tariff barriers, improving criteria on rules of origin and trade facilitation, simplifying and modernising customs services.

This is a right time for enterprises to expand their operations to benefit from AEC as much as possible.

When ACE is in place, Vietnamese firms can sell goods to ASEAN countries as easily as on the domestic market. Export and import procedures will be simplified and the customs clearance process put on fast track.

In recent years, ASEAN has been among the top export markets of Vietnam. Customs statistics showed that in 2013 ASEAN was the third largest export market for Vietnam after the US and the European Union (EU) with revenue of 18.47 billion USD, up 4.4 percent from a year earlier.

According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Vietnam’s exports to Malaysia reached 2.3 billion USD in January-July, down 19.5 percent year on year, whereas exports to Thailand rose 2.5 percent to 1.9 billion USD.

Singapore remained Vietnam’s third biggest importer in ASEAN with 1.63 billion USD, up 6.9 percent. Vietnam’s exports to Indonesia also jumped 20.8 percent to 1.56 billion USD.

Main commodities exported to the ASEAN market include mobile phones, crude oil, iron and steel, computers, electronic devices and rice.

However, China was still a major importer of Vietnam. Exports to the northern neighbor bounced back last month after dropping in the two previous months.

Ending July, Vietnam’s exports to China hit 8.6 billion USD, up 17.6 percent year on year, according to the report.

The ministry said that Vietnam is likely to reach the goal of exporting 14-15 billion USD worth of goods to China this year. Enterprises usually speed up exports at year-end to meet high consumer demands.

China is a strong importer of cassava, mineral, rubber, coal, fiber, rice, veggies, computers and electronic devices.

ASEAN or the Association of Southeast Asian Nations comprises of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.-VNA