The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) would bring challenges, as well as improved export opportunities for Vietnam when the AEC is formed in 2015, according to experts.

The AEC marks the commitment of ASEAN leaders to building and promoting a single market and production base, a highly competitive economic region tempered with equitable development, and a region fully integrated into the global economy.

Experts said the AEC would also create greater opportunities for exporting goods and services to the ASEAN market, though local enterprises have faced many difficulties in production and business.

Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade (MIT) Do Thang Hai said the trade turnover between Vietnam and ASEAN has quadrupled over the past decade, climbing to nearly 40 billion USD in 2013 from 9 billion USD in 2003. Last year, Vietnam took in 18.47 billion USD from its exports to the bloc, the country's third largest importer only after the US and the EU, which was an increase of 4.4 percent from the previous year, added Hai.

Meanwhile, export turnover was estimated at 4.7 billion USD in the first quarter of this year, a year-on-year increase of 6.4 percent. However, the figure has tended to remain steady, and even slowed on occasion, as domestic enterprises have not yet taken full advantage of the close geographical distance and incentives offered by the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA).

Hai said ASEAN is one of Vietnam 's leading trade partners, accounting for 15 percent of the country's total trade. The regional grouping made up 22.4 percent of total foreign direct investment (FDI) capital in 2013 with Singapore , Malaysia and Thailand being key investors.

AEC and free trade agreements (FTAs) have helped promote Vietnam 's exports to ASEAN, Hai stressed.

Thanh also forecast that exports to these markets wouldcontinue to grow steadily as more than 99 percent of tax rates of six ASEAN countries – Brunei , Indonesia , Malaysia , the Philippines , Singapore and Thailand – will be slashed to zero in 2015 under the ATIGA signed in Thailand in 2009.

This would provide plenty of opportunity for Vietnam to balance its trade, Thanh added.

Hai said Vietnam would have a significant opportunity for major export products, such as textile, garments, rice, seafood and electronic components.

When the AEC is formed, Vietnam could sell goods to ASEAN market in ways that are similar to selling in home markets, because of simplified trade procedures and new procedures for certifying the origins of products.

However, Chu Duc Khai, general secretary of the Vietnam Steel Association, said most local steel enterprises have had a lack of information about conducting business in the ASEAN market, the AEC and the benefits, as well as challenges, of doing business in the regional market.

They have not had the chance to study the ASEAN market, and steel companies have only exported small amounts to ASEAN countries, including the Philippines, Cambodia and Indonesia, with a total volume of 1.7 million tonnes and a value of 1.4 billion USD, Khai said.-VNA