Vietnamese footwear exports will enjoy a zero tariff once the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is established in late 2015, making room for producers to expand their markets and access new materials.

ASEAN represents a substantial footwear market for Vietnam, spending more than 1.8 billion USD on footwear imports last year. The establishment of the AEC in 2015 will offer Vietnam a host of advantages.
Vietnam has an abundant qualified and low-cost workforce, giving it an edge over Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia, General Secretary of the Vietnam Leather, Footwear and Handbag Association (LEFASO) Phan Thi Thanh Xuan said.

AEC member states will have a better chance to develop new materials, easing their reliance on imports and increasing the added value of end products, she said, adding that they are also expected to provide a steady supply of footwear and gain a solid foothold in major markets, such as the US, the EU and Japan.
However, Xuan also mentioned an intensification of competition once zero tariffs are applied, saying that this trend was inevitable.

At the moment, almost all the AEC countries have set up technical barriers to protect their domestic products, she added.

To strengthen the sector, Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang called upon the Vietnam Textile and Garment Association and LEFASO to devise plans to develop support industries.

According to industry insiders, domestic firms should reinvent themselves by improving the quality of products and popularising their trademarks.

They are also advised to prepare for the implementation of international agreements on issues of intellectual property, consumer protection, small and medium-sized enterprises, workforce quality, and funding.

Relevant bodies will update the business community on opportunities and challenges ahead once they are fully integrated into the AEC.-VNA