Despite being the world's third-largest producer of leather and footwear, Vietnamese businesses in the industry have not been successful in building global trademarks, industry officials have said.

Diep Thanh Kiet, vice president of the Vietnam Leather and Footwear Association (Lefaso), said that Vietnamese footwear products have not been branded well and are not of high quality.

Addressing a two-day seminar that began on July 20 in HCM City , Kiet said that Vietnamese footwear producers have not made their trademarks known world-wide.

"People only know about footwear made in Italy , Hong Kong and mainland China , not in Vietnam ," he said.

Co-hosted by the European Delegation and Lefaso, the seminar is being held to promote the building of brands and to improve competitiveness in the industry.

Kiet said that Vietnamese footwear companies' main disadvantage is a lack of awareness of the importance of building trade-marks.

Vietnamese producers have faced difficulties in branding their trademarks as they lack investment in developing and training human resources to create and design high-value products. Designers in local firms often only copy product samples.

The leading producers in Vietnam such as Biti's, Vina Giay, Thuong Dinh, An Lac and Dong Phuong, have managed to create new designs only in intermediary and secondary products.

Currently, Vietnam ranks fourth in the world in leather and footwear exports, with export value at around 3 billion USD in the first six months of the year, up 30 percent against the same period last year, according to Lefaso.

To help the local industry fulfill its 2020 target of increasing exports and helping local producers achieve an 80 percent market share, Lefaso has signed a partnership with Italian and Belgian businesses.

European partners are helping Vietnamese footwear producers improve their international trade knowledge, and Italian technology and skills are being transferred to local footwear manufacturers.

The two-day seminar is part of the IN – TRADE project on "innovation and trademarks as tools to successfully compete in the global market."

The project is part of the EU's Multilateral Trade Assistance Project EU-Vietnam (MUTRAP III), sponsored by the EU Delegation to Vietnam .

The main goal of MUTRAP III's second stage is to help local enterprises reform footwear design and improve fashion collections. Branding strategy development is another focus of the project's second phase.

The European Commission has provided 225,000 EUR for MUTRAP III to improve Vietnamese shoe exporters' competitiveness by developing brands on the international market.

The project offers training courses in technical and marketing subjects to shoe companies in Hanoi and HCM City .

The MUPTRAP III project, which began in August 2008 and ends in June 2012, assists Vietnam in implementing its socio-economic development plan as well as its post-WTO Action Plan, which calls for sustained pro-poor economic growth through stronger integration into the global trading system./.