The US, Japan, the EU and Republic of Korea are expected to remain Vietnam's four key markets for the garment industry this year, according to the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association (Vitas).

For the next few years, the US will continue to be the biggest market, with a forecast growth rate of about 3 percent this year.

According to Vitas, Japan this year could topple the EU as the second-biggest importer of Vietnamese garments.

This year, Japan 's import value is expected to be about 2.37 billion USD, a year-on-year increase of 18 percent over 2012.

Meanwhile, the EU's import value for garments is predicted to decline somewhat this year, as it did in the previous year, while Vietnam's other key markets are expected to see increases of about 5 percent each.

According to Vitas, most garment companies have received orders for the first quarter, and some have orders for the second and third quarters as well.

The association and its members are waiting for the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) to go into effect, which is expected to be signed this year.

Under the agreement, Vietnamese garment companies would enjoy either a zero or low per cent import tariff.

The TPP is currently being negotiated by nine countries, the US, Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.-VNA