The ASEAN Economic Community is expected to open up many new opportunities for Vietnamese enterprises, especially in commodity exports (Photo: VNA)

HCM City (VNA) – Vietnamese businesses have not yet tapped opportunities brought by the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) to boost exports to the ASEAN market, said experts at a seminar in Ho Chi Minh City on October 10.

With a market of 660 million people and a GDP of nearly 2.6 trillion USD, the AEC is now the sixth largest economy globally and is projected to rank fourth in 2030. Therefore, it is expected to open up many new opportunities for Vietnamese enterprises, especially in commodity exports.

However, since the AEC was established three years ago, Vietnamese companies have not yet created any breakthroughs in exporting their goods to other ASEAN member countries, said participants.

According to Pham Thanh Kien, Director of the HCM City Department of Industry and Trade, there was no drastic increase in the city’s exports to the ASEAN market since the debut of the AEC and even its export growth tends to gradually decrease.

He cited that HCM City’s 2016 exports to ASEAN members rose 13 percent against the previous year but in 2017, the figure was only 4 percent year-on-year.

The city’s exports are rising but imports are rising faster, at 8.15 billion USD last year, which was 2.6 times higher than exports, he added.

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Pham Thiet Hoa, Director of the HCM City Investment, Trade and Promotion Centre, said the reasons for the limited exports to ASEAN markets are lack of product diversity, uncompetitive prices, limited distribution system, and lack of coordination with trade facilitation authorities.

Firms need to better research the requirements for exporting to these markets, learn the culture of their target markets and pay attention to business decisions such as working with foreign business partners, especially those in Islamic countries, he added.

Sharing the view with Hoa, Kien said besides improving their production capabilities, firms need to do extensive market research, look for new trade opportunities and network with trustworthy local distributors.

Nguyen Thi Tue Anh, Deputy Director of the Central Institute for Economic Management, said Vietnamese firms now have greater opportunities than ever to export to ASEAN member states.

But while Vietnam’s imports from ASEAN countries have increased sharply since 2015, its exports to the highly competitive markets have not.

To make the best use of the AEC’s potential, Vietnamese businesses need to stand ready to tap opportunities. They must change their mindsets and consider competition pressure a motivation for renovation and development, Anh said.

Local firms should actively study and update information relating to preferential tariff commitments and requirements for product origin in order to fully tap opportunities to develop markets, while investing more in production technology, administration and human resources quality, he added.

Held by Saigon Times newspaper and Saigon Times Club’s 2030 Business Club, the seminar was attended by executives from around 300 firms.-VNA