The country's exports of wood and wooden products in the first quarter surged by 20.1 percent against the same period last year to 1.4 billion USD, according to the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD).

The figure included 490 million USD in takings in March alone.

The US and China were Vietnam's largest wood and timber product importers in the first three months, accounting for 52.89 percent of the industry's total export value. Exports to the US and China rose 19.85 percent and 57.88 percent year on year in the reviewed quarter, respectively.

General Secretary of the Vietnam Timber and Forest Product Association, Nguyen Ton Quyen, said Vietnam aimed to earn 6.2 billion USD from exports of wood and timber products this year, up 9 percent from 2013.

He said the target is feasible as local exporters have signed a significant number of contracts.

Bilateral and multilateral agreements, including the European Forest Law Enforcement, Governance and Trade (FLEGT) and Voluntary Partnership Agreement (VPA), expected to be signed this year, will be a good opportunity for Vietnam.

The country currently only had access to markets in Germany, France, Britain and Spain. If it could export to the 27 EU countries, market potential would grow, Quyen said.

He added that authorities should change current standards to fit new EU regulations. Awareness of partners in the wood and timber industry remained low regarding new trade deals, limiting opportunities provided by the VPA/FLEGT.

However, he noted that if the TPP is signed in 2014, enterprises must be prepared to adapt to large markets such as the US, Japan, Australia and New Zealand and Canada.

He explained if the country bought wood outside the TPP block, wood products exported to TPP countries would incur high taxes and strict legal supervision, but the tariff rate would be zero if wood was bought from the TPP block.-VNA