HANOI, March 16 (Xinhua) -- Vietnam's leather and footwear industry will maintain its strong growth even if the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) does not materialize, according to the Vietnam Leather, Footwear and Handbag Association (Lefaso).
Diep Thanh Kiet, Lefaso's deputy chairman, was quoted by Vietnam's state-run news agency VNA on Thursday as saying that the industry enjoyed annual growth of 15-20 percent in 2011-2015 period.
Vietnam's leather and footwear products were exported to nearly 50 countries and regions with the U.S., European Union (EU), China and Japan being the biggest markets.
"The industry stands on three legs, with the U.S. accounting for 34.5 percent of its total exports, the EU for 31.9 percent and other markets for the rest," said Kiet.
Without the TPP, other free trade agreements (FTAs) with the Republic of Korea, the Customs Union of Russia, Kazakhstan and Belarus, in addition to an agreement with the EU to take effect in future, are opening new windows for Vietnam's leather and footwear industry, Kiet assessed, adding that the Vietnamese government would continue to negotiate new FTAs to enable more exports of Vietnamese products, including footwear.
Echoing Kiet, Phan Chi Dung, head of the Ministry of Industry and Trade (MoIT)'s light industry department, said the country's footwear sector targets better use of FTAs to expand exports.
It plans to restructure production to add value to products, increase local content in products, improve designs, and focus on medium- and high-quality products for domestic and export markets, said Dung.
The MoIT is compiling a master plan for leather and footwear development, forecasting production of more than 2 billion pairs of shoes a year by 2025, two times compared to last year's volume, and exports of over 30 billion U.S. dollars.
"Demand for raw materials would also surge two or three fold, and so if the supporting industry is not developed in the coming years, the industry would have to depend greatly on imports, which would make it hard to accomplish its targets," Dung pointed out.
The official urged footwear firms to join hands and to increase investment in modern equipment and technologies to capitalize on the opportunities brought by global integration, participate in the global supply chain and make Vietnam a global footwear production base.
There are some 1,700 footwear enterprises in Vietnam, some 800 of which are large-scale ones. Foreign-invested enterprises account for 80 percent of the sector's exports.
Leather and footwear products are among Vietnam's key export items, with exports reaching 16.2 billion U.S. dollars last year, accounting for 10 percent of the country's total exports. This year, Vietnam's footwear exports are expected to top 17.88 billion U.S. dollars.
The country is the third largest footwear maker and second largest exporter in the world.