Vietnam's exports to the US more than tripled through March as garment shipments surged ahead of the pending imposition of quotas.
Vietnamese shipments to the US reached US$1.02 billion in the first three months, up from US$302 million a year earlier, according to American figures. Last year, US imports from Vietnam increased at the fastest pace of the top 100 US trading partners.
Shipments of apparel and clothing accessories from Vietnam to the US climbed more than 17-fold in the January-to-March period to US$576 million from US$32.5 million. Last month, the US and Vietnam reached a textile and garment agreement placing quota restrictions from May 1 on Vietnamese clothing exports to the American market.
"The hottest categories are T-shirts and trousers," said Tran Duc Thinh, general secretary of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association, after the accord was signed in Washington. "Now we have to allocate the quotas to garment enterprises in an appropriate way ... to sign the most effective export contracts."
The agreement between the two countries calls for quotas on the volume of items of clothing ranging from pajamas to sweaters.
The quotas will increase by 7 percent next year, except for wool products, which will increase by 2 percent, according to figures from the Office of the US Trade Representative.
Shipments of seafood products, Vietnam's second-biggest export to the US, rose 59 percent to US$153 million from US$96 million.
American and Vietnamese officials met in Washington this month to discuss a possible agreement to suspend an anti-dumping suit filed against Vietnamese seafood companies by the US catfish industry, under which preliminary tariffs have been set for Vietnamese catfish exports.
Vietnamese footwear exports to the US increased 85 percent through March to US$74 million, while furniture shipments climbed almost fivefold to US$33.5 million from US$6.9 million.
US shipments to Vietnam through the end of March rose 47 percent to US$157 million, led by an 83 percent surge in exports of machinery and mechanical appliances to US$40 million.
Figures on American exports to Vietnam are likely to receive a boost this year if the delivery of two B777 aircraft made by Illinois-based Boeing Co takes place as scheduled in August and September. Boeing is also scheduled to deliver B777s to Vietnam Airlines Corp in 2004 and 2005.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg," said Stanley Roth, vice president of Asia international relations for Boeing, speaking at an investment conference in March in the Vietnamese capital of Hanoi. "In every way, this is one of the most promising future markets for the Boeing Company."
The purchases by Vietnam Airlines would be the first to receive backing from the Export-Import Bank of the US since the export credit agency of the American government began operating in Vietnam.
"This would be the first deal, and it would be a major one," said Michael Frisby, counselor for commercial affairs at the US Embassy in Hanoi. "It's quite significant."
The US accounted for about 22 percent of Vietnam's overall exports through the first three months of the year, based on the US International Trade Commission figures and on preliminary estimates by Vietnam's General Statistics Office.