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Japanese retailer puts Vietnamese products on shelves

Japanese retailer Aeon Corporation has begun carrying Vietnamese products in its stores in Japan to take advantage of lower import duties under a free trade agreement signed between the two nations.

Aeon, Japan's second largest retailer, was looking for Vietnamese suppliers in clothing, food and household products, said Toshihito Hirai, deputy general director of AIC's Foods Supervision Division. AIC is in charge of purchasing products for Aeon.

Hirai said Vietnam has become a potential supplier of the group as it targets reduced costs and improved competitiveness.

He said the Japanese government had eliminated or reduced tariffs for almost Vietnamese agricultural products after the Economic Partnership Agreement between two countries took effect late in 2008.

The tariffs would reduce to zero from the current 1 to 5 percent for these products, especially seafood, and trading in Vietnamese products would fetch more benefits for the group, said Hirai.

He said shipping charges from Vietnam to Japan were reasonable and affordable and added to the company's ability to improve its competitiveness in the retail market.

China, Thailand and Vietnam were the group's top suppliers in Asia, he said. However, Chinese suppliers were focusing on the domestic market and the group had to look for other suppliers.

Vietnam was strong in export of agricultural and farm products like rice, vegetables, coffee, cashew, cassava, tea and oranges, he said.

He told Thanh Nien Weekly that quality was the group's top concern in trading with Vietnamese suppliers, but many of them were trying to apply international standards in producing and packaging now.

The group would send a team to investigate Vietnamese factories processing seafood and other products in November as part of preparations for its first direct shipment from Vietnam, he said.

Aeon CEO Nagahashi Oyama had said during a visit to Vietnam last year that the retailer was looking for locations to develop a US$50 million trade, service and entertainment complex on 10 hectares in Ho Chi Minh City.