Vietnamese businesses need to improve their awareness and understanding of the legal implications of exporting goods to the US, says David Lennarz, Vice President of the US Registrar Corp.

Addressing a workshop on export opportunities to the US and requirements of the country's Food and Drug Administration (FDA) held in Ha Noi yesterday, Lennarz said the businesses need to be updated on new regulations that would affect Vietnamese exports to the lucrative market.

Viet Nam earned nearly US$23.9 billion from exports to the US last year, a year-on-year increase of 17.5 per cent. It exported goods worth $18.4 billion in the first eight months in 2014.

Speakers at the workshop noted that under US regulations, imports have to satisfy both federal and state regulations.

Lennarz said the FDA frequently investigates foreign food producers that it considers risky as well as new businesses exporting products in bulk quantities. The administration also refuses entry for several products, he said.

Goods seen as carrying high risk include acidic food, seafood, fruits, fresh vegetables and spices, he added.

Last year, it was reported that 2,400 producers from all countries were subject to quality investigations. This year, the number is expected to rise to 4,800 and further double to 9,600 next year.

In its investigations, the FDA looks at production processes, workers' hygiene, workshop design, maintenance and sterilization as well as storage facilities. These are likely to cost businesses a lot as they have to prepare many documents in detail, the workshop heard.

The FDA recently announced its fees for the fiscal year 2015, including domestic and foreign food facility re-inspections, importer re-inspections and fines for failure to comply with a recall order. Fees for these inspections will cost $217 per hour if domestic travel is required (down from $237) and $305 per hour if foreign travel is required (up from $302).

Lennarz cautioned Vietnamese exporters that they must inform the FDA of all details before shipping products to the US.

They should also be aware of regulations regarding labelling, including the classification of ingredients as well information carried in health notices, he said.

Bui Hoang Yen, an official of the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said the US was one of Viet Nam's leading trade partners, yet inherent weaknesses were preventing businesses from entering and expanding their share of this market.

Echoing Lennarz, she said one of the drawbacks that Vietnamese firms faced in exporting agro-forestry products, seafood, food and pharmaceuticals to the US was their poor knowledge of import regulations and relevant procedures.