Experts at a conference in Vietnam's southern Ho Chi Minh (HCM) City advised local businesses to take the initiative in developing business strategies so they can prosper in the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) market, expected to be effective in 2015. The conference, themed "Import-Export Coordination Solutions on the Threshold of ASEAN+", noted that Vietnam's export turnover to ASEAN in 2013 stood at 18.5 billion U.S. dollars, a year-on-year increase of nearly 7 percent, reported Vietnam News daily on Thursday. When AEC becomes effective, local companies would be able to widen markets in ASEAN as well as other countries such as South Korea and Japan, but there would also be challenges. Growth in Vietnamese exports to this market had been unstable and the potential remained underdeveloped. No product had shown continuous growth in export value, and there were also risks of anti-dumping lawsuits, said Huynh Van Minh, chairman of the HCM City Union of Business Association, at the conference. According to the Ministry of Industry and Trade's export-import department, Vietnamese exports contained few high value-added products, and the country still had an underdeveloped support industry. When AEC takes effect, Vietnamese companies will face strong pressure from big companies in regional countries, and as such, need to be more proactive when they develop their business plans. Failure to meet demand for information on origin of products is another challenge for local companies. To improve competitiveness, companies were advised to exploit their strengths so they can take advantage of tax incentives under AEC. Experts also advised local firms to update and forecast changes in the world market, and improve the localization rate of products and the support industry in the country. They should better manage risks, such as buying insurance, and work together closely and invest and widen their business. Furthermore, new technologies such as green technologies should be purchased. Vietnam is one among ten members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). AEC is ASEAN's goal for regional economic integration by 2015. It envisages a single market and production base, and a highly competitive economic region with equitable economic development, fully integrated into the global economy.