Italy, home to the world-famous fashion industry, has annouced a plan to help bring advanced production technologies to Vietnam's textile and footwear sectors.
A key pillar of the plan is a 15-million-Euro (US$16.1 million) a package for small and medium businesses which operate in the targeted sectors, Italian Ambassador Cecilia Piccioni was quoted as saying last week at a press conference to promote trade between the two countries.
Businesses in Ho Chi Minh City and nearby Binh Duong and Dong Nai provinces will be given concessional loans with no interest for 24 years, she said.
In another effort, Italian government will help Vietnam establish and run two hi-tech centers for textile and footwear next year, news website Saigon Times Online quoted Bruna Santarelli, chief of the Italian Trade Commission in Vietnam, as saying at a meeting on Sunday.
The centers will be established at two universities, including Ho Chi Minh City's University of Technology, and equipped with Italian-imported machines and technologies.
Italy will also send experts to train Vietnamese students to make sure that new technologies can be applied on a large scale, according to the report.
Trade volume between Vietnam and Italy was estimated at US$4 billion last year, up 33.3 percent year on year, and is expected to hit $5 billion next year.
Vietnam is now hosting 66 Italian-invested projects with a total capital of nearly $392 million, according to figures from the Foreign Investment Agency.
Textile and footwear are among sectors expected to enjoy the most benefits when Vietnam's key free trade agreements with EU and 11 Pacific Rim nations come into effect.
However, local businesses and economists express concerns that, with their current dependence on imported materials from China, Vietnamese textile businesses will possibly fail the rule of origin, thus missing tariff benefits under the Trans-Pacific deal.
They are also worried that Vietnamese footwear businesses will not be able to make best use of tax cuts under the EU trade deal, slated to be signed later this year, as foreign-invested manufacturers account for more than 70 percent of the country's footwear exports.