Vietnam's textile and garment exports surged by 19% in 2013 - exceeding the $20bn mark for the first time and ensuring the sector remains the country's largest foreign currency earner.

Exports for the year reached $20.4bn - beating the record $17.1bn achieved in 2012.

Despite continuing difficulties in major consumer markets, exports to the US increased by 14%, with gains also seen in the EU (+9%), Japan (+20%), and South Korea (+43%).

Of this figure, exports from the Vietnam National Textile and Apparel Group (Vinatex) accounted for $2.9bn, an increase of 12% on the previous year.

Vinatex is one of Asia's largest garment groups, consisting of almost 120 subsidiaries and joint ventures across the entire textile manufacturing industry.

An update from the group said it has implemented 42 projects with a total investment of VND6,360bn (US$301.7m), mainly focusing on the fibre and textile sectors, to prepare for upcoming free trade agreements, especially the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Under this pact, garments made from yarn spun in a partner country such as Vietnam would have duty-free access to the US.

In its most recent development, Vinatex plans to start construction of a new VND2.2 trillion (US$104m) textile and garment complex at the end of the first quarter of 2014.