A top-level US trade mission has arrived in Hanoi to explore new business opportunities with footwear, textile and garment manufacturers following the ratification of the Vietnam/USA bilateral trade pact.

The 17-strong group, members of the United States Apparel and Footwear Association, will spend a week visiting textile and footwear producers' factories in a quest to learn more about production costs, availability of raw materials, labour conditions and trade unions.

Led by association vice chairman Fawn Evenson, the group includes representatives of some of the industry's biggest players such as Cannon County Knitting, Hartmarx, Sara Lee, Paramont Asia, Smart Shirts and United International Corporation.

"This is a very special opportunity in partnership with Vietnam due to new resources, competitive price, and low labour cost here," Tom Travis, managing partner of Sandler, Travis and Rosenberg law firm, told officials of the Vietnam Ministry of Planning and Investment.

Mai Hoang An, chairman of the Vietnam Textile Association, urged the group to put pressure on the US government to increase quota levels to support his country's booming textile and garment sectors.