Vietnamese booths at the HCM City Trade – Service – Tourism Exhibition in Savannakhet, Laos, last year (Photo courtesy of ITPC)

HCM City (VNS/VNA) – Ho Chi Minh City’s Investment and Trade Promotion Centre will organise the second HCM City Trade-Service-Tourism Promotion Conference in Savannakhet, Laos, in October to help Vietnamese businesses tap the Lao market and enhance co-operation between the two countries, a workshop heard on August 28.

According to Pham Thiet Hoa, director of the centre, several promotions to encourage collaboration between Vietnamese and Laos enterprises had been launched in HCM City and Laos in recent years.

They included the Laos Goods Week held in HCM City last January and the 2018 Vietnam-Laos Trade Fair in the Lao capital Vientiane in July.

Last year, the centre held the first conference showcasing HCM City-made products in Savannakhet, Laos, which attracted more than 100 Vietnamese and 25 Lao enterprises who signed 50 contracts and four Memorandum of Understandings.

This year it will organise a similar event from October 19 to 26 at the same location.

Hoa said participating enterprises would be fully subsidised for booths, decor, freight and import tax payable for the event.

According to the General Department of Vietnam Customs, trade between Vietnam and Laos was worth 522.2 million USD in the first half of 2018, a 14.5 percent increase year-on-year.

Vietnam mainly exports steel and iron products, cement, plastic products, electrical cables, and fruit and vegetables. It buys fertilisers, wood and wooden products, ores and minerals from Laos.

Figures from the Ministry of Planning and Investment’s Foreign Investment Agency show that Laos is the biggest of Vietnam’s 24 foreign investment destinations.

In the first five months of this year Vietnam’s investment in Laos was worth 80.12 million USD, or 43.4 percent of its total foreign investment.

Somxay Sanamoune, Lao Consul General in HCM City, said the Lao government always encouraged and gave priority to Vietnamese investment.

“The two countries are very close in terms of geography, which is a great advantage to boosting cross-border trade, export-import activities and exchange of workers.”

He said Laos had great potential waiting to be tapped by Vietnamese businesses including industrial crops, mining, mineral processing and agri-forestry products, among others.

He said to attract foreign investment, the Lao government had reduced red tape and the time required to set up new businesses, cut tariffs and invested in infrastructure.

A survey conducted by the centre at last year’s trade event found there was a big market in Laos for Vietnamese products, especially mid-priced goods.

Products that were popular at the event were electrical and mechanical domestic appliances, food, snacks and processed foods, and textile and apparel.

Le Tan Minh, deputy head of the centre’s trade promotion department, said Vietnamese businesses should pay attention to packaging to attract Lao consumers.

Businesses should also consider earmarking some space for consumers, especially young people, to take photos since they were fond of sharing them on social media, and this would help publicise the event, he added.

According to Nguyen Quoc Dung, CEO of the Sai Gon Plant Protection Joint Stock Company which has been selling its products in Laos, Vietnamese enterprises who wanted to tap the Lao market should first ensure they had a licence and their products were registered.

“You have to show your business registration certificate or at least have a big agent in Laos who can represent you in order to meet with a business there.”

He said for products like crop protection chemicals and fertilisers, enterprises should make samples and hold workshops to convince consumers of the quality of their products.

Besides, it was very important to have product information and instructions on the packaging in Lao, he added.-VNS/VNA