The Mekong Delta must develop new strategies and clear goals to attract more investors to the region, a Japanese executive said at a conference held on May 23 in Ho Chi Minh City.

Yasuzumi Hirotaka, CEO of Japan External Trade Organisation, said that he had taken part in many conferences about the issue, but nothing changed in reality.

Although the Delta has abundant marine products, cheap labour and land-use costs, its marine industry was not advanced technologically, and its market and customer base are poorly developed.

In addition, the low quality of infrastructure and services at industrial parks, the lack of local parts and materials, and poor transportation remained challenges in the area.

However, he noted that opportunities still existed, particularly in the processing industry for rice, fruits, shrimp and other products of the region.

Also at the conference, Nakajima Satoshi, Consul General of Japan in HCM City, said Can Tho and other provinces in the region should promote their specific geographical advantages to foreign investors.

With a population of 17 million, the region has an abundant labour force, but due to limited jobs available, many people go to the city or other provinces like Binh Duong and Dong Nai to look for work.

"Therefore, creating jobs for local people in the region is of great importance," he told the media.

Nakajima said Japan would continue to cooperate with Vietnam and the Mekong Delta by introducing the region to Japanese businesses and citizens.

As for FDI investment, Herb Cochran, CEO of AmCham in HCM City, said companies that want to attract investors should consider not only their needs and wants, such as a well-developed food and beverage sector, but also the needs of US companies.

US companies are willing to invest in the Mekong Delta if it suits their business plan and capabilities, and if there are good partners in business and government, he said.

Kai Schroter, Vice Chairman of EuroCham's Tourism and Hospitality Sector Committee, said the government should improve national tourism through national tourism branding, marketing and promotion, as well as reform in hospitality education.

Speaking at the event, Hirofumi Kishi, General Director of Sapporo Vietnam, a joint venture between Japan and Vietnam, said the Delta's location near HCM City, the country's largest economic centre, and a large labour force attracted investors, but the legal system was unclear and administrative procedures were complicated.

In addition, better infrastructure was important to attract investment in industrial zones, roads and power systems, he said.

Support industries were still weak, he added.

"I hope there are more qualified local suppliers of raw materials and support industries that meet the quality requirements of the Sapporo Group," he said.

About 200 people, including economists, foreign investors, the consuls general of India and Japan, as well as officials from international organisations, attended the conference.

The Mekong Delta region achieved economic growth of more than 10 percent in 2011 and 2012.

The delta, with 12.2 percent of the country's area, has nearly 20 percent of the country's 90 million population.

As Vietnam's largest agricultural area, its major exports are agricultural products and seafood. Last year, it exported more than 6 million tonnes of rice, or 90 percent of the country's total rice shipments.

Exports of seafood were worth 4.1 billion USD, accounting for 60 percent of the country's total seafood exports.

Since 1988 the region has attracted more than 11.3 billion USD in 830 foreign direct investment projects.

Long An province tops the list with nearly 3.8 billion USD and 493 projects, followed by Kien Giang with 3.1 billion USD and 35 projects.

Last year, 54 countries and territories invested 14.2 billion USD in the Mekong Delta, with Japan at the top with 5.7 billion USD, followed by Singapore with 4.4 billion USD and the Republic of Korea with 4.3 billion USD.-VNA