A British trade official and an executive chairman told participants at a business briefing in London on September 4 that Vietnam is an attractive destination for investment and that the country is ripe for British trade and investment.

These two speakers were Douglas Barnes, Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City and Director for UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) in Vietnam, and Paul Smith, Executive Chairman of Harvey Nash, a London-based company providing IT services, which has been doing business successfully in Vietnam for 12 years.

They briefed the British businesspeople about the Vietnamese market at the conference which was held by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry for British firms in a prelude to a trade mission which the chamber is organising for those interested in the market to visit Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in November 12-16, this year.

More than 30 representatives from a wide range of companies attended the briefing.

According to the London Chamber of Commerce, Vietnam is rapidly becoming the powerhouse of Southeast Asia, recording GDP growth of 6,4 percent in 2010, making it one of the top expanding economies in the region despite the global financial crisis.

The two speakers highlighted key strengths of the Vietnamese market, including a politically stable and safe environment; strategic location with access to South East Asia, China and beyond and a growing population of 87 million, which is young, dynamic, educated and pragmatic.

They also noted other favourable conditions such as a growing domestic market; a burgeoning middle-class with significant spending power; accession to the World Trade Organisation and a signed strategic partnership agreement between the two countries to strengthen bilateral relationship, including trade ties.

Douglas said other positive points of the Vietnamese market were that for three years running, British firms have ranked Vietnam as the top destination outside of the BRICs in which they would like to invest and that the country had long term growth (estimated the fastest in the world to 2050) and that Vietnam is one of the UK’s 17 high growth markets.

Paul Smith, who works closely with UKTI to support UK businesses into ASEAN region, will lead the mission as his local knowledge, network and support will benefit the delegates.

At the briefing, Paul enthusiastically spoke about Vietnam , introducing a few facts to tell the participants how “ Vietnam touches us every day life” such as rice, pepper, catfish, shoes and coffee. He said he learns that Vietnam has just become number 1 coffee exporter worldwide, and that is a fantastic achievement of the country. He said: “Any time you go to Starbucks, Caffe Nero, think about Vietnam .”

Think about Vietnam when “Over 1 billion people receive and send G3 calls using software developed in Vietnam (Alcatel-Lucent). Nearly a million people found jobs using software developed in Vietnam too (StepStone). By 2015, one in twelve microchips will be made in Vietnam (Intel),” he said.

Paul said through his knowledge, Vietnam had market opportunities in areas of ICT services and R&D; retail; construction/mining; manufacturing; energy; outsourcing; digital and media; financial services; education; and tourism and leisure.

Paul’s Harvey Nash now employs 4,500 staff in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City offices, develops software applications, R&S and maintenance services for clients in 33 countries world wide.

While appreciating his staff as hardworking, loyal, trustworthy, honest and highly-skilled, he also warned the participants about challenges they would face during doing business in Vietnam . These included the inadequate of middle management; low level corruption; infrastructure; regulation & legislation and consistency.
UK exports of goods and services to Vietnam in 2011 were 520 million pounds (around 820 million USD), an increase of 7,9 percent year on year while Vietnam ’s exports of goods and services to the UK were 1,75 billion pounds, a growth of 33 percent.

The UK is the third largest EU investor in Vietnam with 153 projects with a registered value of 2,7 billion USD by the end of the first quarter of this year.-VNA