Vietnamese firms urged to embrace digital transformation to boost exports hinh anh 1Delegates at the Digital Transformation and Key Legal Points to Take Advantage of the EVFTA's Opportunities in the Current Context webinar held on August 26. (Photo: VNA)

- Vietnamese firms regardless of their scale need to get up to speed on digital transformation to enable them to further penetrate global markets, a webinar heard on August 26.

Tran Phu Lu, deputy director of the Investment and Trade Promotion Centre of HCM City, told the seminar titled Digital Transformation and Key Legal Points to Take Advantage of the EVFTA’s Opportunities in the Current Context that trade disputes and the COVID-19 pandemic have affected global investment and trade, and supply chains have been disrupted.

Vietnam’s trade revenues were down 2.1 percent year-on-year in the first half of the year to 238.4 billion USD, with exports falling 1.1 percent to 121.2 billion USD. 

Lu quoted World Bank experts as saying that in the long run, the impacts of COVID-19 and trade tensions could lead to a profound restructuring of global value chains, enabling Vietnamese firms to enter them.

Vietnam is the EU’s 17th largest trading partner and the second largest in Southeast Asia while the EU is one of the country’s major markets, he said.

“The European Union-Việt Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), which has taken effect since earlier this month, is expected to open new doors and create growth momentum for Vietnam’s economy and exporters.

“It is expected to boost digital transformation at Vietnamese companies to enable them to capitalise on opportunities brought by the agreement.”

Vietnam’s exports to the EU last year accounted for only 1.8 percent of the bloc’s total imports, and so there is much room left, especially with the EVFTA removing 85.6 percent of tariff lines, equivalent to more than 70 percent of the country’s exports to the EU.

To succeed in that market, Vietnamese firms need to focus on obtaining market information, improving the quality of their products and services, building and promoting their brands, professionalising sales, and increasing the adoption of advanced technologies.

Besides, their products must meet safety standards as well as social responsibility and intellectual property requirements.

Dr Nguyen Tuan Hoa of the Green Economic Institute, an arbitrator at the Vietnam International Arbitration Centre, concurred with Lữ, saying that to capitalise on the EVFTA, Vietnamese firms need to meet three main criteria: product origin, quality and digital capability.

“EU businesses are 10-15 years ahead of Vietnamese enterprises in terms of digital capacity, and so we must strive to achieve the similar level as them so that we can do business with them.

“Thus, digital transformation is an inevitable process. If we don't do it, we will be left behind.”

Enterprises should start to get acquainted with e-contracts, pay digital taxes and digitalise all business activities, he said.

Digital transformation is the process of creating a new operating method based on digital technologies like IoT, cloud, big data, AI, and blockchain to create new production and business models, he said.

“Successful digital transformation will bring many benefits to businesses such as reducing costs and enabling them to access any market, not just the EU.”

Lawyer Dinh Quang Thuan of the Global Vietnam Lawyers Co. Ltd said the most popular trading method today is the signing of electronic contracts using e-signature technologies and digital signature certification services.  

Signing of e-contracts would help businesses save time and costs, especially in the current situation, he said.

In reality, the number of Vietnamese firms signing e-contracts remains modest since they are afraid of legal and security risks and increase in costs, he said.

He expected the signing of e-contracts to increase soon as companies realise the importance of investment in digital transformation to enhance their competitive advantages.

To reduce the risks involved in e-contracts, firms should carefully study their business partners, choose prestigious ones, exchange information via email through clearly registered and owned domain names, he said.

They should consult experts and lawyers before signing e-contracts to help ensure safety, he said.

Lữ said: “In the context of the prolonged epidemic, the use of digital transformation for market access and penetration is vital.

“This is the time for businesses to realise the advantages of the digital economy and the urgent need for digital transformation.”

The webinar was organised by the Investment and Trade Promotion Centre of HCM City and the Vietnam International Arbitration Centre./.