UK takes aim at trade
In his position as new British Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City and director of UK Trade and Investment in Vietnam, Douglas Barnes tells VIR’s Hai Long about his strategic priorities in Vietnam.
Can you share your strategic priorities in Vietnam?
The UK government really identifies Vietnam a major emerging market, we see Vietnam as a very key partner in our process of continuously tackling with economic crisis globally since 2008.
During my appointment, I will follow four key priorities. First, I will work to continue developing key contacts within local and national government. Second, I try to build similiar relationship with UK and Vietnamese companies. It is very important because I’m not only UK Consul General but Trade Commissioner.
So I’m not just looking at Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi but other provinces to support UK companies seeking collaboration with Vietnamese companies. Third, I will engage with wider contact network, in the private and public sectors, beyond Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
And above all, I try to meet bilateral trade and investment targets set by both out governments by 2013. Under the Strategic Partnership signed between the UK and Vietnam in 2010, Vietnam and UK agreed ambitious joint targets to double bilateral trade to $4 billion and UK investment in Vietnam to $3 billion in 2013.
What targets do you have?
I have three main strategic objectives. First, I will oversee a significant increase in bilateral trade and investment between UK and Vietnam. Second, I will persuade more UK companies to consider Vietnam as market of real business opportunities. Third, I will take forward the key actions and objectives in Vietnam Strategic Partnership. It is the foundation to establish a stronger, wider and deeper relationship between Britain and Vietnam. Education is a key strength and the UK aims to become Vietnam’s top education partner.
Have you received any messages from UK companies about Vietnam?
Vietnam is seen as a difficult market to do business by many UK companies because of worries about intellectual property and corruption. So, I face the two challenges of identifying opportunities that really exist and convince UK companies that is genuine chances and all the negative perceptions about Vietnam is not bad as they think. I think it is possible to do it. I did it in China. I will provide them with better quality information and encourage they come and watch what really happen in Vietnam to change their mindset.
What are the potential sectors for UK companies in Vietnam?
Oil and gas, agriculture, construction, finance services come after education as huge potential sectors. We have many key major financial services invested here from UK such as Prudential, HSBC, Standard Chartered. Manufacturing sectors are more difficult for UK companies to join in.
Recently, we have carried out an exercise to identify which is the key sector for UK companies and the ICT (information and communication technology) is at the top.
The transfer from state-owned enterprises into the private sectors according to Vietnam government’s policies is also good opportunities for UK companies to invest into Vietnam.
Will the gloomy economic situation globally limit the capital investment from UK to Vietnam and the targets signed between two countries are too ambitious?
The UK government recognises that not only the economic crisis but the impacts on the UK economy have been severe as it has been for most of the western economies such as France, Germany, the US and Japan as well.
So the UK government try to increase our trading performance by encourages UK companies to look beyond the UK to trade and invest to bring in revenue from doing business overseas.