2005/6 is set to be a bumper year for British trade and investment in Vietnam. We have a record number of trade missions heading this way.
Our association with Europe will be of special importance this year as we take over the EU Presidency in July. The fact that the EU – already Vietnam’s largest trading and development partner – is backing Vietnam’s entry into WTO, has signed its own bilateral WTO agreement with Vietnam and has already brought some these provisions into force, puts EU companies in a particularly good position.
While trade and investment flows are ultimately market-driven, it is certainly helpful that Vietnam’s relationship with the EU - and with Britain in particular - is currently on such a high.
Some of this is the afterglow of last October’s successful ASEM V Summit. But mostly it’s because Vietnam wants to reach out to all the key players in the world marketplace. Global integration means actively searching for markets and actively touting for investment: an EU of 25 – now including many countries with long relationships with Vietnam – is a powerful magnet. And the fact that the EU offers increasing market access and generous development assistance and debt relief (with Britain as an EU pacemaker) makes us a natural partner for a developing country in a hurry.
As Vietnam gears up to meet sharper competition once in WTO, many new opportunities will emerge for British companies to help Vietnam develop areas of competitive advantage and move up the value chain. The underdeveloped services sector looks ripe for attention. The UK, a world leader in services, should be well placed to provide what is needed.