Vietnam has a very dynamic and fast-growing economy with an average gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of about 7 percent from 2001-2010, said Ho Thi Kim Thoa, Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade in Vietnam, in a recent business forum.

“The country’s GDP grew 5.03 percent in 2012, with total export-import turnovers reaching $114 billion in 2012, up 18 percent year on year,” she said at the Vietnam - France Business Forum held in HCMC on Monday last week.

“The goods flow and total retail sales-services revenues often grow by double digits annually, in which the latter is expected to hit 16.78 percent in 2013. With an 87 million-strong population, 60 percent of which are under 40 years old, Vietnam is really a potential market for French exporters.”

“As a result, French investors and exporters should consider Vietnam, in a broader picture, a key market of the Southeast Asian region,” she added.

Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) chairman Vu Tien Loc, said only a handful of countries in the world have a deep cultural and social influence in Vietnam like France, and Vietnam is the country with the biggest French-speaking community in Southeast Asian region.

French architecture and culture can be seen in many places across the country, especially in the metropolises of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and the resort city of Dalat in the Central Highlands, he added.

Though having experienced many ups and downs, the bilateral relationship between the two nations is at its peak, he said, adding that the time is ripe to heighten the relationship, especially in economy and trade, to a new level.

Despite the global economic turmoil, two-way trade in 2012 surged 30 percent year on year to a new record of $4 billion, of which France is a key market in Europe for Vietnamese footwear, garments, seafood, electronics and parts, and wood-based furniture.

The French market is also a gateway for Vietnamese goods to penetrate into other parts of the region.

As the country is under an economic restructuring process, cooperation with the world’s most advanced nations, like France, would be very beneficial to Vietnam, as the French economic and technological foundation is complementary to that of Vietnam, said Loc.

The two nations can further cooperation in aviation, telecommunications, finance and banking, cosmetics, fashion and high-tech agriculture.

The development of high-tech agriculture is a focus of the economic restructuring process, as Vietnam has a clear advantage in the sector.

France is among the world’s leaders in agriculture. With only 6 percent of the population working in the sector, the country is still able to feed its 65 million residents and earn an export revenue of $6.6 billion annually, he added.

D'accord

“I often went fishing when I was young, so I like the metaphor made by the Vietnamese Deputy Minister of Industry and Trade very much,” said Nicole Bricq, French Minister of Foreign Trade, at the event held to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between France and Vietnam.

“Though the presence of French businesses in Vietnam has been going on long enough and they have poured over $3 billion into the country so far, I think the state of French businesses and investment... needs to be enhanced in the future.”

The French trade minister also stressed her government's wish to strengthen the bilateral trade relationship between the two nations, which is still below potential.

It will be improved with more business trips made by high-ranking state officials of the two countries to the countries of one another, she added.

“I have made several business trips to Southeast Asia, marking the determination of the French government in considering this region a prioritized one.”

“I recently met with Pham Binh Minh, Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs, when he was in France, and he also stressed the need to strengthen the cooperation between the two nations.”

“We will invest more to create more goods with higher added-value in Vietnam so that the goods can be exported to other countries, and it’s the intent of the French government to upgrade the productivity and capacity of our partner country.”

“We are waiting for approval from the Vietnamese government for some projects in transport infrastructure and water treatment.”

There will be 20 business activities in 2013, focusing on promoting French cosmetic and healthcare products and services in Vietnam, said Christophe Lecourtier, managing director of the French Trade Promotion Office (UBIFRANCE).

There are nearly 300 French enterprises operating in Vietnam with a total investment of about $3 billion.

Room for improvement

However, Pierre-Jean Malgouyres, chairman of the French Chamber of Commerce and Industry in Vietnam (CCIFV) said European enterprises in general, and French companies in particular, are facing many problems with administrative procedures, which often take them too long, thus inadvertently causing some French companies to become discouraged when deciding to invest in Vietnam.

“I think the Vietnamese government should consider this aspect, so that French companies can easily come to do business in Vietnam.”

“Certainly Vietnamese firms can become the long-term business partners of French companies, as Vietnam and France have always had a longstanding relationship, and the investment environment in Vietnam is now quite favorable for French companies to come in for future development.”

Answering a question relating to administrative procedures, Vu Tien Loc of VCCI said this is not a big problem because now things are moving in a more positive way toward the simplification of administrative procedures.

In addition, under pressure from the public and the business community, local leaders and their relevant departments recently sat down together in order to provide faster and more flexible solutions to tackling administrative issues.

“I think the local leadership is also gearing up to address the simplification of administrative procedures in the shortest time possible to attract foreign companies, in particular French companies, in 2013,” Loc added.

By Thoai Tran & Ha An - Tuoi Tre News - April 15, 2013