Nicolas Audier - Chairman, EuroCham
Vietnam has been an attractive destination for FDI for some time. The country’s large population, well-educated workforce, growing middle class, and economic development have been a magnet for foreign companies. Today, Vietnam is part of a network of free trade agreements – including the upcoming EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) – and this, alongside the government’s world-leading handling of the pandemic and good strategic location, mean that the country has a unique opportunity to attract businesses looking to invest in a competitive, safe, and business-friendly market.
The prime minister’s working group is, therefore, a well-timed intervention which could help to attract new investment at this opportune moment. For European enterprises in general, the priorities would be a predictable legal framework alongside a continued streamlining of business conditions and simplification of administrative procedures.
In particular, the single-biggest factor in attracting new EU investment will be a smooth and effective implementation of the EVFTA. The government has just outlined its plan for implementation, and EuroCham is prepared to support this plan however we can to help Vietnam attract new investment from European companies.
Joseph Perucca - General director, GIVI Vietnam
In this post-pandemic period for Vietnam, we must consider giving priority to many companies like ours not only to support existing production, which is already highly deficient for obvious reasons, but consequently also to increase and consolidate the relations between this country and foreign-invested companies that have had and continue to have significant impact on the local economy.
We warmly welcome any action taken by the prime minister, especially if oriented to improve or simplify any investment and logistics conditions within the Vietnamese market.
I hope for a situation of greater comfort in the near future, where simplifications and facilitations in all operations, and especially those relating to exports from Vietnam to Europe, create perceptible conditions of ease and advantage for us and other businesses investing in Vietnam.
No less important would be to make the system of investment in human resources more usable and simplified. As a manager with decades of experience of a company firmly anchored in this country and operating on the global market, it would be an excellent start both to attract new investors and to consolidate and stimulate greater investments already in progress in this market.
We chose Vietnam a long time ago, and we will continue to be present in this country. We will grow together by continuing to invest in our plants and local resources, with a focus on the future.
Patrick Downey - Manager, Harrison Assessments Distributorship
It is very evident that the pandemic has had substantial implications on personnel and staffing arrangements and issues in companies and organisations worldwide. In my opinion, the Vietnamese government has handled the pandemic very well to-date and accordingly it is our recommendation that they adopt a focused business recovery approach in respect to all issues, and particularly those relating to employees and employment at all levels.
This will in turn provide further support to the excellent job Vietnam has done in attracting foreign companies to establish operations here and will open the door for this to continue.
One of our key business development programmes will be the continuation of attracting foreign entities to establish here with the support of well-structured governmental programmes. We add to this our strong range of special services with particular focus on local human resource management services.
We are happy to co-operate with relevant government services focused on further development of the Vietnamese economy.
Alain Cany - Country chairman, Jardine Matheson
Highly qualified FDI means different things for different countries; it could also mean different things for Vietnam at different times.
We believe highly-qualified FDI for Vietnam now and the next 10 years should aim to improve efficiency of the country’s bottleneck on logistics infrastructure, which has negatively impacted the economy for so long. Improving it is essential or Vietnam will be left behind in a world of fierce competition.
Logistic fees in Vietnam are among the most expensive in the region have a lot to do with the outdated current networks of infrastructures despite the government’s efforts in making investment into it.
Road transport, international airports, railways, and inner-city mass transit systems are those that require huge investment, longer funding horizons, and long term commitments from the government. The country’s investment regulations need to be improved constantly to create a more transparent and efficient playground for international investors, including on the private-public partnership front and most importantly government guarantees on foreign currencies conversions and repatriations.
Besides this, I believe high quality investments in renewable energy, the digital economy, and agricultural processing should have a bright future in Vietnam if the infrastructure issues are being resolved as the main priority.
Alexis Drogoul - Chief representative, IRD Vietnam and Philippines
Vietnam should take this opportunity to promote greener growth and carefully choose investors based on their capacity to build low- or zero-emissions operations in the country or their ability to contribute directly or indirectly to its sustainability in any other way.
Doing business as usual would probably be the worst solution for the years to come. COVID-19 has shown us what sacrificing sustainability (for instance, the loss of biodiversity) for immediate profit can provoke. And it is nothing compared to what is forecast by climate experts. Thanks to its strong academic sector and its research institutes, the Vietnamese government is already aware of this, and it is now time to turn this knowledge into action.
On a very concrete aspect, one point to definitely improve would be to support the investor community by easing the deliverance of visas for foreign investors and experts. The image of Vietnam worldwide is already good, but I am sure it would become excellent if this stage was not so complex.
Federico Vasoli - Lawyer and managing partner, dMTV Global
In the wake of the pandemic, whilst making predictions has become extremely difficult, the need of diversified supply chains that do not rely entirely on one source (typically China) is evident. Vietnam is therefore very well positioned in attracting more foreign investment, particularly considering Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s plan to boost infrastructure, IT, and environmentally-friendly projects.
Our firm has been proudly assisting international businesses investing in Vietnam for over ten years and is present also in Singapore and Malta, hence we can humbly provide a global view.
Imitating some of these jurisdictions’ best practices could further help boost Vietnam’s attractiveness. For instance, more favourable taxation (only of locally sourced income), elimination of excessive bureaucracy (reduction of documents which need to be notarised, for example), and an even wider use of English in public administration, as well as closer partnership with the EU and the ASEAN Economic Community would help in those cases where Vietnam alone cannot entirely replace other destinations.
The human capital is there: foreigners truly admire the Vietnamese people’s ambition and resilience. A small effort on the ecosystem, in terms of infrastructure, procedures, technology, taxation, and bureaucracy, could do the trick.
Jack Nguyen - Partner, Mazars
Vietnam’s desire to move more to high-quality foreign investment is a natural evolution of a developing economy as it matures. It is imperative that the country starts attracting high quality investment, particularly in the manufacturing sector.
Government efforts to promote this is a positive step in the right direction. Whereas in the past,Vietnam would welcome just about any kind of investment, it was usually in the form of small-scale, low-tech projects and sometimes not environmentally friendly. Typically high quality investments would be those that can be part of the global supply chain, provide training and development to its work force, and ideally be environmentally friendly.
My suggestion is to attract funding from countries that are well-developed already, that have global best practices in industries relevant to Vietnam, and that invest in high-tech research and development.
Ong Tiong Hooi - Partner of Transaction Services, PwC Vietnam
Much has developed in recent years to make Vietnam an attractive market for investors. We see continuous improvements in the legal and regulatory framework including the development of the country’s first Corporate Governance Code.
However, many foreign investors still have concerns. These include the speed of approvals and clarity in approval processes by regulatory authorities; easing of dividend restrictions when remitting funds abroad and converting VND into foreign currencies; and statutory audits on all companies (not just foreign-invested, state-owned, and listed entities) so that financial statements can be relied upon.
Vietnam has demonstrated its ability in keeping its citizens safe during the recent pandemic. What the country needs to demonstrate globally now is that Vietnam can create a safe and favourable investment destination for its investors.