Secretary of State for Wales, David Jones has rounded off the Vietnam leg of his Asia trade and investment mission with a series of meetings in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City aimed at promoting the opportunities and benefits available to British companies looking to do business in the country.
In Hanoi, Mr Jones attended a business breakfast with members of the British Business Group Vietnam (BBGV) – a group that represents, supports and assists people and businesses in Vietnam that have links to the UK.
The group discussed opportunities and challenges facing business looking to work in the emerging Vietnamese market and the support currently being provided to SMEs seeking to export to Asian markets for the first time.
In October last year, Trade and Investment Minister, Lord Green launched the ‘Headstart’ initiative, which offers support to British SMEs by offering access to local Asian business networks, and introductions to already established UK companies.
The Prime Minister later followed this announcement with the news that a new £8 million pilot project to strengthen the capacity of overseas business groups, such as chambers of commerce, will be introduced in 20 key countries – Vietnam included.
Mr Jones said:
The Asian market offers huge opportunities for SMEs – but the prospect of striking out into unfamiliar markets can also be very daunting. There are many British businesses who could be exporting to South East Asia, and this initiative provides them with the support they need to take that first step.
The overseas pilot project will help transform the way the UK delivers trade support to UK business overseas and put the UK on more of a competitive footing with countries like Germany, the US and France, all of whom have strong overseas chambers capable of supporting domestic businesses in overseas markets.
A new unit has been set up within UKTI to see the project through its first phase and will build on discussions across a range of business bodies such as the British Chambers of Commerce, the Confederation of British Industry, the Institute of Directors, the Engineering Employers Federation and the Federation of Small Businesses. This aims to make the experience of growing and expanding into overseas markets simpler and more seamless for UK business.
Throughout my visit, I have been struck by the enormous opportunities available to UK providers of education, training and professional services.
UKTI chief executive Nick Baird said:
Asia is an incredibly important market for UK businesses and an important and growing source of foreign direct investment into the UK. It is home to many of the world’s fastest developing economies and a growing appetite for British-branded goods. UK Trade & Investment, through its network of staff in more than 100 embassies and consulates worldwide, is working hard to make sure British companies, especially small and medium-sized businesses, seize the opportunity to find new customers across the region.
The Secretary of State also met with David Priestly, Rolls Royce CEO Vietnam where he received a briefing on Rolls Royce’s interests and investments in Vietnam and in particular the company’s aspiration to supply engines to Vietnam Airlines, which the UK Government strongly supports as a key project within the broader UK-Vietnam trade and investment relationship.
In Ho Chi Minh City Mr Jones met with Madame Nguyen Thi Hong, Vice Chairwoman of Ho Chi Minh City People’s Committee, to promote British business expertise in Public Private Partnerships (PPP), and the high-value opportunities available to UK businesses as the city prepares to undertake its ambitious urban and infrastructure development programme.
Hoh Chi Minh City is the economic hub of Vietnam. The city is set to undergo a significant programme of regeneration projects including the construction of a new financial centre in Thu Thiem, the development of a new urban underground railway system, and the redevelopment of Long Thanh international airport.
Madame Hong has already met with a number of British financial, design, engineering and construction companies with a presence in Vietnam to inform the redevelopment plans. She also undertook a fact-finding visit to City UK and Canary Wharf in London earlier this year.
Mr Jones took the opportunity to highlight the existing expertise of British companies, and the support they can provide to the development and construction of these projects.
UK companies are world leaders in managing large infrastructure projects, which is clearly and important area for Vietnam in the coming years. Given the scale of investment required, new models of funding will also be required. We have been actively sharing our own experiences of public-private partnerships during our visit, and hope that this is an area where UK companies will be able to contribute their world class experience.
Ahead of his departure to Hong Kong – the last leg of the trade mission – the Secretary of State also hosted a meeting with senior executives who own and run companies in Vietnam. The meeting provided the opportunity to discuss the challenges and opportunities of doing business in Vietnam, and to promote the UK as a potential business investment opportunity.