AusCham Director Giles Cooper delivered a speech (see photo above) on industry issues and opportunities faced by AusCham’s members to the Mid term Vietnam Business Forum held in Hanoi on 16 June 2017. A copy of the speech is reproduced below.

Thank you to all members who have contributed to this process so that we have been able to communicate them to the Government (please note, AusCham is not able to raise issues that are specific to individual members).

The next Vietnam Business Forum is expected to be held in December, 2017.

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Salutations

Vietnam – Australia relations are growing strongly and our members are contributing to, and benefitting from, that growth. While the TPP has not moved forward as hoped, Australian and Vietnamese businesses benefit from the existing ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) and Vietnam’s commitment to further improving trade and investment opportunities by participating in new international trade agreements. Vietnam is now Australia’s 15th largest trading partner, with two-way trade exceeding $10 billion and Australian investment in Vietnam growing strongly.

We see tremendous potential for Australian investors in sectors such as agriculture, energy, financial services, education, tourism and health. With over 22,000 Vietnamese currently studying in Australia and over 7,000 studying with Australian institutions in Vietnam, education is a high profile issue for AusCham.

The productivity of the labour force in Vietnam needs to significantly increase. The education and training of Vietnamese people to provide “work-ready” graduates will help close skills gaps and also provide the necessary manpower where there are currently skills shortages. In the short term, foreign expertise can help in this regard. Therefore fostering partnerships between domestic and foreign enterprises for the harmonious development of the Vietnamese economy is a theme that our education and training members fully support.

At the highest level, this needs the involvement of all major stakeholders working together under the leadership of the Vietnamese Government and in particular MoET and MoLISA. A strategic focus is required to make sure that everyone involved understands what needs to be achieved and that all stakeholders involved are in alignment. The coordination of Official Development Assistance (ODA) is important so that various initiatives complement rather than overlap and that the efficiency and effectiveness of these programs is maximized.

For Vietnamese institutions to provide education of an international standard,an infusion of foreign capital, ideas and expertise is required. The education system also needs flexibility and adaptability, especially in the vocational training sector. Countries including, but not limited to, Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Singapore, and the UK can continue to help with the development of higher and vocational education.

The recent changes in the Vietnamese education system are recognized and applauded. AusCham believes they provide a solid base for additional, much needed, improvements.

Mining and mining services is another key area of interest and expertise for Australian companies.  Australia has a strong minerals industry, and mining has been one of the key drivers in its economic growth and infrastructure development.  As an emerging nation, we believe Vietnam should realise significantly more benefit from its valuable, still untapped and mostly undiscovered mineral resources – but only in a way that is efficient, environmentally responsible and safe. We do not believe that this is happening in most cases at present.  Australia, with its experience and technology, stands by ready to assist Vietnam develop appropriate polices to attract foreign direct investment in exploration and mining using international best practices. Australian businesses are very keen to tap into this industry and AusCham is here to facilitate the needed talks/bridging the gaps of expectation and knowledge if and when needed.

AusCham continues to note that tourists from five European countries are entitled to enter Vietnam without a visa and that citizens of another 40 countries can access eVisas – but not Australians. Given that Vietnam Airlines and Jetstar Australia have introduced an additional three direct routes (increasing from two to five) between Vietnam and Australia in the last three months, AusCham believes this presents the government with a wonderful opportunity to support the local tourism industry by reviewing the visa status of Australian tourists.

While these challenges are real, there is also a hard-headed optimism amongst the Australian business community in Vietnam about the future for Vietnam and their own businesses. We are working directly with MOFA and the peoples’ committees of several provinces to help build relationships and bridge gaps between Australian and Vietnamese businesses. AusCham’s new MOU with Vietnam’s Department of Foreign Affairs of the Provinces allows it new reach to the 61 provinces / municipalities outside of Hanoi and HCMC. This work will be brought together at the “Meet Australia”event to be held in HCMC on 26 September, when Australian business will have the opportunity to meet with Vietnam’s provincial leadership on commercial opportunities throughout Vietnam.

In addition, we are also supporting provincial delegations travelling to Australia to meet interested businesses as AusCham continues to proactively promote and build the bilateral trade relationship between Australia and Vietnam.

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