They spoke to the press on the sidelines of a recent seminar between chief representatives of Vietnamese agencies overseas and businesses on enhancing diplomacy for economic development held on December 10, 2021.
“When we discussed this with Austrian businesses, we heard a question from them about when and how Vietnam would reopen,” said Vietnamese Ambassador to Austria Nguyen Trung Kien.
“Trade cannot be done online. You can exchange information about products online, but you can’t negotiate online. Many Austrian businesses want to come to Vietnam, but they need to know about the requirements on quarantine and the process of visiting workshops, input material supplies and necessary contacts,” Kien explained.
“It’s obvious that if foreign businesspeople can’t enter Vietnam, they won’t be able to cooperate with Vietnamese businesses. And overseas Vietnamese really want to return to the homeland,” he continued.
Agreeing with Kien, Vietnamese Ambassador to the UK Nguyen Hoang Long said that reopening international air routes while ensuring safety is a must to recover the economy.
“Reopening air routes is the wish of embassies while ensuring safety is the requirement by the Government. I think appropriate agencies will consider the pros and cons. However, I have to say that when enhancing cooperation for economic development, businesses have to increase exchanges, and investors have to travel and meet each other face to face for negotiations,” he said.
According to Kien, Austria is experiencing a lockdown but it is flexible. First, workers are not locked down. Second, schools are not closed. The parents who are insecure about the in-person study can refuse to bring their children to school. The students stay at home and receive packages of home exercises every day and give answers online. Around 70 per cent of students are going to school during the lockdown.
Third, the Government believes that physical exercise and sports are essential for people to protect their health. Outdoor sports take place as usual, while indoors sports are organized if anti-pandemic requirements can be satisfied.
In order to fight the pandemic, Austria has a culture of abiding by the law, respecting the rules and keeping a calm attitude towards the pandemic. The country is expected to reopen on December 12, 2021. They take the pandemic seriously but conform to the law and consider everything thoroughly in a scientific way. Meanwhile, society continues to evolve.
Kien noted that Vietnam is facing changes as the number of new infections is increasing and the healthcare sector is straining against the pandemic.
Whether Vietnam should reopen is a difficult question. Based on Austria’s experience, Vietnam needs to live with the pandemic and reopen. Vietnam relies on foreign trade, foreign investment and import/export, so it cannot continue closing the doors. It needs to think about how to reopen to both ensure safety and develop foreign trade.
Vietnam’s businesses have the capability but lack methodical preparation
According to Long, the UK is promoting trade cooperation with many other markets after exiting the EU, especially with emerging markets, so as to help British products be more competitive.
“This brings great opportunities to partners like Vietnam. When the UK enhances cooperation with new markets, they will also open their market to our products,” Long said.
However, he warned that in order to boost more exports to the UK, Vietnamese businesses need to make high-quality products, because the UK is a choosy market.
He said that Vietnam’s businesses are capable of making high-quality products, but they are not sufficiently prepared to enter large markets. He believes that agriculture is the most promising field for Vietnam when penetrating the UK market. Vietnam should target the high-end market segment, providing high-quality agricultural products.
“The Embassy in the UK can help businesses enter the British market as we have specialists in the country who can give advice. We can also help businesses connect to partners through trade fairs, exhibitions and product promotion programs,” he said.
Meanwhile, Kien believes that to cooperate with European countries, Vietnam’s businesses should focus on green trends, sustainable development and environmental protection.
Kien said many Vietnam businesses have successfully grabbed opportunities from the EVFTA (EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement) to export their products to Europe. The Vietnamese Embassy in Austria is always ready to help businesses boost exports, especially farm produce such as coffee, rice and coconuts. With EVFTA, Vietnam’s farm produce has great advantages.
Many other countries in the region also have strong agricultural production capacity, but Vietnam has advantages as it has an FTA with the EU. Vietnamese ambassadors in Europe are making every effort to help bring Vietnam’s farm produce to this high-potential market.