Hardworking people, a strategic location, a focus on small-scale projects and high quality products have already made Vietnam the partner of choice for several sectors. CBI Programme Manager, Koos van Eyk is responsible for developing business opportunities throughout Vietnam and is currently stationed there for an extended period to intensify trade relations. Even with the current economic situation in Europe affecting business opportunities, Van Eyk remains optimistic.
CBI is currently working on five business sectors in Vietnam, he explains: food ingredients, industry (metalworking), garments, seafood and home decoration and textiles. “Times are tough in some of these sectors but EU buyers still seem to be showing an interest in Vietnam. And with the prospect of a Free Trade Agreement between Vietnam and the EU, that interest will grow.”
A programme in the garments sector has been ongoing for approximately 18 months and 26 Vietnamese manufacturers are now participating, informs Van Eyk. Trade missions have already taken place and an incoming buyer mission is scheduled for the end of 2013. Next on the agenda for this sector will be a stronger focus on adding value. “We’re showing producers how to approach product development, how to source raw materials and how to get to know their markets. We’re also raising their awareness on CSR, stimulating a higher rate of product ownership and trying to get local associations more involved.”
So have relatively successful sectors like garments paved the way for newcomers like food ingredients and industry? “Programmes can never be carbon copied, as it were, because the approach and level of interest vary per sector,” says Van Eyk. “That said, we’d be foolish not to apply any lessons learned. It pays, for example, to invest in good relationships with local associations, and – more importantly – with strong, local consultants. These people are generally good negotiators and they’ll stand up for the interests of CBI and the manufacturers they represent.”
No sector the same
Senior Programme Manager Market Intelligence, Tamar Hoek realises that every market has its own, unique approach. In the European garments sector, for example, importing from Vietnam is considered an indispensable part of the value chain. Others, like the metal industry, see it as unfair competition. But rather than focusing on the negative, Hoek finds common ground and looks for joint opportunities.
“In a recent Peer Group Session for the Dutch metal sector we learned that companies in this sector prefer to focus on outsourcing and joint ventures, rather than simply importing vast amounts of Asian-made parts. A carefully considered approach is the best starting point for future business opportunities.”
Marc van der Linden, Agency NL: “In Vietnam, CBI collaborates closely with Agency NL, particularly in the garment and industrial sectors, where there is a strong interest for Dutch companies to source from Vietnam. When working with CBI, we always look for the most balanced approach. Where can we complement one another? What’s the most beneficial solution for all involved? Thorough research, however, is always our starting point. The collaboration between CBI and Agency NL is a good match as it creates more benefits for Dutch businesses and knowledge institutes. This corresponds with the Netherlands’ new policy on development cooperation, where we seek mutually beneficial partnerships, including with the Dutch private sector. Agency NL encourages cooperation between Dutch and international businesses, knowledge institutions and government bodies.”
Vietnam offers good opportunities for companies looking for alternative or additional supply sources or collaboration in Asia. That’s why Senior Programme Manager Cor Dieleman is coordinating the activities of a new CBI programme in Vietnam.
Following a Value Chain Analysis in May 2012, CBI gave two presentations on the new programme last November and held two strategic conferences this January, one in Ho Chi Minh City and the other in Hanoi. As a result an MOU with the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) SME Promotion Centre has been signed. MoUs are also about to be endorsed with SIDEC (Ministry of Industry) and HAME Ho Chi Minh City Association of Mechanical Engineering. “In the meantime we have recruited Vietnamese manufacturers and local consultants to sign up for the programme and we held two workshops on process control at the end of March,” says Dieleman.
CBI also has to ensure that Dutch companies want to work with Vietnamese manufacturers. A recently organised Peer Group Session helped to test the water in this respect.
One thing Dieleman is sure about is that the more difficult it becomes for Dutch companies to do business with China and India, the more attractive it makes Vietnam. “Together with Agency NL we intend to organise a Dutch trade mission in early 2014. And to ensure its success we’ll do our homework and visit Vietnam later this year, accompanied by representatives of Dutch industry. I think so much can be done, as long as people are willing to take the first step.”