Vietnam: Canada’s fastest-growing partner in East Asia

| June 30, 2016 | 0 Comments
Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon) is the largest city in Vietnam. (Photo: Embassy of Vietnam)

Ho Chi Minh (formerly Saigon) is the largest city in Vietnam. (Photo: Embassy of Vietnam)

Last year was a remarkable one for the Canada-Vietnam trading relationship. Two-way trade increased more than 40 percent, reaching $4.8 billion and making Vietnam Canada’s largest trading partner in Southeast Asia. It also made ours the fastest-growing trading relationship in all of East Asia.
Vietnam exports $4.1 billion to Canada, while importing about $700 million worth of Canadian goods. Vietnam’s leading export products are textiles and garments, shoes, seafood, furniture, spices and nuts, especially cashews, and sporting equipment. The fastest-growing exports in 2015, however, were electronic devices, especially smart phones and other technological equipment, thanks to Vietnam becoming an international production hub for many telecommunications multinationals.
Canada’s exports to Vietnam consist mostly of wheat, seafood, vegetables and fertilizers, but high-end Canadian garments, leather and fur products are also becoming more attractive to buyers from Vietnam. Vietnamese and Canadian exports complement each other well, maximizing the benefits of trade.
To me, the boost seen in Canada-Vietnam trade in 2015 signals the beginning of a dynamic period for the two countries. Vietnam’s economy grew by 6.5 percent in 2015 and the World Bank forecasts that it will grow even faster in 2016. Vietnam is the first and only ASEAN economy to date that has free-trade agreements with all the world’s most important economies, firmly placing it on the path of market integration and modernization. The World Bank acknowledged in its Doing Business 2015 report that starting up and doing business in Vietnam is easier than ever. The signing of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) in New Zealand in February will open new opportunities and create new platforms for trade and investment between our two countries.
I would like to see more Vietnamese food products become available to Canadian consumers. Vietnam’s renowned tropical fruits such as mango, mangosteen and lychee, would definitely please Canadians, while our wide range of seafood products would bring even more choices to the Canadian market. I would like to see fresh Vietnamese longan (similar to the lychee) at my local Metro and other grocery stores. I’d also like to see Vietnamese cashews become the snack choice to complement great beers across Canada’s bars and I hope that iced Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk will one day be a favourite option at every Tim Hortons. With the TPP in place, I also hope that our leading export products — textiles and garments —  will become even more competitive in the Canadian market, benefiting even more Canadian customers.
Meanwhile, many Vietnamese have discovered Canadian lobster, king crab and geoduck that can now be bought live at their local markets. What Vietnam also needs from Canada are high-tech products, such as sophisticated machinery, bio-products and chemicals that are in demand to serve a fast-growing, industrializing and modernizing economy. Vietnam will also be looking for products that would help save the environment and keep the population healthy. Agricultural technologies, food processing, medical and pharmaceutical products are examples.
Canada’s most promising and fastest-growing “export” to Vietnam, however, is international education. The number of Vietnamese students enrolling in Canadian schools and universities increased by 16 percent in 2015, standing at around 5,000, making Vietnamese students the 11th-largest group of foreign students in Canada and Vietnam one of the fastest-growing source countries for foreign students arriving in Canada. We would like to see this trend continue by working with relevant Canadian agencies to facilitate Vietnamese students’ ability to study and live in Canada.
Trading potential is great between our two countries, but the greatest opportunities that await Canadians in Vietnam are related to investment. Vietnam offers a stable, competitive investment environment in the heart of East Asia, with easy access to China, India and ASEAN. I invite Canadian business to look at investment opportunities in Vietnam and use Vietnam as a stepping stone to expand into and explore the vibrancy of East Asia. Vietnam is committed to the WTO, TPP and ASEAN rules to ensure Canadian investors are welcomed and their investments are secure.
And if you are looking for a place to visit, why not escape to Vietnam’s  beautiful sandy and sunny beaches, or indulge yourself in the cultural richness of the Ha Long Bay or the Mekong Delta?

To Anh Dzung is ambassador of Vietnam. To reach him, (613) 715-9683 or email vietnamembassy@rogers.com.

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