Myanmar offers untapped potential for Vietnamese firms

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Myanmar holds much untapped potential for Vietnamese investors who account for a mere 4 percent of the country's total foreign investment.

Myanmar is the eighth most popular destination for Vietnamese companies with investments totaling $600 million, but the investment is "modest," VnEconomy newspaper quoted Vu Van Trung, deputy head of the Foreign Investment Agency, as saying.

Tran Bac Ha, chairman of the Association of Vietnamese Investors to Myanmar, said Vietnamese firms should head for Myanmar quickly or could lose the opportunity after the next two years when there would be more international rivals there.

Vietnam expects to invest another $500 million in the country by 2015.

Speaking at a conference on the potential and opportunities for investment in Myanmar, Cho Cho Wynn, spokeswoman for the Myanmar Investment Commission, said the country is seeking foreign investment in logistics and infrastructure.

She also suggested the agriculture and seafood sectors, saying they promise high returns for investors.

Myanmar has 19 million hectares of arable land, three times the size of Vietnam's.

Wynn acknowledged Vietnam's capabilities in growing and exporting agricultural produce like rice, coffee, rubber, and sugarcane, and she urged Vietnamese firms to expand into agriculture as well as agricultural equipment manufacture.

Ha said Vietnamese firms should produce building materials  in Myanmar, which does not manufacture enough of them and faces a shortage despite its infrastructure development plans.

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Being in the early stages of attracting foreign investment, Myanmar offers foreign companies tax exemption for the first five years.

There are 23 Vietnamese companies with a presence in the country.

Myanmar has approved five projects by Vietnamese companies, including a property development worth $440 million by private firm HAGL.

Around 18 other, worth an estimated $600 million, are being planned or awaiting approval.

Vietnamese firms have invested US$14 billion in 60 countries.

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