Economists are urging Vietnam to expand its business presence in Cuba before other competitors rush in.
Professor Nguyen Mai, chairman of the Vietnam Association of Foreign Investment Enterprises, said the shift in US-Cuba relations, announced on December 17, represents a big chance for Vietnamese businesses in the fields of commerce, tourism and agriculture.
“We’ve sent many agriculture experts to Cuba to help them with rice and fruit cultivation. We can expand that cooperation to move produce to the US and Canada,” Mai said.
Vietnam is Cuba’s second largest trading partner in Asia, after China, according to figures from the Ministry of Industry and Trade.
The country exported $169.4 million to Cuba in 2012--22 percent less than the year before.
Mai said Vietnam and Cuba have a “very good” diplomatic relationship and local businesses would receive more preferences than those from other countries.
He said Vietnam could use Cuba as a manufacturing base for its major exports to the US, to save on transportation costs and capitalize on more competitive prices.
Nguyen Thanh Lam, chairman of VietEuro export company, also said that Vietnam should look at Cuba as a base to the US and the Central American markets.
Lam said the US may reestablish trade relations with Cuba after one year it lifted the embargo, like with Vietnam, or sooner.
“So we should be prepared,” he added.
Andy Ho, managing director of investment fund VinaCapital, said if Vietnamese businesses do not make plans and the government does not offer due support, “other countries will jump in first and Vietnam will lose its diplomatic advantage.”
Don Lam, a Vietnamese Canadian and general director of VinaCapital, stressed the opportunities for Vietnamese businesses to scoop up tourism real estate, given Cuba’s clean environment and quality healthcare services.
He said Vietnamese investors should look for opportunities to invest in land and housing for tourism purposes in the country.
Local travel agencies are already on the move.
Nguyen Quoc Ky, general director of leading tourism firm Vietravel, said they are set to attract more customers to Cuba and other Central American destinations in 2015.
Ky said they have organized many trips to Cuba but now they can combine Cuba with other destinations like the US, given the likelihood of new air routes.
Vo Anh Tai, general director of Saigontourist, said Cuba is a good destination with friendly people, clean beaches, advanced infrastructure, excellent security and adequate services.
“We started bringing customers to Cuba many years ago and will quickly promote this market further.”