Vietnam a priority market, UK minister says

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Vietnam is one of the few markets that the UK will be "devoting time and energy" to as the European country shifts its focus to emerging markets in Asia, said Business Secretary Vince Cable.

"The UK recognizes that the center of gravity of the world economy is moving. Most of the growth and dynamism in the world economy now comes from emerging economies, particularly in Asia," Cable told a press briefing in Ho Chi Minh City last week.

The cabinet minister said his country was previously occupied with relationships within the European Union, but now it wants to give high priority to emerging markets and have two-way relationships with them.

Vietnam is one of only several markets that are especially important to the UK, together with China, India and Indonesia, he said.

The UK and Vietnam are aiming at an "ambitious" target bringing bilateral trade to US$4 billion in 2014, Cable said.

"We are on track to achieve that," he said, but adding that his country will need to make a bigger effort in shipping its products to Vietnam.

Cable paid a three-day visit to Vietnam last week, during which he met with senior Vietnamese leaders and representatives of both British and Vietnamese business communities.

He said British companies in Vietnam in general are doing very well and their reactions are positive.

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However, infrastructure and human resources remain major obstacles for UK investors in Vietnam, Cable said, noting that it's also difficult to recruit people with international qualifications here.

He said foreign investors also care about Vietnam's openness and its consistency in regulations and tax regimes.

"When people are making a long-term commitment to this country and they want to be here in ten, 20 or 30 years, they need to know that things are not going to constantly change," he told the press.

UK Ambassador to Vietnam, Antony Stokes, agreed that transparency in regulatory environment was important.

"We hope the government can increasingly make the business environment more friendly for trade and investment from and with countries like the UK and continue down that road," Stokes said.

He said restructuring and keeping the economy in better shape is the right track for Vietnam, but the government should also address longer term structural issues, not only short-term economic challenges.

The UK has a very strong financial services sector and several of its big banks and insurance companies are already in Vietnam, Stokes said. "Their dialogue with the government can be very helpful in terms of the direction that the government takes on the financial services industry," he said.

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