Vietnam better for investment than perception: UK diplomat

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Douglas Barnes is determined to change the British investor's mindset about Vietnam.

The UK Consul General, who took up his position in Ho Chi Minh City last month, said one of his main objectives is to see a significant increase in bilateral trade and investment between the two countries.

To do so, Barnes said he will provide "quality information" to persuade more UK companies to consider Vietnam a market for business opportunities and convince them the climate here is "not as bad as they think it is."

"Vietnam is seen by UK companies as a very difficult market," he told a press briefing Wednesday.

"What my team and I need to do is to present them with a more positive picture of the business opportunities that exist here, and to encourage them to come and do business," he said, noting that there are already many successful UK companies in Vietnam, particularly in the financial services sector.

Barnes, who previously promoted UK investment in China, named oil and gas, agriculture, construction, and information and communications among sectors where UK companies can perform best if they come to Vietnam.

The UK government has identified Vietnam as one of the world's major emerging markets. According to official statistics through 2011, the value of UK investments in Vietnam is approximately US$2.58 billion, with 151 investment licenses.

Last year, UK exports to Vietnam increased by 16 percent, from 253 million pounds in 2010 to 295 million pounds ($462.5 million) in 2011. The year also saw a significant increase of Vietnamese shipments to the UK at a value of 1.524 billion pounds ($2.39 billion), up 36 percent from 2010.

Under a strategic partnership signed between the UK and Vietnam in 2010, the countries aim to double bilateral trade to $4 billion and UK investment in Vietnam to $3 billion by 2013.

"During my appointment, I will work to continue to develop key contacts within local and national government, and to build relationships with UK and Vietnamese companies across Vietnam, to engage with wider contact network, in the private and public sectors, beyond Hanoi and HCMC and above all, to meet bilateral trade and investment targets set by both our governments by 2013," Barnes said.

He admitted that the targets are "very ambitious," and called for a more open market and improvements in the local investment environment to reach the goals.

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