U.S. Companies Need Equal, Level, and Predictable Playing Field to Maintain and Grow Investment

12:54:42 PM | 10/11/2019

AmCham believes that the U.S. and Vietnam have developed a healthy trade and investment relationship that has not only created jobs and tax revenues for both countries, but has also enhanced regional security. What started out 25 years ago with US$220 million in annual trade has grown to over US$60 billion today. The United States is Vietnam’s largest export market, and Vietnam is one of America’s fastest growing markets worldwide. However, Vietnam’s longstanding trade surplus with the U.S. has been growing at an unsustainable pace. This is a problem, especially given President Trump’s commitment to pursuing fair and reciprocal trade. American companies want to sell more to Vietnam and the Vietnamese government needs to help make that happen. While Vietnam has endeavored to stick to the letter of the market access commitments it made to the U.S., it sometimes falls short when it comes to the spirit of those commitments. Inconsistent regulatory interpretation, irregular enforcement, and unclear laws remain significant challenges for many US companies here and AmCham continues to work with our partners in the Vietnamese government to address the areas where inconsistencies, inefficiencies, and unfair practices persist. The best way to help balance the U.S.-Vietnam trade relationship is to improve the business environment in Vietnam and reduce the risks and burdens that American companies face here. Our companies need an equal, level, and predictable playing field as a solid foundation, not only to attract new investment, but also to maintain and grow the investment that is already here. In my view, by opening up its market to more U.S. goods and services, Vietnam can help to rectify the growing trade deficit between the two countries in a manner that benefits both countries. AmCham believes that this “win-win” approach is much better than tariffs and other protectionist barriers. As major investors here, American companies have an interest in Vietnam’s continued success. AmCham will continue to work on lowering barriers to trade, to help the Vietnamese government make it easier to do business, and to create a high-standard, transparent, and stable business environment.

Vietnamese companies have been doing business with American companies and investors for 25 years and we see tremendous opportunity right now for both the domestic and foreign business sectors here. There are a few important tips for Vietnamese business people that wish to find American partners. First, connecting with relevant people and companies is a critical first step to introducing yourself. Participate in activities of organizations like AmCham and VCCI. Networking is important, and don’t forget to always carry business cards. Second, Vietnamese companies need to have an online presence, including a website that clearly shows what the companies do and how to contact the company. If you cannot be found online, you greatly reduce the chances that anybody serious will do business with you. Next, it is important to realize that different cultures have different ways of doing things. When it comes to business conversations, you will notice that many Americans are assertive and direct. Americans might drive hard bargains in professional settings, but they tend to stay polite and appropriate. It is important to be direct and honest about what your business can and cannot do. Americans also frequently say that “time is money”. We care about being productive and on time, particularly in professional settings. Try to arrive five minutes early to meetings. This will help you make a great impression and will show that you are serious about building a relationship. And finally, Vietnamese companies need to know the rules and regulations affecting their business. In some countries, it is okay to interpret the rules loosely, or even to bend them as you see fit. However, you will find that this is not the case in the United States. Americans’ rigid adherence to rules is important to keep in mind when learning about industry laws and regulations, and when entering negotiations with other companies. Agreed terms should be made in writing and the American companies will expect that all parties will abide by the contract. Americans enjoy working with Vietnamese people and they value the practical and entrepreneurial spirit of people here. There are great opportunities for the companies of both countries to work together and I expect to see continued growth in the U.S.-Vietnam commercial relationship.

Mr. Adam Sitkoff, Executive Director of AmCham Hanoi