Boosting Trade Promotion via Vietnam Trade Offices Abroad

11:18:19 AM | 8/5/2022

After a series of unexpected events such as trade wars, pandemics and military conflicts, most exporters have realized that they cannot depend on a few traditional markets. A very effective solution to expand and diversify markets is to promote trade via Vietnamese trade offices in foreign countries.

Optimistic signals from foreign markets

In the first seven months of 2022, imports and exports continued to grow strongly, rising 15.7% year on year to over US$435 billion (with exports looking up 16.8%). Vietnam continued to enjoy a trade surplus during the period and positively helped the country's economic growth. 

Representatives of many Vietnamese trade offices shared the common viewpoint that Vietnamese goods currently have a lot of room in export markets, especially agricultural products, fruits and seafood.

From January to July, China's domestic demand dropped sharply and many of its factories suspended production due to the COVID-19 pandemic outbreak. However, Vietnam's exports to this neighboring market remained positive. Agricultural and aquatic exports increased sharply, with fish and crustaceans bringing about US$844 million (a sharp growth); fruits and nuts generating US$910 million (up 53.4% year on year); and dragon fruit earning US$377 million with 415,600 tons shipped. 

For Australia, Vietnam continued to see strong growth momentum in imports and exports in the first six months of 2022. The two-way trade climbed 38.45% to more than US$8.01 billion for the first time. Vietnam's strong and growing exports included coffee, seafood, iron and steel and electronic components. In particular, iron and steel products jumped 548.63%; cameras, camcorders and components surged 136.6%; coffee soared more than 106.78%; machinery, equipment and parts leaped more than 91.47%. Vegetables, fruits and rice also staged double-digit growth.

Vietnamese trade offices in the Nordic market (except for Finland) said that Vietnam's imports and exports also recorded positive results. The two-way trade value amounted to US$1.6 billion, up 16% over the same period of 2021. Of the sum, Vietnam's exports to this region are valued at US$1.1 billion, up 25%. 

Specifically, Vietnam's trade with Sweden rose 14% to US$811 million. The value with Denmark and Norway was US$382 million and US$263 million, up 24% and 7%, respectively.

Many markets have introduced favorable policies for Vietnamese exports. The Vietnam Trade Office in Egypt informed that Egypt has gradually simplified and clarified import regulations. The country has applied for electronic customs clearance since October 2021 under which goods must be registered 48 hours before being exported and has now expanded to airborne cargo. In addition, the San Francisco Trade Office (USA) said that, in 2022 and 2023, it will have a series of connections and forums between Oregon, Colorado and the West Coast of the United States with Vietnamese localities and businesses. 

"Extended arms" of exporters

Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Hong Dien said that, foreign trade has played an important and positive role in outstanding export achievements, pointing to Vietnamese trade offices in foreign countries which provide timely information, guidance and support to localities, industry associations, the business community to promote and introduce their products and make good use of opportunities from free trade agreements (FTAs) that Vietnam is a signatory to expand, develop and diversify markets and exports.

Highly appreciating the coordination of the Vietnamese trade office system abroad, Mr. Vu Ba Phu, Director of the Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency (Vietrade) under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said overseas Vietnamese trade offices have actively carried out the National Program on Trade Promotion as planned, organized the Vietnam International Trade Expo 2022, and led Vietnamese business delegations to participate to large and prestigious fairs and exhibitions in foreign nations.

He underscored close and timely coordination among the Trade Office system, the Vietnam Trade Promotion Agency and the Trade Remedies Authority of Vietnam (TRAV) and related agencies in proactively responding to trade remedies (anti-dumping and anti-subsidy) applied by host countries to Vietnam's exports, enabling them to propose appropriate response measures and policies and informing the matters on mass media to recommend, orient and guide businesses.  

Many positive trade promotion results made by overseas Vietnamese trade offices have been appreciated. Remarkable cases included the regained control of more than 100 containers in Italy or the European Commission (EC)'s decision to launch a roadmap to reduce official and urgent control of dragon fruits. Vermicelli, rice noodles and pho are not required to be added to food safety certificates.

To support exports, a representative of the Department of Agriculture and Rural Development of Son La province expressed his wish that Vietnamese trade offices in foreign countries will strengthen coordination and information exchange with provinces and cities on agricultural products (import conditions, consumer tastes and reputable importers) and connect with Vietnamese-owned enterprises in other countries and foreign importers of agricultural products.

A representative of the Vietnam Rubber Association also hoped that Vietnamese trade offices will help and advise Vietnamese businesses on legal affairs when they face difficulties and problems with partners and/or authorities in foreign countries.

Mr. Pham Van Viet, President of the Board of Directors of Viet Thang Jean Co., Ltd, said that, in the long term, businesses will need support from authorities, specifically counselors and trade offices of Vietnam abroad to connect with importers, find markets for outputs and source more prestigious and more efficient input supplies.

Mr. Nong Duc Lai, Commercial Counselor, Vietnam Trade Office in China

Updated policies from major markets

Recently, China has made some adjustments to import and export policies, which help Vietnamese exports. According to its recent import policy, China does not require suspending imports of frozen seafood shipments if COVID-19 is detected. Besides, this country has allowed importing passion fruits, opening the pilot door to durian imported from Vietnam in July. These are good signals for Vietnamese businesses because China is a major trading partner in the world. 

China's strict COVID-19 pandemic control policy caused its GDP growth to slow sharply in the first half of the year. Therefore, China has taken many measures to revive the economy and boost its domestic demand. Although this market has signaled to relax import conditions, the Vietnam Trade Office in China still recommends that producers and traders of imported frozen seafood need focus on food safety management from the source to avoid being included in the list of import restrictions.

As for fresh agricultural, forest and aquatic products, Vietnamese businesses still need to implement strict epidemic prevention measures to minimize shipments that are found to be infected with COVID-19. Fresh fruits that have just been licensed for export to China must comply with packaging requirements and instructions. Passion fruit needs to be exported at seven permitted border gates, not other ones.

Mr. Nguyen Phu Hoa, Director of Vietnam Trade Office in Australia

Room remains vast for agricultural products

Given their development potential, the trade prospects of Vietnam and Australia will grow even better, likely to surpass the forecast of US$15 billion in 2022. Among strong exports, I believe that agricultural products will continue to go further if we market well, guarantee product quality and keep up to import standards. The Trade Office in Australia has identified market trends, determined pathways and approaches, and showed how to develop brands for Vietnamese frozen agricultural products. Businesses and localities need to be confident to bring Vietnamese agricultural brands to Australia. Currently, frozen durian, rice and jackfruit are sold in some supermarkets in Australia. Frozen red and yellow jackfruits exported to Australia are always sold out. Besides, frozen avocado and ginger are also being sold well in Australia. This shows that Australia has a lot of room for agricultural products, especially frozen agricultural products.

Ms. Nguyen Thi Hoang Thuy - Vietnam Trade Counselor in Sweden (concurrently Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway and Latvia)

Avoid market domino effects

Last May, the EU issued regulations on maximum residue limits of pesticides and herbicides in agricultural products imported into this market. In compliance with EU regulations, Norway has implemented the National Monitoring Program and the Norwegian Food Safety Authority has tested certain types of food products for pesticide residues and maximum residue limit (MRL) in Norway.

In less than two months, three samples of Vietnamese rice, when tested, exceeded the maximum residue limit and was ordered to be recalled on the media. This seriously affected the image of Vietnamese rice and the food will be subject to increased inspection in the near future. Therefore, the Trade Office there asked localities and associations to warn businesses to avoid market domino effects.

In addition, in order to support businesses to tap the Nordic market in the near future, the Vietnam Trade Office in Sweden recommends that businesses need to strengthen advertising to increase the presence of Vietnamese goods in the market. As long as consumers know about Vietnamese goods, businesses will import more of many Vietnamese goods even if they do not import directly from Vietnam, but through other agencies in other EU countries, it will also help increase Vietnam's export value.

Furthermore, the Trade Office encourages businesses to focus on attracting investment in high-quality industries for export; draw giant retailers of Northern Europe, which already have global distribution networks, to locate their production bases in Vietnam for export back into their distribution systems. Thus, Vietnamese companies can take advantage of the distribution channels of these corporations, not only drawing more of their investment fund to boost export turnover to Nordic countries, but also increase exports to other countries.

By Huong Ly, Vietnam Business Forum