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South seeks more US investors

HCM CITY — The Southern Key Economic Region (SKER) has abundant opportunities available for American investors, according to Nguyen Thieng Duc, deputy chairman of the HCM City Finance and Investment Company.

Duc spoke yesterday at the Viet Nam-US Business Forum organised by the American Chamber of Commerce in Viet Nam (AmCham) and the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI).

The forum is one of many activities being held to mark 15 years of Viet Nam-US normalisation of relations and 10 years of the Viet Nam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement.

The region consists of HCM City and Dong Nai, Binh Duong, Ba Ria-Vung Tau, Tay Ninh, Binh Phuoc, Tay Ninh, Long An and Tien Giang provinces.

It plays an important role in the country's economy since it annually contributes 60 per cent to the State budget, 70 per cent export turnover and tops the list of foreign direct investment, Duc said.

"Each province and city in the region has its own portfolio of projects calling for investment that will help them shift from an agricultural-based economy to industrial-based one," he said, adding that the opportunities for investment were great.

Dong Nai Province, for instance, needs investors in the service sector (education, healthcare, sports, housing for low-income people and resorts); infrastructure (bridges, roads, harbour, clean water supply, and environment treatment); and industry, with a priority given to high-tech industries, support industry and industries with environmentally friendly technology, according to Trinh Van Anh, head of the provincial Department of Planning and Investment's Investment Co-operation Division.

Nguyen Hong Ha, deputy director of the VCCI, said as of August the country had 554 projects invested by the US worth a total registered capital of US$16.4 billion, ranking sixth among 92 countries and territories.

However, if US investment via third countries to Viet Nam is included, the figure is much higher.

Dave Averne, commercial attache of the US Consulate General in HCM City, said bilateral trade between Viet Nam and the US in 2008 reached $14.5 billion, an increase of 10 times compared to the figure in 2001. This year it was expected to top $18 billion, he said.

A large number of US companies had visited Viet Nam this year to assess investment opportunities, he said, adding that the areas in which American companies wanted to invest included manufacturing and service industries, IT, oil and gas, airport, traffic control, waste and water treatment, and others.

In addition, "for Vietnamese who want to become representatives or agents of American high-tech companies, we are willing to be a bridge to connect the two parties," he said.

"Many foreign investors, including those from the US, however, are facing many challenges, such as cumbersome administrative procedures, poor infrastructure and a lack of a skilled workforce," Ha said.

Government agencies and business associations therefore should work together to create more effective policies and practices that will help attract more investors, she added.

(By Xuan Huong)

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