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International Support Marks Growing Significance of Vietnam Expo

The growing affluence of Vietnamese consumers and the comparative strengths of its domestic economy has seen the annual Vietnam Expo become an important showcase for both importers and exporters across a variety of sectors.

Photo: Increasingly international: The Vietnam Expo.
Increasingly international: The Vietnam Expo.
Photo: Increasingly international: The Vietnam Expo.
Increasingly international: The Vietnam Expo.

Considered one of the most important trade events in the region, the Vietnam Expo has now been a fixture on the international commercial scene for some 11 years. From relatively humble beginnings, the show now regularly attracts high profile businesses from around the world, including representatives from such diverse territories as Poland, India and Hong Kong.

Speaking at the opening ceremony, Nguyen Cam Tu, Vietnam's Deputy Minister for the Industry and Trade Department, praised the expo as one of the most important events promoting business between Vietnam and its overseas trading partners. Highlighting the international aspirations of the event, this year it was held in parallel with the Turkish Products Exhibition, a development said to mark the deepening of ties between the two countries.

Assessing the important of uniting these two shows, Ahmet Akif Oktay, Turkey's Ambassador to Vietnam, said: "In 2013, the bilateral trade between Vietnam and Turkey increased 61 times compared with 2000, reaching over US$1.7 billion, of which Vietnam's exports to Turkey totalled around US$1.6 billion. In the first nine months of 2014, the bilateral trade between the two countries had already exceeded this, with the final total expected to be around US$2 billion."

According to Oktay, Turkey currently has 11 investment projects in Vietnam, representing a total spent of US$71 million, a comparatively low figure bearing in mind the potential for business between the two countries. In light of this, a number of Turkish businesses are now committed to increasing their cooperation with their Vietnamese counterparts. The launch of the Turkish Product Exhibition in Ho Chi Minh City, with the participation of some 50 Turkish companies, was seen as a clear statement of intent with regard to building this relationship.

One off the first beneficiaries of this new commitment was Van Thinh Phu Co Ltd, a Ho Chi Minh City-based specialist in imported foods, food additives and flavourings. The company has now partnered with the Dimes Group, a Turkish producer of fruit juices, in a bid to import organic products into Vietnam. Commenting on the arrangement, Mr Luu, a Director of Van Thinh Phu Co Ltd, said: "Our relationship is going really well. Many Vietnamese like Dimes' products and we are now distributing its organic juice drinks across the whole of Vietnam. We have a particular focus on the two main markets of Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi, which together take 40% of our total imports.

"Eating, clothing and accommodation are life's basic requirements. With a population of nearly 100 million people and living conditions improving day-by-day, many people in Vietnam now have more time to take care of their needs and are keen to buy the best quality products. In light of this, there is a real focus on the food market and our Turkish imports – all of which are 100% natural – are ideal for this sector."

Overall, according to the organisers, the latest fair attracted 426 companies across 450 stalls. This saw the show floor divided into four main zones – the National Area; Machinery and Electronics; Transport Equipment, and Outdoor and Indoor furniture.

One of countries to return for the latest iteration of the event was Belarus. The country's delegation was headed by Dr Anatoly Rak, Deputy Director-General of the National Academy of Sciences of Belarus. Explaining the interest of his country in the Vietnam market, he said: "The Vietnamese market is now increasingly vibrant and attractive. In light of this, we have returned to the fair this year in the hope of expanding our business here. We are particularly interested in the possibilities opened up by real estate investment, as well as in the tourism sector."

Belarus has a particular strength in heavy industry and natural resources, while Vietnam is strong on light industry and consumer products. In light of this, Rak says, companies on both sides have been quick to spot a degree of synergy between the two economies.

Photo: Turkey: Establishing ever-closer ties with Vietnam.
Turkey: Establishing ever-closer ties with Vietnam.
Photo: Turkey: Establishing ever-closer ties with Vietnam.
Turkey: Establishing ever-closer ties with Vietnam.
Photo: Booming bike sales at Inter Cycle Vietnam.
Booming bike sales at Inter Cycle Vietnam.
Photo: Booming bike sales at Inter Cycle Vietnam.
Booming bike sales at Inter Cycle Vietnam.

Synergy, too, was on the mind of the 40 companies from India attending the event, a delegation organised jointly by the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC) and the Federation of Indian Export Organisation (FIEO). Overall, the goods on offer from the Indian attendees represented a true cross-section of the country's output, including agriculture, food and handicraft items. The high level of Indian representation was seen as a clear sign of the growing trade between the two countries. Since 2007, the two-way business turnover between Vietnam and India has increased by more than threefold.

With health and beauty products proving among the most sought after items at the event, South Korea chose a fortuitous time to make its debut at the fair. Commenting on the array of Korean cosmetic items on show, a Ms Linh, a visitor to the event, said: "Nowadays, South Korean cosmetics are very much in vogue in Vietnam. They are seen as being of a high quality, while also being affordable. There is also quite a diverse range on offer, including items especially suited to men, women, children or the elderly."

Despite the popularity of its cosmetics, the biggest draw among the Korean delegation came courtesy of Bedel, a specialist healthfood company. Established in 2006, Bedel's principal product is a pine needle oil extract, which is said to offer a wide range of medicinal benefits.

According to a Mr Tuyen, a Senior Manager with Bedel, the company has conducted extensive research into the medicinal properties of red pine. Explaining its exact applications, he said: "We have processed red pine into different types of essential oils and functional foods. These all help with blood circulation, while acting to detox, improve the palate and treat a number of other medical conditions.

"Before starting to take the product, consumers are advised to have their health checked and their blood tested by Korean specialists. The doctors will then determine the required dosage. While the product is relatively expensive, this didn't seem to deter buyers this year."

Capitalising on another healthy trend in Vietnam, Inter Cycle Vietnam was held alongside the main Vietnam Expo. This saw a huge gathering of a wide variety of bicycle manufactures and distributors, including Vietbike, Sune Electric and Fonix.

Clearly delighted by the development, a Mr Linh, a member of a Ho Chi Minh City cycling association, said: "Our team has around 20 members, drawn from a wide variety of backgrounds and ages. We are all passionate about cycling, with a number of us owning bikes worth millions of Vietnamese dong. Many of us are here to find a new bicycle or some new accessories."

Photo: Red pine extract from Korea’s Bedel.
Red pine extract from Korea's Bedel.
Photo: Red pine extract from Korea’s Bedel.
Red pine extract from Korea's Bedel.

The 12th Vietnam International Trade Fair in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Expo 2014, was organised by the Vietnam National Trade Fair and Advertising Company (VINEXAD). It was staged alongside the International Accessories and Bicycle Exhibition, Inter Cycle Vietnam 2014, and ran from 3-6 December 2014 at the Saigon Exhibition and Convention Centre in Ho Chi Minh City.

Pham Tuong Vi, Special Correspondent, Ho Chi Minh City

Content provided by Picture: HKTDC Research
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