Vietnamese entrepreneurs jubilant, realistic about WTO entry

November 10, 2006

Vu Viet Ngoan, CEO of the state-owned Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam or Vietcombank  

A senior businessman said his company would work hard to rival international giants expected to flock to Vietnam after the country received the nod Tuesday to become the 150th WTO member late this year.

Nguyen Duy Hung, chairman of the Saigon Securities said he wonders why people conventionally think that joining WTO would invite competitors to encroach on the Vietnamese playing field and not the other way round.

Though his company would have to compete with many international giants, the playing field would be transparent and level, he added.

Truong Gia Binh CEO of FPT Software Corporation said WTO accession would offer Vietnamese software enterprises great opportunities to find foreign partners.

Without the WTO, international companies would never want to invest in a country that is in the process of developing control over software copyrights like Vietnam.

But things would change after the developing nation entered the global trade bloc as Vietnam would then be forced to respect copyrights, he opined.

However, Binh said domestic software companies would face tough challenges regarding human resources.

Tran Phuong Binh, General-Director of Eastern Asia Commercial Bank said it would take at least five years before Vietnamese banks could compete on equal terms with their foreign counterparts.

Vu Viet Ngoan, CEO of the state-owned Bank for Foreign Trade of Vietnam or Vietcombank, said WTO entry was an impetus for Vietcombank to speed up the process of selling shares to the public.

Earning a WTO membership and being host to an incoming APEC 2006 were glorious successes we should take pride in, Vietnamese top economist Vo Ta Han said.

Han, who is also a senior advisor at the Switzerland UBS AG Bank, warned Vietnam would enter a difficult stage in the first few years after entering the trade block.

People would think they are paying a high price as both the state and private sector are not ready, he said.

According to lessons drawn from other countries joining the WTO, the most serious weakness in the early years following accession is a shortage of information.

There were many opportunities to export domestic goods, but enterprises did not take full advantage of this for lack of information, he said referring to experiences of other WTO forerunning members.

He suggested Vietnamese authorities disseminate information and work closely with sectors influenced by WTO entry besides learning from Nepal, Cambodia, Taiwan and China – already WTO members.

The merchandise and service sectors will be the first to encounter challenges, he warned.

“Sure, the road ahead is full of bumps but we should celebrate this success [being approved to be a WTO member] after a decade of negotiations,” Han said.

That WTO has extended formal acceptance to Vietnam – just prior to the APEC summit in Hanoi – is a golden opportunity for the developing Southeast Asian nation to attract attention from 21 APEC member leaders and thousands of businesspersons who will be in the country for the summit, several newspapers wrote.

Source: Thanh Nien – Translated by Hoang Bao

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