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Trade deal knowledge vital

Update: October, 18/2014 - 09:41

SMEs need to know about trade deals, Vice-Chairman and Secretary General of the Viet Nam Association for small and medium enterprises To Hoai Nam told Hai Quan (Customs) newspaper.

How do you evaluate the knowledge of Vietnamese enterprises about international trade agreements that Viet Nam is expected to sign soon?

Viet Nam is now in the process of negotiating a few important trade agreements. The conclusion of these agreements will provide opportunities for Vietnamese goods to enter large markets. This is a big opportunity for Vietnamese enterprises, particularly small and medium ones, as most of our goods are produced by them.

Of course, to enter the world market, enterprises must have knowledge about these agreements. So far, the knowledge they have is acquired mainly through the media. They are not very clear about how they will benefit from the agreements.

Practically speaking, I would say that the enterprises have not paid due attention to these agreements. Only a few export companies have shown interest in the negotiations and the benefits they will derive. However, a basic barrier for Vietnamese enterprises, particularly SMEs, is the language.

If our enterprises fail in the integration process, their market share even inside Viet Nam will fall, and they will have to bear this. But, the Government cannot say that it has no responsibility in this matter. International integration is not a job that enterprises have to do on their own. This affects the prestige and benefits of the nation as a whole. So we can say that the process is the responsibility of enterprises, Government, professional associations and social organizations.

Why is it that enterprises lack the information they need?

There are several factors, but the basic and most obvious one is a lack of access to comprehensive information. This is partially because of the failure of concerned agencies to carry out effective awareness campaigns that would help enterprises understand more about the trade agreements that the nation is negotiating as also the disadvantages that they might face if they're not part of the game.

I feel the agencies may be providing enterprises with key information about the agreements but forgetting to stress some important principles like the "level-playing field for all players" that might actually be more advantageous to some.

Therefore, Vietnamese enterprises should thoroughly understand the rules of the game before joining in.

Since our enterprises, particularly SMEs, have limited knowledge of international laws, they need help in gaining it and feeling comfortable about joining the game. Several entrepreneurs have told me that they are scared about engaging fully in international trade. One of their greatest fears is being sued and losing the case, which might destroy their business.

So what's the best way to help enterprises prepare for greater international integration?

The first responsibility rests on agencies tasked with keeping enterprises informed about policies and agreements that affect them. To do this effectively, the information should be given in such a way that enterprises are able to digest it easily.

Training is also very important. The training should equip enterprises with knowledge of relevant international laws and legal principles as well as the need for transparency and accountability.

Other Government agencies should step up promotion of Vietnamese brand names, both at home and abroad.

While the Government has its role, enterprises should also be self-reliant and not keep waiting for support. I must say that quite a few Vietnamese enterprises, particularly exporters, have secured footholds in the international market. Their export turnover to developed countries has increased considerably in recent years.

But what can enterprises do on their own?

I do think the Government should guide them, but finally, the enterprises will do what suits them best. The first thing they should focus on is the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP) and what they would do when it is signed. Though Viet Nam is the weakest of the TPP members, we will have the highest number of opportunities. China will not be a member of the TPP. It is important to note that there are facets to this agreement that can help avoid fierce competition among signatories. So, I feel this is a golden opportunity for our country that can last for as many as 60-70 years. — VNS

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