E-trade Plan to Back Dot.com Entrepreneurs in Viet Nam

Jan 23, 2002

Ha NoiThe Programme “e-Trade Bridge” was launched in Ha Noi this week by the Viet Nam Trade Promotion Agency (VIETRADE) in cooperation with the International Trade Centre (ITC) and the Swiss Import Promotion Organization (SIPPO), with the financial support of the Government of Switzerland.

“The landscape of international trade is changing very fast as a result of new technology” said Denis Belisle, Executive Director of ITC. “There are new ways of doing old business, for example selling coffee and green beans, entirely new ICT related businesses emerging or and new virtual market places being driven by information, not physical market”

The “Kick-Off”meeting brought together key stakeholders from the government, business, electronic commerce, telecommunications and trade support communities. They discussed the current situation of E-trade in Vietnam, reviewed international experiences in developing e-trade and proposed an e-Trade action plan for Vietnam. This plan concerns the three levels of Government, e-Trade Support Institutions and enterprises, in particular small and medium-size enterprises (SMEs).

The embryonic nature of government policy, inadequate telecommunications infrastructures and poor internet access, limited banking sector participation, and other bottlenecks, including problems in the traditional trade infrastructure, can make it difficult for enterprises of a developing country like Viet Nam to take advantage of the new digital economy. 

The meeting also pointed out that the concept and potential of e-Trade has not been fully understood in Viet Nam.  A recent study from the Institute of Economics on the textile and garment industry, revealed that less than a quarter of the enterprises had computers. Only one out of ten companies had access to the Internet. Currently many companies use the Internet to send e-mail rather than to conduct business transactions.

But “Vietnamese companies cannot afford to wait for all the pieces to fit into place” said Denis Belisle, Executive Director of ITC.  Maurice Dewulf, UNDP Deputy Resident Representative indicated that many opportunities exist for relative late-comers to catch up - the cost of  new technology has gone down enormously. According to the UNDP Human Development Report, the cost of transmitting a trillion bits of information from Boston to Los Angeles has fallen from US$ 150,000 in 1970 to 12 cents today.

Things can also move very fast with Vietnam’s participation in the e-ASEAN initiative and Task Force. E-Trade is well developed in parts of Asia and many of the Vietnamese business partners are based in the ASEAN Free Trade Area. The US/Vietnam Trade Agreement opens new market in e-trade.  Vietnamese entrepreneurs are encouraged to discover “Secrets of E-Commerce”, an ITC publication addressing the 100 most commonly asked questions about the Internet for SMEs, which is being adapted to Viet Nam.

While stressing the importance of developing an e-commerce and e-trade strategy, Dewulf insisted that policy makers should avoid creating a growing technology - and thus widening income - divide within the country. These technologies, because of the opportunities they provide, need to be made available to all, as part of a comprehensive strategy.

This e-Trade Plan is part of the Government’s Trade Promotion Strategy, supported by UNDP, which sets forth the objective for merchandise export to grow at least 14% per year to reach about USD 50 billion by year 2010.

The e-Trade Bridge Programme is an innovative initiative created by the International Trade Centre, a United Nations agency based in Geneva with activities throughout the developing world. It was designed to help those SMEs become internationally competitive by incorporating new technologies into their trade practices.  The whole programme combines a range of tools, materials, training programmes and other initiatives aimed at making SMEs more e-competent for international trade.
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