Remarks by Mary Tarnowka, Executive Director, AmCham Vietnam in Investment Conference with HCMC’s People Committee in Mar 19, 2021

AmCham Vietnam Remarks

HCMC People’s Committee

Conference on Preliminary Review of Investment Working Group Operations and

Recommendations for Improving Investment Environment of HCMC in 2021

March 19, 2021

Good morning.  Chairman Phong, representatives of the HCMC People’s Committee, colleagues from the business community, I am delighted to be here today to represent AmCham Vietnam.

Yesterday, I had the honor of joining Intel Vietnam for a celebration of its achievements from 2010-2020, together with former Party Secretary Dr. Nhan, Vice Chairman Duc, Thu Duc City Chairman Tung Hoang, and Saigon High Tech Park President Dr. Thi.

Intel Vietnam paved the way for development of Vietnam’s high-tech manufacturing sector when it came to Vietnam in 2006, in large part, thanks to the positive investment environment and strong support from HCMC and Central authorities.  Intel Vietnam already has over $1 billion in investment, and 2700 employees.  Its investment plans for nearly another almost $500 million is a testament to the positive investment environment here in HCMC and the Saigon High Tech Park, as well as Intel’s commitment to partner to drive innovation and sustainable growth in Vietnam.

U.S. technology companies and startups are eager to invest in Vietnam, as well as partner with Vietnamese companies, to drive the next generation of economic growth, including fintech, AI, and Industrial Revolution 4.0.  U.S. companies are well-positioned to help build the clean energy and smart city infrastructure needed for sustainable growth. They are expanding manufacturing supply chains in Vietnam and producing high quality food, beverages, and consumer goods for Vietnamese people.  They are contributing to development of a globally competitive workforce in Vietnam, as well as access to world-class innovative healthcare.  And they provide legal, financial, as well as tourism and hospitality services to support investment, exports, economic growth, and quality of life.  When companies already in HCMC stay and grow their business, that is the best advertising for HCMC’s investment environment.

COVID Comparative Advantage – Vietnam, including HCMC, has done an incredible job in managing the COVID pandemic. Vietnam is one of the only countries in the world that experienced positive growth in 2020, and where American companies like Intel and First Solar could operate continuously.  Our members are immensely grateful and supported that effort through contributions of PPE, medical equipment, and a fully-equipped ambulance.  Now, we would like to partner on Enabling a Safe Reopening for International Travel and Tourism – ensuring equitable access to vaccines for foreigners in Vietnam; expediting travel procedures for foreign residents to travel and return including streamlined testing, renewal of visas, and residence cards; and facilitating entry of foreign investors, technical experts, and as vaccinations roll out, hopefully soon, tourists.  We strongly recommend Vietnam provide and facilitate a streamlined process, with shortened quarantine period, for short-term business travelers into Vietnam to consider investment opportunities, conclude deals, and sign contracts.  Further, we would recommend that Vietnam, and HCMC specifically, should accelerate vaccination for Vietnamese and foreign residents living in Vietnam and consider a pilot program of granting quarantine reduction or exemption for individuals who have been properly vaccinated. This will help facilitate Vietnam’s reintegration, reopening, and recovery.

Regulatory Environment – An enabling, fair, transparent, predictable, and efficient regulatory environment that values innovation is probably THE most critical factor affecting investment.  Tax policies are especially important.  Retroactive determinations make other would-be investors nervous.  Unexpected problems and inconsistent guidance in work permits, and management of foreign employees is also becoming a concern.  Some of our members are now experiencing difficulty extending work permits from DOLISA for foreign workers who had work permits issued under the old Decree.  Continued efforts to reform administrative procedures and promote e-government and digitalization of services would be most welcome.  Including e-invitations.  Our hard copy of an invitation to today’s event apparently got lost in the mail.  We only found out from another business association.

Thu Duc City – We welcome the establishment of Thu Duc City, and the intent to create a new center for economic growth and innovation.  However, we are concerned about the unintended consequences that this may create for people and organizations located in the previous Districts 2, 9 and Thu Duc.  Therefore, we recommend that the city offer measures to reduce the administrative burden, by grandfathering treatment for existing enterprises and households and exempting them from having to immediately amend all relevant corporate, tax, employment, and other documents to update addresses.  We would also recommend the city offer preferential tax or other investment incentives, as well as expedited and /or streamlined investment and administrative procedures to attract investment to Thu Duc City.

Physical Infrastructure – More needs to be done to develop the highways, metro, ports, airports, and energy infrastructure, as well as sewage treatment and waste management to support this vibrant city and take full advantage of its once-beautiful river and enjoy more blue-sky days.  Vietnam and HCMC can’t solve the global container crisis, but more efficient port management and logistics will help.  We welcome the greater transparency on land use plans and hope there will be more streamlined approval processes, as well as assistance in identifying new locations for companies that need to move or expand operations.

Digital and Financial Infrastructure– While we recognize the HCMC People’s Committee may not set these policies, a free, open, and secure digital economy is a key part of the investment environment, and essential to enabling digital transformation and IR 4.0.  Further development of Vietnam’s capital markets and financial services is also important and AmCham members support efforts to support Vietnam’s development as an emerging market and HCMC as a national and regional financial center.

Social Infrastructure – People are one of Vietnam and HCMC’s most important competitive advantages.  Vietnamese families sacrifice for their children’s education and Vietnam generally, and HCMC specifically, benefit from a young, tech-savvy, and entrepreneurial workforce.  Yet, there is still often a skills gap, in English language, in critical thinking and soft skills, for recent university graduates.  There are a limited number of factory managers.  And a need for ongoing learning and skills development.  Local SME’s need capacity building to enter global supply chains.  AmCham member companies, including world-class educational institutions like Fulbright University Vietnam, Arizona State University, Vietnam German University and RMIT (yes, we are inclusive) are ready to partner to develop a globally competitive workforce here in HCMC.

AmCham is invested in the success of Vietnam and Ho Chi Minh City.  We welcome today’s conference and look forward to strengthening our trade and investment partnership.