By THÉRÈSE MARGOLIS
If ever there were a posterchild for economic recovery after devastation, it is Vietnam.
In the last decades since the end of the brutal 20-year war that led to the destruction of more than half the country’s fertile rice paddies and agricultural land (and one-seventh of its total territory), and resulted in the deaths of more than 3 million of its citizens, the Southeast Asian nation has transformed itself from a once-impoverished, socialist subsistence farming society into a thriving commercial success story.
In fact, in the last 10 years, Vietnam has registered one of the 10 highest economic growth rates in the world.
And the Asian Development Bank (ADB) has forecast a gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 6.5 percent this year and 6.7 percent in 2018.
Moreover, in addition to a significant surge in manufacturing and tourism, Vietnam has become an agricultural powerhouse, ranking as the second-largest rice exporter and one of the leading exporters of coffee, pepper and rubber.
And while images of the hammer and sickle are still publicly brandished across the nation as a tribute to Vietnam’s official commitment to communism, 40 percent of the economy is capitalist.
The dynamic Nguyen Xuan Phuc government is bending over backwards to court private-sector foreign investment.
Despite high debt levels, a stagnant banking sector and a major income disparity between urban and rural societies, the benchmark Vietnam Ho Chi Minh Stock Index is up over 20 percent so far this year, with its one-year return of 24 percent placing it among the region’s leading performers.
Vietnam also has important commercial ties with Mexico, with a combined bilateral exchange of more than $5 billion annually.
In fact, Mexico is now Vietnam’s third-largest trade partner in Latin America, after Brazil and Argentina, according to Vietnamese Embassy sources.
Currently, most of the commercial interchange between Vietnam and Mexico is composed of manufactured goods, including electronics and garments on Vietnam’s side, and foodstuffs and beer on Mexico’s side.
But while two-way trade is definitely booming, for the moment, there are no currently joint-venture investment projects on either side of the Pacific.
That could soon change, however, with the recent transition of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nation (ASEAN) into a commercial bloc that is predicted to represent 4 percent of the world’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) by 2020.
Additionally, according to a report by the Eurasia Group, the world’s largest risk consultancy corporation, Vietnamese exports could increase by 28 percent over the next decade, thanks to its ample supply of inexpensive labor and growing foreign investment, particularly in the garment and footwear sectors.
Vietnam is also offering investors an array of incentives, including tax holidays and capital repatriation, and Hanoi is particularly interested in attracting investment in the textiles, automotive parts, electronics and tourism industries, all areas where Mexican knowhow and expertise could be put to good use.
Finally, despite the geographic distance that separates Mexico and Vietnam, there is a strong and meaningful friendship between the two nations, which established bilateral diplomatic ties in May 1975, just days after the end of the Vietnam War.
If Mexican entrepreneurs want to cash in on Vietnam’s newly founded success, the time is now.
Thérèse Margolis can be reached at email@example.com.