The Hanoitimes - “Vietnam has moved well beyond the devastation of the war years and is a ready and willing partner for Canada”, wrote Stewart Beck, President and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada in a recent article for Canada-based The Globe and Mail.
Beck was in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam last week for the 24th Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Small and Medium Enterprises Ministerial Meeting.
“The memory of the Vietnam War is still vivid in the minds of many from my generation”, he opened the article. After the war, Canada accepted about 60,000 Vietnamese refugees from 1979 – 1980, established an embassy in Hanoi in 1994 and a consulate-general in HCM City in 1997, the article said.
Since then, Vietnam has become Canada’s 11th largest source of international students and trade between the two countries reached 5.5 billion USD in 2016. With its extraordinary economic growth, increasingly liberalised economy, commitment to global integration, its membership in la Francophonie and large diaspora, Vietnam is a key collaborator in ASEAN and APEC.
Beck mentioned that Vietnam’s GDP grew 6.2 percent last year, more than four times higher than Canada’s. About 43.7 million of the country’s population have connected to the internet and its middle class is burgeoning, he described, adding that “the explosive success of Vietnam's startup community has generated a "reverse brain-drain," with young Vietnamese entrepreneurs returning home from abroad to establish or work in startups, bringing with them new knowledge and skills that will invigorate Vietnam's economy for years to come.”
He believed now is the time for Canada to engage deeper with Vietnam and its APEC and ASEAN partners and like these countries, Canada sees micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) as the engines of growth and innovation in APEC.
According to Beck, Vietnam has about 600,000 registered MSMEs, a number that is growing by more than 100,000 annually. An estimated 14,500 new MSMEs were established in the first two months of 2017 with total registered capital of some 8.2 billion USD. Canada can leverage its expertise in technological innovation, entrepreneurship and green growth to strengthen these MSMEs in Vietnam and the APEC region, he noted.
“There is also an opportunity to connect Canadian businesses with new and like-minded partners in APEC economies such as Vietnam, where Canadian companies will find opportunities in sectors such as agri-food, education and training, information and communication technologies, clean tech and financial technology, as well as other services.”
He suggested Canada engage in the development of Vietnamese start-ups at early stages, providing them mentorship and technological help. He also urged Canada to collaborate with Vietnam in e-commerce and virtual education and training.