Vietnamese leaders make investment pitch

by Eric Johnston

OSAKA — Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet and a senior delegation of Vietnamese government and business officials called on Japanese business and government leaders Thursday to invest in huge transportation and technology infrastructure projects in their country.

“The Vietnamese economy is opening up and the country has completely changed over the past few decades. And, it is a very safe country, with no threats of terrorism or civil war,” Triet said in a meeting with business and government leaders in the Kansai region.

Triet, who is in Japan this week on an official visit and met Tuesday with Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, is especially keen for Japanese investment and technical assistance in developing a high-speed bullet train that will connect Hanoi in the north with Ho Chi Minh City in the south, 1,600 km away.

In addition, Vietnam is seeking Japanese investment in several large-scale civil engineering projects, including a superhighway connecting Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, and a high-technology center called Hoa Lac, near Hanoi.

Kazuko Miwa, vice governor of Osaka Prefecture, told Triet that about 30 percent of all Japanese private investment in Vietnam comes from Kansai-based firms.

But Miwa and Japanese business officials noted that a number of difficult challenges to investing in Vietnam remain.

“Vietnam’s economic and political infrastructure remains a question for investors, while many firms are concerned about the lack of a managerial class with the necessary knowledge and technical expertise,” said Masayuki Matsushita, vice chairman of the Kansai Economic Federation.

For many small and medium-size firms, one of the main challenges is finding workers with not only technical expertise but Japanese fluency.