Vietnam-Japan: Towards a better, closer and more intertwined future

WVR - In an interview with The World and Vietnam Report in the middle of May, Chairman of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Tadahiro Kinoshita said that Vietnam is the most promising destination in ASEAN for Japanese companies.
Vietnam-Japan: Towards a better, closer and more intertwined future
Chairman of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry (JCCI) Tadahiro Kinoshita. (Photo: Quang Hoa)

Congratulations on your current appointment as the JCCI Chairman. In your new position, what is your assessments on trade and investment cooperation between Vietnam and Japan?

Before the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, many Japanese businesses had plans to invest and get access to Vietnamese market but their activities were interrupted due to the impact of the disease. Therefore, in the post-pandemic period, when the COVID-19 prevention and control regulations are removed, many Japanese companies are interested in Vietnam and have plans to expand their business in the country.

Currently, the prospect of investment cooperation between Japan and Vietnam is very good, as a great number of Japanese companies, especially China-based ones that export goods to Western countries in the "China + 1" formula, are tending to move their production bases to Vietnam.

When comparing the investment environment in ASEAN member countries, Vietnam is considered as the most promising business destination. There are 2 factors in Vietnam that attract foreign investors, namely political stability and relatively competitive wages for labours.

Additionally, the Vietnam-Japan Joint Initiative - the policy dialogue forum between Japanese investors and relevant Vietnamese ministries and agencies, that was initiated in 2003 has contributed to creating an open and transparent investment and business environment in Vietnam; at the same time providing constructive policy recommendations as reference information to complete laws and policies for Vietnamese authorities.

In the context that the global economy is considered to have entered a slowdown phase, and the business environment is still as volatile as now, can you share about the difficulties facing foreign enterprises in general and Japanese investors in Vietnam in particular in the mean time?

The biggest difficulty for Japanese businesses in Vietnam, as well as foreign businesses in general, is the slow speed of project approval, especially for real estate and e-commerce projects.

In addition, businesses also have difficulty in complying with the provisions of the Law on Fire Prevention and Fighting and do not know how to equip themselves in order to complying with the new regulations of the Decree on the protection of personal information, which will take effect in the coming time.

During the COVID-19 pandemic as well as in the current post-pandemic recovery effort, the Vietnamese Government has implemented numerous policies and measures to support the business community, including foreign companies. How do you evaluate these efforts?

Vietnam's economy in the post-pandemic period recovered very quickly, the growth rate was always maintained above 5%. To achieve this, the Vietnamese Government has made tremendous efforts. This is appreciated by foreign businesses.

Besides, the Government of Vietnam is also very determined to fight corruption. This is very good. And I hope Vietnamese Government will pay more attention to foreign investment, finding measures to shorten the approval process of new projects and create more convenient conditions for investors.

In the message of JCCI Chairman, among three points that will be put forward as activity policy for 2023, the first point is “improving the business and investment environment”. Could you please share with our readers more details about this?

As I have shared, three points that will be put forward as activity policy for 2023 are: firstly, “improving the business and investment environment in Vietnam”; secondly, “improving the living environment” for Chamber's member businesses and their families and thirdly, “developing the Japan-Vietnam relations”.

Regarding the point of improving Vietnam's investment and business environment, as I have shared, JCCI has a relevant committee in charge of this area, with the members coming from different businesses. This committee often holds regular meetings during which the member enterprises raise issues of their difficulties and challenges in order to look for appropriate solutions.

The second, as mentioned above, is the Vietnam-Japan Joint Initiative. This mechanism holds regular meetings once a year and a half, discussing a variety of topics. The Initiative is currently in its 8th phase and discussing 11 topics, mainly related to law and policy.

These proposals are submitted to Vietnamese Government through the Ministry of Planning & Investment. After 20 years of operation, the Initiative has had more practical, effective and far-reaching topics and proposals, such as topics related to the digital economy, green economy, renewable energy, human resources training, supporting industries, carbon emission reduction, etc. These are the areas where the two parties can boost cooperation in the coming time.

At the invitation of Japanese Prime Minister Kishida Fumio, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh wll travel to Japan to attend the expanded G7 Summit from May 19-21. It is known that on this occasion, a Vietnam-Japan investment conference will be held in Japan. Can you talk about the importance of the visit and the impact of this visit and of the conference on the prospect of Vietnam - Japan investment cooperation?

As far as I know, in the agenda of the coming visit to Japan by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, there will be a conference on investment between Vietnam and Japan. On this occasion, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh will also have private meetings with a number of Japanese business leaders.

In my opinion, it is a very good time to hold such conference and dialogues because in the post - pandemic period, many Japanese businesses are looking to return to invest or expand their business in Vietnam.

This is an opportunity for them to meet directly with leaders of the Vietnamese Government and raise issues and problems of concern with an aim to get timely solutions.

It is known that JCCI plans a commemorative project in order to congratulate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Japan. Could you share more details about the project?

JCCI is working on a commemorative plan of organizing a very gourgerous event with the participation of around 1,000 peole.

The event will be divided into 2 parts: The first is a concert that will be performed by Vietnamese and Japanese children and the second part is Beethoven's Ninth Symphony which will be performed by Vietnamese Symphony Orchestra and Japanese Choir led by Japanese Conductor. There can also be a very exciting fireworks display.

In addition, we will continue to organize the annual Marathon, on a larger scale, with the participation of more runners on this commemorating year.

Refering to the bilateral cooperation and frienship between Japan and Vietnam, leaders of the two countries once talked of “the friends sharing the same boat”. Now, we heard very often the phrase “Vietnam - Japan companion, Towards the future – Reaching the world”. At this important milestone in the bilateral relations between the two countries, could you share your personal opinion on the future of the relations in the next 50 years?

I have been working in Vietnam for 5 years, but in fact I came to Vietnam for the first time in 1989. Since then, I have had more than 100 business trips to your country. I have worked in many countries around the world such as the US, Australia, Germany, etc., but personally, I think I consider the relations between Japan and Vietnam as the deepest. Vietnamese and Japanese people are very similar, especially in respecting for elders as well as humility and hard-working.

With many similarities, it is easy to connect Japan with Vietnam. And I think that in the next 50 years, the relationship between the two countries will become better, closer and more intertwined.

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