Asia Minute: Vietnam’s Business Plans and the United States

May 24, 2016

Credit Prince Roy / Flickr

(As you heard earlier on Morning Edition/ATC), President Obama continues his Asian travels today with another day in Vietnam. While the president’s meetings include a focus on political and security issues, trade is another key topic. And it’s one that U.S. companies have been paying attention to for decades. HPR’s Bill Dorman has more in today’s Asia Minute.

23 years ago, the United States still had a trade embargo against Vietnam.

And yet, you could easily find black market Coca-Cola at stores and roadside stands. Often smuggled in from Thailand.

When the embargo was lifted in 1994, Coke was one of the first American companies to invest in Vietnam. Pouring in hundreds of millions of dollars since then.

The American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam says total U.S. investment in the country is now nearly $5 billion. Significant, but not at the top of the international scale.

Last year, a report from the U.S. State Department said South Korea, Japan and Singapore are “consistently the top three foreign investors in Vietnam.”

Projects drawing corporate interest include consumer goods and oil ventures. As well as factories, footwear and clothing, but also technology investments from companies such as Intel.

Korean conglomerate Samsung is a big local player, announcing plans about six months ago to boost its spending in Vietnam to $2 billion.

Vietnam has benefited in recent years from a corporate strategy called “China plus one”—as multinational companies hedge their regional manufacturing plans by adding some production lines in at least one other country outside China.