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Vietnam is an exciting high-growth economy with a vibrant culture and an ambitious approach geared to becoming the leading South East Asia economy by 2050. The country is driving growth by focusing on key commercial sectors such as finance, manufacturing, engineering, technology, tourism and agriculture, underpinned by a fast-growing education sector. GDP growth has created a burgeoning middle class eager to use their disposable income. E-commerce is pervasive, with WIFI availability standard in the key conurbations and smart phone-enabled mobile internet available countrywide. In 2019, the government has spotlighted tech start-up to create innovation, invention to support Industry 4.0, and the country’s digital transformation policy. 

The opportunity for UK business, universities and services in Vietnam is outstanding. The Vietnam – UK Network is an exceptional route to market, as the only bilateral organisation to specifically address Vietnam.

Vietnam – UK Network is the prime independent organisation promoting and supporting trade and investment, friendship, understanding and stronger links between the people and institutions of the UK and Vietnam.

Considering the fast-growing links between the two countries, and the absence in the UK of an all-embracing, forward-looking Vietnam – UK organisation, a group of like-minded individuals took the decision in 2011 to establish the Vietnam – UK Network (VUKN). It formally came into being on 22nd January 2013 in a ceremony at the Vietnamese Embassy in London in the presence of British officials and the Secretary-General of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

Through its own events, and other activities or organisations which it supports, the Network provides unique opportunities for business, social, and cultural networking, in order to encourage and strengthen bilateral links in a range of fields. These include trade and investment, education and training, social welfare, culture, trades unions, and the environment. Members of its committee have a strong background in Vietnam – UK business, diplomacy, education etc., and much additional expertise can be found among its extensive and growing group of followers and supporters, many of whom are trading, looking to do business in Vietnam, or regularly visiting the country.

HE Ambassador Tran Ngoc An says: “In recent years, the Vietnam – UK relationship has witnessed rapid developments in a broad range of areas – politics, trade and investment, education, security, defence and co-operation at international arenas. These achievements are thanks in part to the active contributions of the Vietnam – UK Network. On the occasion of the 45th Anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations in 2018, The Network and the Embassy co-hosted a number of meaningful events namely “Vietnam Culture Day in the UK”, a photo exhibition, a major job-mentoring workshop during the official visit by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh to the UK. I believe that with huge co-operation potentials and new momentum for the Vietnam – UK partnership created in recent years, even in light of Brexit, the relationship between our two countries will continue to grow from strength to strength, opening up more co-operative opportunities for the two peoples.”

With direct links with both the UK and Vietnam Governments at a senior level, the Network can influence policies and strategies as well as raise challenges that its members may be facing in Vietnam. It works closely with the Vietnamese Embassy, and maintains strong links with the British Embassy, Consulate-General and Business Group in Vietnam, with British Parliamentarians interested in Vietnam, with Vietnam Airlines, and with relevant British Government Departments.

Nick Lonsdale, CEO of NashTech Limited, a part of the Harvey Nash Group who have operated in Vietnam for 20 years, says: “The Vietnam – UK Network continues to be a valuable pillar to play a significant role in extending NashTech international reach. It provides valuable discussion forums. It brings together and provides access to like-minded senior business leaders and senior policy influencers.” 

The Network is run by a committee of British and Vietnamese volunteers based in the UK, who represent a range of sectors including business, NGOs, education, diplomacy, young professionals etc. It receives no government funding but is supported by highly valued sponsorship from several UK companies active in Vietnam.

The Network normally holds a well-attended summer networking lunch and a winter dinner in the House of Lords, with a UK Minister and the Vietnamese Ambassador as speakers. Its activities have included supporting Vietnam’s first involvement in London Fashion Week; helping to promote, and speaking at, major conferences in London promoting educational links, with the participation of senior Vietnamese Ministers; hosting focussed business events involving, for example, HRH the Duke of York, and holding meetings with high-ranking visiting Vietnamese Government, Party and Parliamentary delegations. The Network has made modest grants to several NGOs working in Vietnam and maintains links with the Vietnam – UK Friendship Association (VUFA) in Vietnam.

KPMG: “The benefits of being both a sponsor and active member of the Vietnam – UK Network have been significant in helping us to expand our operations in Vietnam. We have met a number of Vietnamese Government ministers and been involved in productive round tables and events that have helped us build our network and influence in the country.” 

The Network supports the UK – Vietnam Strategic Partnership signed between the two governments in 2010 and advises on Vietnam’s image and brand promotion in the UK.

The Rt Hon Mark Field MP, FCO Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific stated: “I welcome the role and activities of the Network and recognise that the bilateral relationship is going from strength to strength and I assure the Network of my support for its activities.”

Alok Sharma, when FCO Minister of State for Asia, commented: “As Minister for Asia, I fully support the work of the Vietnam – UK Network, and its efforts to strengthen ties between our two countries. The Network plays an important role in building on the Strategic Partnership agreement, in particular developing people-to-people links.”

During 2018, the Network led the celebrations marking 45 years of diplomatic relations between the UK and Vietnam with an event attended by H.E. Mr Pham Binh Minh, Deputy Prime Minister, Minister of Foreign Affairs, and the Rt Hon Mark Field MP, Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, who addressed an audience of well over 250 businesses and organisations.

The Network supports the UK ASEAN Business Council at Vietnam-centric business forums attracting large business audiences.

The Network also seeks to promote cultural understanding between the two countries. One recent example saw the Vietnam – UK Network playing a key role in facilitating research in Vietnam conducted by the University of Leicester School of Business, and in creating connections with Vietnamese Universities.

The Vietnamese Pavilion at the London Design Biennale in 2018 was championed by the Vietnam -UK Network, supported by Ed Vaizey, MP, the Prime Minister’s Special Business Ambassador for Vietnam. The Leicester School of Business covered the participation, whilst Vietnam – UK Network members provided financial support for the artwork, transportation, logistics, and living expenses for the Vietnamese delegation. The London Design Biennale was the first time Vietnam participated in an international design exhibition, and its pavilion was nominated as one of the 10 most interesting in the show.

Currently, the University of Leicester is developing, in collaboration with the Network, a near-future creative incubator in Vietnam. The overall aim is to develop physical and digital innovation hub infrastructure to encourage and promote economic empowerment and skills development for youth through innovation and entrepreneurship. The aspiration is to train a new generation of creative entrepreneurs, who will benefit from improved capacity for management, self-determination, and creative skills, to work successfully within an emerging ecosystem, inclusive of marginalised communities, in both urban and semi-rural contexts.

The Network has twice organised a visit to Vietnam by a small delegation of its members to explore business opportunities, seek cultural and other links and to make high-level calls on central government and People’s Committees. These intensive visits enable an exchange of information and a strengthening of personal ties that help to create a strong environment for the bilateral relationship, with mutual benefit.

The main benefits of being involved with the Vietnam – UK Network (VUKN) can be summarised as follows: 

  1. Superb networking opportunities with senior figures from Vietnam’s Government.

  2. Extensive expertise and advice from people who really understand Vietnam and how to operate and do business there.

  3. Scope for influencing policy and the UK’s relationship with Vietnam.

  4. Access to a network of knowledge and expertise in a wide range of sectors including trade, technology, education, social affairs, young people, culture, etc.

  5. Frequent access to incoming business delegations and regional visitors.

  6. Opportunity to entertain business and other associates at high profile events. 

Individual membership, corporate membership and sponsor packages are available, with plenty of opportunity to become involved in the management, promotion and activities of the Network. To enquire about joining the Vietnam – UK Network, events or to ask for advice about doing business in Vietnam, send us a message through www.vietnamuknetwork.org.uk/contact-us/.

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