DANANG -- More than 60 U.S. companies that gathered in Danang, a booming coastal city in Vietnam, have expressed interest in investing in the country's central economic region as the business climate warms between the former Vietnam War foes.
The Meet the USA 2018 event on Mar. 5 was attended by a wide range of U.S. businesses, ranging from technology companies like Intel, Microsoft, IBM, and Motorola to consumer brands like Coca-Cola.
The event focused on the Central Key Economic Zone, which comprises seven provinces along the country's coast with the South China Sea: Quangbinh, Quangtri, Thuathien - Hue, Danang, Quangnam, Quangngai, and Binhdinh.
"Vietnam is one of our strategic markets," said Le Tu Cam Ly, Coca-Cola Indochina's legal and public affairs director. The company opened a facility in Danang in 2013 to supply the growing market nearby. It has plans to use coffee and local fruits in its new products.
Gina Proctor, finance director of Intel Products Vietnam, said the company is interested in working with local IT companies. The leading semiconductor maker already has a factory in Ho Chi Minh City, and doubled production there last year from 2016. Further expansion is planned this year.
John Rockhold, executive director of AmCham Vietnam, said U.S. companies are considering investments in a number of projects in the region, including an offshore gas system connecting the Blue Whale field to a power plant in Quangnam, and a number of solar and wind power projects.
Unlike Danang, which has good international connections, the other six provinces have seen slower development compared to many other parts of the country. The government has therefore been looking for ways to attract more foreign investment. Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Thanh Son said special tax incentives, subsidies for land clearance and leasing, and labor training schemes are being offered.
The U.S. businessmen were briefed by local officials on infrastructure upgrades to airports and ports.
Direct U.S. investment in Vietnam has fluctuated with changing relations between the two countries. The figure reached $1.8 billion three years after a bilateral trade agreement was signed in 2001. However, only $297 million was registered between 2011 to 2014, when bilateral relations cooled.
As of November 2017, total U.S. investment in Vietnam of $9.4 billion placed it 9th among 128 countries. That puts it well behind the $57.5 billion from South Korea, $49.1 billion from Japan, and $41.8 billion from Singapore.