|Mr. Nguyen Canh Cuong, Commercial Counselor, Vietnam Trade Office in the UK|
How do you evaluate nearly 2 years of implementing the Vietnam-United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement (UKVFTA)?
Recently, Vietnam’s exports to the UK continued to grow well.
When compared with other partners in the context of the recent Covid-19 pandemic and procedural difficulties after Brexit, the results of Vietnam’s exports to the UK are very admirable. This is an index showing the competitiveness and initiative of Vietnamese enterprises in taking advantage of market opportunities thanks to the implementation of the UKVFTA.
Some product groups have high export growth rates to the UK market such as textiles, footwear, consumer electronics, and spare parts.
Products with high export growth are not new products, they are already present in the European market and the UK market in particular before the UKVFTA.
Thanks to the UKVFTA, Vietnamese enterprises boosted exports and captured more market share. Besides, it is worth noting that a new product has appeared in the UK market and is having very good export growth prospects, which is one for beauty and health care.
In addition to the favourable factors of tariffs, in your opinion, how must Vietnamese enterprises face challenges when promoting the export of goods to the UK market?
|The UKVFTA was officially signed in London, United Kingdom on December 29, 2020, temporarily applied from January 1, 2021, and officially in effect from May 1, 2021. Two-way trade in goods between Vietnam and the UK in 2021 reached US$6.6 billion, up 17.2% compared to 2020. This growth helped the bilateral turnover officially recover to the turnover level of 2019 after suffering a serious decline in 2020 due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic. In which, Vietnam’s exports to the UK were more than US$5.7 billion, up 16.4% compared to 2020. In the first 6 months of 2022, exports to the UK were US$2.91 billion, up 1.1% compared to the same period in 2021.|
In the past, many have suggested that Vietnamese enterprises exporting to the UK had difficulties in meeting quality requirements and overcoming the high technical barriers of the market.
Currently, many Vietnamese enterprises have the same scale and international level as European enterprises. Technical barriers are not new, many Vietnamese enterprises have overcome them.
However, small and medium-sized enterprises which previously did business in the domestic market, exporting to nearby markets, and markets in the Asia-Africa region will find it difficult when starting to “enter” the UK market.
These new exporters need to learn from the experience of their predecessors, with the right approach, they will be able to overcome all technical barriers.
The Vietnam Trade Office in the UK can also advise Vietnamese enterprises, especially those that are new to the UK, on how to approach the market and overcome barriers.
From January 1, 2023, most industrial products exported to the UK must be labelled with the UKCA label instead of the CE label as before. Does this problem cause any difficulties in exporting goods to the UK, Sir?
The UKCA labelling requirement actually started in early 2021, but from 2021 until now, the UK still accepts two types of labels at the same time.
However, after December 31, 2022, the UK will not accept CE labels. All industrial products requiring safety for users that previously used the CE label must be converted to the UKCA label. Enterprises that do not know, have not converted in time, bring goods to the UK and still have CE labels will be rejected by British Customs. However, enterprises that have undergone transformation still export normally.
The requirements for the UKCA label are technically the same as the CE label. Enterprises exporting to the EU understand what CE is, and applied CE, they will meet the UKCA label.
However, in terms of administrative procedures, they must study carefully to meet the label requirements, avoiding the situation that British Customs asks again and forces them to present new documents. State management agencies need to propagate and guide enterprises exporting industrial goods to the UK to prepare new processes and labels to meet the requirements from January 1, 2023.
Currently, the British Government is ready to open the market to foreign partners through FTAs. This country is also determined to join the CPTPP. That means Vietnamese products in the UK are at risk of facing strong competition in the CPTPP. Which recommendations do you have for export enterprises to dominate and strengthen the market better?
After the UKVFTA enforcement, many Vietnamese products have competitive advantages in the UK market, especially for the same products from countries that have not yet had an FTA with the UK. However, this competitive advantage may not last forever if the UK has many other FTAs in the future, including the CPTPP.
In the current period, Vietnamese enterprises must take advantage and speed up market penetration, increase market share, and expand customers.
Once they have customers, a solid market share in the UK, and gain the trust of consumers, later members including those participating in the CPTPP will still be in a less favourable position than Vietnamese enterprises. Agencies supporting trade promotion also need to accelerate to help Vietnamese enterprises penetrate the UK market.