Vietnam’s upbeat growth projections have made it an attractive import-export destination. Thanks to a number of free trade agreements it has sealed in recent years, Vietnam’s trade partnerships have grown from strength to strength.
Having one of the region’s fastest-growing middle classes and a young population that’s willing to spend, Vietnam represents an important market for foreign goods. As one of Vietnam’s main trading partners, Australia supplies the Southeast Asian country with an expansive range of premium quality products, including meat, seafood, dairy products, wine, and fresh produce. Over the years, Australian products have seen an increasing demand among Vietnamese consumers.
In 2021, the sum total of all trade between Australia and Vietnam in the important agriculture, fisheries, and forestry sectors surged by 64% to $4.4 billion AUD, according to Australian government data.
To help Australian producers take advantage of this growing interest for ‘Made in Australia’ goods, the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade) utilize its knowledge of the local market and strong tie-ins to find the right market for Australian exporters. Austrade generates market information and insights, promotes Australian capability, and facilitates connections through its extensive global network for import and investment support.
Importing Australian products means good business for Vietnam
Australia is a leader in best-practice quality control and management at every step of the supply chain, including production, industry bodies, consulting companies, and research institutions. Innovation and technology are widely used to improve operational efficiency, enhance health and welfare, and optimize production and quality. That being said, importing Australian products means good business for Vietnam.
Rebecca Ball, Senior Trade Commissioner at Austrade Vietnam pointed out that close proximity, with Vietnam only 4,000 miles nearly south side to Australia, is a big factor in why the trading partnership between these two countries works seamlessly. Separated by seas and the Pacific ocean, these two nations enjoy a consistent flow of trade by water and air. This geographical proximity means goods are delivered swiftly, maintaining the freshness of raw products and the quality of preserved goods.
Bringing live seafood products into Vietnam is a good case in point, according to Rebecca. Understanding that suppliers are moving a very highly sensitive and perishable product from one environment to another, every step of the process needs to be strictly monitored to be able to maintain the quality on arrival.
“We’ve seen the industry learn in a very short amount of time what is required in the cold chain here in Vietnam to ensure the mortality of the live creatures, the temperature, the extra nutrients in the water when the product is moved.”
This is complemented by trust and end-to-end transparency on both sides. Australia and Vietnam have different government bodies working with industries to oversee safety programs that extend through each step of the supply chain for quality assurance, safety, and traceability.
Tony Harman, Agricultural Counselor for the Embassy of Australia in Vietnam, noted that the biosecurity in Australia for food safety is also of the highest standards so the Vietnamese have the highest confidence that when the product arrives, it will be in the safest and best possible condition.
Tony further explained that the long pathway products navigate — from production to handling and product transfer — needs to be optimized to guarantee quality. As experienced by Australian exporters, knowing what works and what doesn’t takes a trial and error phase and enduring commitment to Australia’s reputation of quality high.
“Take table grapes for example. They’re harvested in Australia and we make sure that they are enjoyed by Vietnamese consumers within 72 hours,” said Tony. “We harvest, treat, pack and securely transfer them to Vietnam and eventually distribute them to the markets within this specific amount of time. That increases the product’s shelf life and enhances its quality.”
The 72-hour window also applies to most fresh products and live seafood imported from Australia to Vietnam. “Because of the proximity and air freights now reopened, that 72-hour window or even less for some rushed consignments isn’t so much of a challenge anymore.”
Rebecca and Tony both highlighted the free trade agreements entered by Australia and Vietnam as major trade enablers. The two countries signed trade liberalization pacts, including ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area, the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. These agreements have significantly reduced or eliminated barriers to trade in goods and investment, and enhanced wealth prosperity in both Australian and Vietnamese business landscapes.
What lies ahead
As both Australia and Vietnam continue to take solid actions to make their trade partnerships expand year after year, a brighter future awaits the import and export sector.
There are challenges and issues that need to be monitored and supported to help exporters and importers navigate one another’s systems, reflected Rebecca. “There are complexities on both sides and much interpretation is required.” But she said that with the countries adhering to the same standard of quality, there’s trust and confidence for Australian producers and suppliers to gain more access to markets with significant potential.
Information and technology transfer will also play a crucial role in elevating the partnership. Australia considered one of the world’s most advanced and modern countries has the technical knowledge, data, inventions, and materials that would help Vietnam upgrade its own supply chain.
Tony said this technology transfer in trade highlights the importance of implementing relevant safeguards for products exported and imported, and of facilitating the “pathway to the markets.”
“We see really positive communication between exporters and importers and growing levels of trust and understanding of what the market needs to enable the continuation of supply of Australian food and beverage products.
We are confident these strong trade partnerships will continue to grow and we look forward to bringing more quality Australian products to household tables here in Vietnam,” concluded Rebecca.
With reports from Chris Thompson