Stories and Optimism about Vietnam: Norway Commercial Counselor

Update: 13:55 | 27/09/2019
“Be it economic or political, ‘Team’ Norway here shares one goal of promoting Norway-Vietnam cooperation”, Arne-Kjetil, Commercial Counselor, Head of Innovation Norway in Vietnam shared with The World & Vietnam Report.
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Commercial Counselor Arne-Kjetil and the reporter. (Photo: P.H)

Welcome to Vietnam. Can you disclose the reason you choose Vietnam for your posting? How do you assess Vietnam’s potential and attractiveness to the Norwegian market?

Personally, I like Vietnam a lot. I came here three or four times, five years ago when I was working for Telenor, a Norwegian telecom company. I like the atmosphere, the people and food here. Vietnam is a beautiful country. Some friends of mine in Norway and Europe who travel a lot are very fascinated about Vietnam. When I ask them what country they’d choose to visit for the second time, some pick Vietnam because the country is nice.

Unfortunately, I have only visited Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City as a businessman because Ho Chi Minh City is home to many Norwegian companies in Vietnam. However, I am making a short-term plan for my family to visit other provinces and cities of Vietnam such as Da Nang, Nha Trang, Vung Tau, Sa Pa, Halong Bay etc. Surely, during my posting here, I will travel as much as possible and I hope in a year or two I would agree with what my friends said about Vietnam.

Vietnam is a big potential for Norway in many business fields. Norway-Vietnam business cooperation is fine but can become greater. Two-way trades including imports and exports can be potentially higher. I am certain that there are many opportunities for both countries and our businesses to exploit and further boost this relation.

There are a number of potential areas. Aquaculture is first. This traditional sector still witnesses many activities going on. Renewable energy is another potential area. For Vietnam, like anywhere else in the world, renewable energy is important. Norway has many advanced technologies and solutions for wind and solar energy. Oil and gas used to be a highlight of our cooperation and can be revitalized. In addition, Norway has a lot to share when it comes to the ICT, smart cities/societies and digitalisation.

As I recall, this May, Mr Nguyen Duc Chung, the Chairman of the Ha Noi People’s Committee, accompanied Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in his official visit to Norway, and met with Oslo authorities to discuss our Capital City’s approach to development of the green city. You know, in Oslo, most of people now take bus, train or subway to work while in Ha Noi many people drive scooters. This is an area where we have a lot of things to contribute in a good way, especially how to incentivize people to use public transports instead of driving.This is just one of many examples of cleaner and more efficient use of energy.

What is your first impression about Vietnam?

I am only here for two weeks as the Head of Innovation Norway and the start is quite hectic. I like what I’ve experienced so far. Compared to the Northern Europe, there are many people here, lots of traffic in terms of size and push. Climate is another problem as it is hot and very humid, which is unusual for us. I think it would take some time for me to adjust and adapt.

On the other side, I envision a great and constructive cooperation taking into account the business culture here. I have worked in several Asian countries and the business culture varies. Vietnamese businesses are frank, direct and straightforward. This is good and I am optimistic about the future. I am sure my family and myself will have a pleasant stay in Vietnam.

What do you think about the role of economic diplomacy in promoting bilateral cooperation particularly between Vietnam and Norway?

Be it economic or political, Team Norway here shares one goal of promoting Norway-Vietnam cooperation. I am in charge of Norway’s commercial agenda in Vietnam and work closely with Ambassador Grete Lochen on commercial issues. She is very proactive and helpful. We are very lucky and grateful to her support.

stories and optimism about vietnam norway commercial counselor
Mr. Arne-Kjetil (third from left) accompanied the Vietnamese delegation led by MARD Deputy Minister Phung Duc Tien to Norway in August 2019. (Source: Norwegian Embassy in Vietnam)

The first thing I did as the Commercial Counsellor here was to accompany a Vietnamese delegation led by H.E Mr. Phung Duc Tien, Deputy Minister of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD) to Norway in August. The delegation includes both State officials and representatives from private businesses. They started with Aqua Nor, the world’s largest aquaculture technology exhibition, taking place in Trondheim every two years. We had a very interesting trip around the coats in Norway, visiting fish farms, meeting and talking with Norwegian fishery authorities and also scientists.

This kind of things are happening on a regular basis. Given a limited number of people in the office, we always try our best and work hard to accommodate different needs. We hope good results will come along the way.

What is your thought on the investment and cooperation environment in Vietnam?

First of all, I have to say, there are many Norwegian businesses that have expressed their wish to establish their offices in Vietnam. In general the business environment is good and Norway-Vietnam relation is good. However, some Norwegian companies share with us the challenge they have to face which is sometimes it is difficult to find the most proper way of doing things in the Vietnam’s system. We hope things would become simplified and get easier for businesses.

As Norwegian companies are very careful in making business/investment decisions, they have to balance the opportunities here and there. Therefore, it is important for Vietnam to make your investment environment more attractive to foreign investors including Norwegian companies.

As an economist and a diplomat, do you have any ideas or plans to boost Norway-Vietnam trade and investment cooperation in the upcoming time?

Many activities will come along the way. On the short term, we will have a Blue Ocean Economy Seminar in Nha Trang early October, which is very interesting for both Norwegian and Vietnamese businesses. Top Norwegian producers, scientists and key players in the marine fish farming industry will be arriving to share their success stories. In November, we will have another seminars on LNG in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City. We are also working on our plan for 2020 and more details will be updated later.

To be honest, I am very optimistic about the future of the cooperation between Norway and Vietnam and our businesses. We have a good foundation to make things even better. Many promising things will come out of your Prime Minister’s successful visit to Norway, and will follow up. The Vietnamese Prime Minister met with leaders of Norwegian businesses. I was also there and met him. We will continue this good relation.

IN will continue to work on good seminars, good field trips, and fruitful delegations going both ways.

Innovation Norway (IN), is the Norwegian Government's most important instrument for innovation and development of Norwegian enterprises and industry. IN supports companies in developing their competitive advantage and to enhance innovation. Headquartered in Oslo, IN also has offices abroad. In Asia, IN is present in 7 countries including Vietnam where it has been active since early 2000. Mr Arne-Kjetil is a new Head of IN heading Norway’s commercial agenda in Vietnam.

IN in Vietnam is located in the same premises and works closely with the Norwegian Embassy. IN coordinates with and receives great support from the Embassy, particularly Norway’s Ambassador, Ms Grete Lochen.

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