By  on February 5, 2008

DAVOS, Switzerland — As one of Southeast Asia's most dynamic apparel exporting nations, Vietnam looms large as a major destination for foreign investors.A panel of business and political leaders at the World Economic Forum, held here last month, cited Vietnam as a rising star following the path of four leading emerging-economy nations: Brazil, Russia, India and China.Hoang Trung Hai, Vietnam's deputy prime minister, told a packed auditorium Friday that the economy of the nation grew 8.5 percent last year and is projected to expand another 9 percent this year.Vietnam, with a population of 84 million, attracted $20 billion in new foreign direct investment, and 70 percent was ploughed into the manufacturing sector. Hoang said the government is committed to attracting additional foreign investment and to making "more room for the private sector." He noted that the number of state-owned enterprises is about 2,700, compared with 12,000 at the peak of government-controlled business several years ago.In 2006, Vietnam was ranked the world's 50th largest exporter, with shipments valued at $39.6 billion. The U.S. was the top destination with an 18.3 percent share, according to World Trade Organization data. Vietnam also was positioned as the 10th largest apparel exporter, with shipments valued at $4.8 billion.Business executives said higher wages and production costs in China, especially in the southern coastal manufacturing area, is increasing the attractiveness of Vietnam and other low-cost Asian nations as alternatives.Other developing countries identified as likely contenders for the next wave of emerging markets by experts such as Mitsubishi Corp. president Yorihiko Kojima and Angel Gurría, secretary general of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, included Nigeria, Egypt, South Africa, Argentina, Colombia and Turkey.Hoang said it's difficult to compete on scale with China and added: "What we try to do is to compete in efficiency." He said China still has the edge on competitiveness, but emphasized that Vietnam is determined to increase its potential, including retraining much of the labor force.

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