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    ITC's Executive Director Launches Viet Nam's E-trade Bridge Kick-off Meeting

     

     
     
    © International Trade Centre, International Trade Forum - Issue 1/2001 

    In January ITC organized its first e-trade bridge meeting in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in Viet Nam. The meeting aimed to identify national action priorities to improve the ability of Vietnamese small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) to compete in world markets. ITC's Executive Director, J. Denis Bélisle, welcomed the participants and outlined ITC's e-trade assistance for SMEs:

    "It gives me great pleasure to return to Viet Nam and to welcome you to the launch of ITC's E-Trade Bridge Programme for SMEs. We are very pleased to be working once again with VIETRADE as our national partner for this e-trade bridge kick-off meeting.

    We have here in this room some of the best talent in Viet Nam in the two fields of electronic commerce and trade development, representing both the private and public sectors. Our goal over the next two days will be to identify priority national action points to improve the ability of Vietnamese SMEs to compete in world markets.

    I do not need to preach to you today about the digital divide. A small task force has prepared a report over the last few weeks which provides an excellent backdrop against which to understand the reality of the information "haves" and "have-nots" in Viet Nam. The ITC e-trade bridge programme is not preoccupied with the divide but with solutions to bridge it.

    ITC's presence here today is not an accident. It is part of our own journey on the "e-trade SuperHighway". Three years ago, ITC recognized that the growth of the Internet was fundamentally changing the way business is done. Our clients in developing countries were asking us what the Internet was and how to take advantage of it.

    To answer their question we began a year-long consultation with partners, donors, trade support institutions, Internet experts and practitioners from developing countries. We later experimented with various pilot projects:

    • The first online coffee auction was conducted with Brazilian speciality coffee growers.

    • A publication, Secrets of E-Commerce, was produced addressing the 100 most commonly asked questions about the Internet for SMEs. This publication is presently being adapted to Viet Nam's circumstances.

    • Business round tables have been held to develop strategies for the information and communications technology sectors in transition economies.

    This development phase brought us to the exciting stage we have reached today: the ITC strategy in which A stands for awareness raising, B for building knowledge and C for creating competence. This is already beginning to bring concrete results.

    The landscape of international trade is changing very fast as a result of new technology. There are new ways of doing old business (selling coffee and green beans), entirely new business sectors emerging and new virtual marketplaces being driven by information, not physical market bazaars.

    At ITC, we talk about and believe in the concept of e-trade; the application of information and communication to the conduct of trade across national borders. Putting the "e" in a national trade development programme is not simply about the "e". Technology is necessary but not sufficient. Technology facilitates trade and international competitiveness but is not an end in itself. In the last analysis, business people do the exporting and importing, not countries. That's why ITC's e-trade bridge programme focuses on the needs of SME entrepreneurs.

    The countries which are succeeding in this new economy have taken stock of their strengths and weaknesses and developed solutions to meet this new challenge.

    As you continue your deliberations over the next two days, I would like you to think about the following questions to which we should come back at the end of the session:

    • What are the assets and liabilities of Viet Nam's e-trade "business"? (for example, in which sectors and how can you harness the e-trade potential?)

    • Where are your investments likely to lead to the greatest return for business and therefore for the Vietnamese economy? What are your current investments? Future investments?

    • What kind of dividends can you expect from your investment and when?

    Information is power and the information economy is now entering a new level of sophistication. Let us grasp this opportunity and not be frightened by it. Let Viet Nam conduct old business in new ways and tackle entirely new businesses born with the new economy. ITC is delighted to be your coach for this e-trade bridge kick-off meeting and hopes to be given the opportunity to accompany you further, if it is your desire. Remember, the e-trade opportunity lies just a few clicks away. Good luck to all."