Vietnam Aims to Increase Foreign Investment

LOOKING ahead to the United States lifting a trade embargo, Vietnam said yesterday it hopes to attract $1.5 billion in foreign investment this year and $14 billion over the next 10 years.

Vietnam also hopes for a growing place in the world economy, presumably to include the resumption of economic ties with the US. In efforts to speed this up, the National Assembly is passing and amending laws to make it easier for a free-market economy to operate.

The US is edging toward renewing trade ties that were cut in 1975 when the Communist north took over the south.

It imposed a trade embargo that has stood since then, except for modifications that allow US companies to do some business in Vietnam under certain conditions. President Clinton is expected to make a decision soon on the next move.

The State Committee for Cooperation and Investment has licensed 863 foreign investment projects with a total approved capital of nearly $7.46 billion over the next six years from 1987 through last year.

The committee says foreign investment has grown at an average rate of 51.6 percent a year. Last year alone, 260 projects were licensed with total approved capital of $2.8 billion.

Initially, most of the foreign investment was for oil exploitation and hotel construction, the committee says. But last year, investment in industrial production, including cement and steel, rose to 45 percent of the registered capital.

Over the past six years, foreign investors have earned gross income of $780 million, the committee says. It estimates that the foreign investment has created 45,813 jobs in factories and other enterprises and nearly 100,000 other jobs in related fields such as construction, materials production, and services.

A number of joint ventures have failed and have caused losses to Vietnamese partners because they imported technology and equipment that was outdated, the committee says.

Meanwhile, 10 American companies are among the 250 firms bidding to repair Vietnam's dilapidated Highway 1, which links Hanoi in the north to Ho Chi Minh city in the south, a local newspaper reported yesterday.

The $278.5 million repair job is to be financed by the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, and US companies were given permission by Washington last month to participate in such internationally funded projects.

Highway 1 suffered considerable damage during Vietnam's war years. It narrows in parts to a one-lane dirt path, although it remains the primary link between the north and south.

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