Glob­al­iza­tion brings shifts in Viet­nam

China Daily (Canada) - - XI’S VISIT - By AGENCE FRANCEPRESSE in Hai Duong, Viet­nam

Nguyen Thi Thanh Loan grewup on a small plot of land in ru­ral Viet­nam, with just enough food to eat, few new clothes and no dis­pos­able in­come.

To­day she works in a Ford fac­tory as­sem­bling cars from Chi­nese, Thai, Amer­i­can and Euro­pean parts, her chil­dren drink im­ported milk and Coca-Cola and she hol­i­days with her fam­ily — win­ners of the glob­al­iza­tion lot­tery.

“Be­fore, chil­dren didn’t have a lot of clothes or food, but life im­proved af­ter their par­ents got fac­tory jobs,” Loan, 36, said at the Ford plant near Hanoi, the Viet­namese cap­i­tal.

She is among mil­lions whose lives have been trans­formed by Viet­nam’s free trade em­brace, a process that be­gan in the 1980s and has hauled the na­tion out of the penury of the post-war years.

Viet­nam now boasts one of South­east Asia’s fastest grow­ing economies, driven by ex­ports of cheaply made goods from Nike shoes to Sam­sung phones.

“By go­ing global, by go­ing re­gional, Viet­nam has clearly reaped the ben­e­fits of glob­al­iza­tion,” World Bank Viet­nam Coun­try Di­rec­tor Ous­mane Dione said, cit­ing large re­duc­tions in poverty.

Aglance aroundHaiDuong, 50 kilo­me­ters from the cap­i­tal, re­veals why Viet­nam has staked its fu­ture on free trade.

Since Ford first opened its doors 20 years ago, the area has mor­phed from an agrar­ian back­wa­ter into an in­dus­trial zone pep­pered with for­eignowned fac­to­ries churn­ing out elec­tron­ics, cloth­ing and ma­chin­ery.

Veg­etable plots and fish­ing ponds have been re­placed by a four-lane high­way for trucks car­ry­ing goods for ex­port.

Held back by years of war and crip­pling Soviet-style poli­cies, Viet­nam has boasted an an­nual GDP growth of more than 5 per­cent for the past five years straight— though it failed to reach its am­bi­tious tar­get last year.

The coun­try first opened its econ­omy to for­eign com­pa­nies in the 1980s and in­vest­ment gath­ered pace af­ter the US scrapped a war-era trade em­bargo in 1994.

Ex­ports now ac­count for 90 per­cent of GDP, while the av­er­age an­nual in­come has surged from about $290 two decades ago to around $2,100 to­day, ac­cord­ing to the­World Bank.

In Hai Duong, the av­er­age Ford fac­tory worker can earn more than twice that — al­though it is still a far cry from the av­er­ageUS man­u­fac­tur­ing wage of about $43,000.

“Ev­ery­thing has changed,” said Nguyen Van Tuan, 48, a part-time chauf­feur, who grew up in a house made of mud and straw.

To­day Tuan is proud of his three-story con­crete home — built from the $800 Ford paid for his land 20 years ago. It sits on a paved road dot­ted with shops sell­ing iPhones and Ja­panese bad­minton rack­ets.

For Ford, Viet­nam’s abun­dance of cheap la­bor and ex­pand­ing do­mes­tic mar­ket is a mag­net — it sells cars to an up­wardly mo­bile mid­dle class.

A Viet­namese worker welds in the body shop at the Ford au­to­mo­tive plant in the north­ern Viet­namese prov­ince of Hai Duong in Jan­uary.

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