Growing demand for UK goods and services
Total trade in goods and services (exports plus imports) between the UK and Vietnam was £6.4 billion, in current prices, in the four quarters to the end of Q3 2022, an increase of 20.5% or £1.1 billion from the four quarters to the end of Q3 2021. Major UK exports to Vietnam include pharmaceuticals, machinery and equipment.
Increasing openness to trade
Vietnam’s trade has almost quadrupled over the last decade. The country's import-export revenue last year was reported at $732 billion, despite numerous difficulties and setbacks, largely caused by international geo-political uncertainties. This has put Viet Nam among some of the most robust economies in the Southeast Asia.
Vietnam has established an extensive network of trade agreements with 15 signed FTAs including the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the European Union–Vietnam free trade agreement (EVFTA), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the UK-Viet Nam free trade agreement which came into effect in January 2021.
Relevance of UK technology and innovation
Vietnam made ambitious commitments at COP26, pledging to reach net zero by 2050, phase out coal power from the energy mix, and ensure sustainable food security for a rapidly growing population. A young and increasingly tech-literate population are driving innovation across all sectors. This context positions UK expertise in areas including clean growth, tech, and digitalisation as particularly relevant to Vietnam’s growth ambitions.
Top five UK goods exported to Vietnam, in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2023
|Pulp & waste paper||87.3|
|Medicinal & pharmaceutical products||79.2|
|Plastics in non-primary forms||33.5|
Total import value (into the UK from Vietnam) and export value (from the UK into Vietnam) over time
|Year||Imports (£billion)||Exports (£billion)||Total trade (£billion)|
ONS UK total trade: all countries, seasonally adjusted
Last updated: July 2023
Total trade is the sum of all exports and imports over the same time period.
Download the latest trade and investment factsheet for Vietnam.
Vietnam: at a glance
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Opportunities for exporters
There are growing opportunities for UK companies in Vietnam, across a range of sectors. Our trade advisers in Vietnam have identified particular opportunities in the sectors listed below.
Growing demand for English language training
There is growing demand in Vietnam to learn English in order to access higher-paid jobs, and a growing ability to afford training due to continued economic growth. There is strong political will to upskill the labour force to support the country’s development ambitions, and the sector is receiving substantial investment.
Growing demand for higher education and teacher training
There is growing demand for quality higher education and Vietnam is open to international education, joint degree programmes, and transnational education partnerships. Due to a shortage of teachers and the Vietnamese government’s reform of the education system and curriculum, there are ongoing opportunities for UK companies delivering high-quality teacher training.
Growing demand for technical training and professional qualifications
Technical and vocational training is central to Vietnam’s development plans, and to meet the needs of an evolving labour market, particularly in areas such as IT and STEM subjects.
Ambitious energy transition strategy
Vietnam has pledged to phase out coal power and achieve net zero emissions by 2050. With electricity demand projected to continue to rise rapidly, there is increasing need in Vietnam for policy and regulation support, technology, equipment and capacity-building to build a viable renewable energy sector. This is creating significant opportunities for UK investors and suppliers.
Considerable natural resources for renewable energy
Vietnam’s significant geographical advantages include high wind speeds off the south coast, and high solar irradiance. The solar sector is one of the fastest-growing in the region, and offshore wind is similarly set to grow rapidly, offering exciting opportunities for UK firms with relevant expertise.
An expanding public transport network
Plans to develop metro systems in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City are in the early stages. Initial steps have been taken towards building a high-speed North-South railway. This is creating opportunities for UK businesses who have products and services in the railway supply chain.
Opportunities to participate in regional partnerships
Many infrastructure projects in Vietnam are supported by development assistance funding from other countries or the Asian Development Bank. There are opportunities for UK businesses to participate and play a role in the supply chain for these large projects via partnerships with third countries.
Expansion of opportunities in aviation
Vietnam’s expansion of existing airlines and the entry of new operators offers possibilities for UK companies to provide equipment, training and other aviation services. Hanoi-HCMC remains one of the busiest domestic routes worldwide.
Expansion and diversification of the healthcare sector
Vietnam’s healthcare spending continues to grow as the country aims to increase the skills of its healthcare workforce and improve its capability to deliver quality healthcare. Opportunities for UK companies are growing in health education and training, clinical services and digital health.
Demand for imported pharmaceutical products
Vietnam imports 60% of its pharmaceutical end products and 90% of its active pharmaceutical ingredients, creating significant opportunities for UK exporters. UK exports of chemical and related products increased 34.6% year on year in the 4 quarters to the end of Q3 2022. This included an increase in medicinal and pharmaceutical products specifically of +53% year on year. This was partly thanks to tariff reduction under the UK-Vietnam free trade agreement, and made this the largest UK’s exports category to Vietnam.
Major developments in healthcare infrastructure
Vietnam is investing in healthcare infrastructure projects, including the construction of more hospitals. The percentage of private hospitals is projected to increase rapidly in the coming years as domestic corporations develop hospital groups and clinic chains across the country. Vietnam’s healthcare system will continue to adapt and respond to a rapidly aging population.
Growing market for Artificial Intelligence (AI), cyber security and fin-tech
The government considers AI a key technology for development, with potential to add hundreds of billion USD to Vietnam GDP. The cyber security market is growing, following the expansion of the retail market and of digital transactions, which pose increasing cyber threats. With a booming finance sector, banks are increasing spending on technology.
Demand for IoT, Industry 4.0 and smart cities technologies
Vietnam’s growing middle class offers opportunities for UK companies in connectivity technology and smart electronic devices. Smart manufacturing is another sector promising exciting growth as the country’s manufacturing base shifts towards higher tech solutions.
Potential for modernisation of agriculture
With a significant proportion of the population in Vietnam still engaged in agriculture, there are opportunities for UK companies to offer expertise in agri-tech and modernisation of agricultural practices.