United Kingdom
The agenda for Mr Jack's visit is comprehensive, encompassing engagements with political leaders, business representatives, and educational institutions. Trey Musk/Pexels

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack is set to embark on a four-day trade mission to Vietnam, accompanied by representatives from the Scotch Whisky Association (SWA), to boost trade and diplomatic ties between Scotland and the Southeast Asian nation.

The mission comes at a significant juncture as 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of formal diplomatic relations between the United Kingdom and Vietnam.

Mr Jack's visit is poised to be a pivotal step in expanding the already strong business and educational links between Scotland and Vietnam. The trip is part of a broader effort to capitalise on the UK's post-Brexit free trade agreement with Vietnam and bolster opportunities for Scottish businesses in this dynamic and fast-growing market.

As the Scottish Secretary sets foot in Vietnam, he will undertake a packed agenda in both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. His itinerary includes meetings with prominent political figures from the Vietnamese government, a joint whisky reception in Hanoi with the SWA for key business representatives, and a reception in Ho Chi Minh City to promote Scottish produce.

Additionally, he will visit Coats, a textile manufacturer with operations in Vietnam, and partake in a partnership signing ceremony between the British University Vietnam (BUV) and Stirling University.

Reflecting on the significance of the visit, Alister Jack remarked: "It is a real honour to promote UK interests in Vietnam, particularly during this landmark year that commemorates 50 years of diplomatic relations between the UK and Vietnam. I look forward to further strengthening these vital ties with our Vietnamese friends."

The visit takes on particular importance in light of the UK's recent agreement to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), which offers new avenues for enhancing UK-Vietnam trade relations.

During his stay in Hanoi, Mr. Jack is scheduled to meet with Vietnam's Foreign Minister, Bui Thanh Son, underscoring the UK's commitment to advancing cooperation in various fields, including the commemoration of 50 years of diplomatic ties.

He will also hold discussions with Vietnam's Agriculture and Rural Development Vice Minister, Phung Duc Tien and the Vice Minister for Industry and Trade, Nguyen Sinh Nhat Tan, with a particular focus on fortifying trade relations.

Mr Jack's itinerary includes meetings with the National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee to engage in discussions about international relations, promoting dialogue between the UK and Vietnam.

In Ho Chi Minh City, the Scottish Secretary will meet with the city's political leadership and the National Assembly's Committee for Foreign Affairs, aiming to foster deeper connections and collaboration between the two nations.

One highlight of the trip is Mr. Jack's visit to Coats' factory in Ho Chi Minh City, where he will learn about the company's expansion into the Vietnamese market. Coats, a renowned industrial thread manufacturer with roots in Paisley, is the world's leading player in its field.

Furthermore, Mr Jack will have the opportunity to interact with a group of Chevening Scholars, gaining insight into their experiences at UK universities and how they are leveraging their education back in Vietnam. The Chevening scheme, a UK government initiative, supports outstanding emerging leaders from across the globe in pursuing master's degrees in the UK.

Recent trade data reveals that nearly 200 Scottish companies export goods to Vietnam, contributing an impressive £83 million annually, which accounts for over 11 per cent of all UK exports to Vietnam. The top three export categories are beverages, fish, and scientific instruments, demonstrating the diverse range of Scottish products with export potential in Vietnam.

Scotch whisky is a particularly prominent Scottish export to Vietnam, making the country the 24th largest export market by value. In 2022, direct exports of Scotch whisky were valued at £73.9 million, equivalent to 7.1 million bottles — an astounding 371 per cent increase since 2019. Single malts alone account for 31 per cent of these exports, with Scotch whisky commanding 85 per cent of the market share in Vietnam.

The implementation of the UK-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement has played a pivotal role in driving these exports. The agreement aims to gradually reduce the 45 per cent import tariff on Scotch whisky over six years to zero (from the current 24%), substantially boosting the attractiveness of Scotch whisky in the Vietnamese market.

Graeme Littlejohn, the Director of Strategy and Communication at the Scotch Whisky Association, will accompany the Secretary of State on the visit. He emphasised: "As the fastest-growing economy in Asia last year, Vietnam is attracting global investment, and the opportunities for Scottish exports are clear to see."

He further highlighted the role of the UK's premium whisky industry as a trailblazer in emerging markets, setting an example for other Scottish exports. The visit by the Scottish Secretary serves as a reminder of the global appeal of Scotland and its products.

Mr Jack's mission to Vietnam is reinforced by support from the British Embassy in Hanoi and the British Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City, exemplifying the UK's extensive global diplomatic network.

As Scotland and Vietnam mark 50 years of diplomatic relations, the visit by the Scottish Secretary and the Scotch Whisky Association underscores the commitment to deepening bilateral ties and exploring new avenues of cooperation, particularly in the realm of trade and commerce.

With strong historical connections and a shared vision for the future, Scotland and Vietnam are poised to foster even stronger partnerships in the years ahead.