Cinde Ingram -- Casual Living, September 15, 2005
Presentations about certified wood options and U.S. furniture opportunities drew more than 40 Vietnamese furniture manufacturers to a downtown hotel in Ho Chi Minh City and an equal number three days later to a seaside resort in Qui Nhon City.
The manufacturers arrived eager to learn, at the invitation of the sponsoring People's Committee of the Ho Chi Minh City Service of Trade or Binh Dinh Trade and Tourism Service in Qui Nhon City. Coordinating the events was Exsero Group, with global commerce and consulting offices in Washington D.C. and Vietnam. Because it coincided with Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai's visit with President George W. Bush, Vietnamese-American trade relations took center stage.
Journalists from Casual Living and Furniture/Today participated in the presentations, along with Frank Judd, representing the Rainforest Alliance. The American group toured more than two dozen outdoor furniture factories and showrooms during the weeklong visit to Ho Chi Minh City (formerly known as Saigon) and Qui Nhon, where clusters of factories are located in the rolling area between mountains and the Red Sea of China.
The Ho Chi Minh City area accounts for about 8 million of Vietnam's 80 million population, said Truong Trung Viet, vice director of the Service of Trade. About 2,500 of the 4,000 companies licensed in Vietnam are located in and around HCMC, Viet said. The area represents about one-fourth of the nation's export and import revenue.
Ninety percent of the 58 furniture manufacturers clustered in Binh Dinh province around Qui Nhon make outdoor furniture, said Nguyen Thanh Son, vice director of the Binh Dinh Trade and Tourism Service. Exports to the United States have grown nearly 150% each year since 2002, when they totaled half a million dollars. In 2004, U.S. furniture exports from Binh Dinh totaled $3.8 million, Son said. He estimated the 2005 total would reach $8 million.