Vietnam's budding industries standout gainer in trade pact

Southeast Asian nation's textiles and footwear exports will help reap extra income equivalent to 19pc of GDP under Trans-Pacific Partnership

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 21 October, 2015, 11:47pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 22 October, 2015, 10:42am

It is a trade deal with such wide-ranging consequences it will have a profound and uplifting impact on activity in the Pacific Rim as we know it.

Analysts taking stock of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the US-led free-trade agreement formally signed by 12 nations this month, see the pact as a milestone in eliminating barriers to trade across a vast area.

As many as 18,000 tariffs are expected to be eliminated over time, according to some estimates.

"Once ratified … the accord will become the most significant, most economically impactful trade deal in history," Frank Holmes, the chief executive of US Global Investors, wrote in an article.

Australia, New Zealand, Vietnam, Singapore, Japan, Malaysia, Brunei, Canada, the US, Mexico, Peru and Chile are the signatories to the pact. The deal is yet to be ratified. The respective governments are expected to legislate it next year.

Still, judging by the research notes and reports circulating in recent weeks, figuring out the beneficiaries of the trade agreement is very much on the minds of analysts, even as uncertainties linger over when the pact will kick in.

Moody's identified a number of beneficiaries and highlighted Vietnam's budding export industries as a standout.

Data cited by the credit rating agency indicated that, once enacted, the pact will see Vietnam gain additional income worth 19 per cent of last year's gross domestic product, while Malaysia will gain 7 per cent, and Japan, New Zealand and Singapore 2 per cent. Australia is forecast for a 0.5 per cent boost.

In particular, Vietnam's textiles and footwear industries should see significant upside.

"Vietnam has a distinct advantage in terms of its combination of low wages, improving infrastructure and scale," Moody's analysts wrote. "Authorities have promulgated wide-ranging changes - including the relaxation of ownership restrictions for public companies, real estate and banks."

Analysts at Daiwa said the boon to Vietnam could indirectly benefit some Hong Kong textile companies. The broker recommended shares of Shenzhou International Group Holdings, Texhong Textile Group and Pacific Textiles Holdings. All three companies have operations in Vietnam and are expected to tap the expected surge in shipments to the US and Japan as tariffs are removed.

How much those tariffs will be whittled down is still uncertain, as the final text of the trade pact is still being drafted. Daiwa forecasts the tariff cut will significantly increase Vietnam's competitiveness against Chinese exporters. Textile shipments to the US face an import tariff of 12 to 20 per cent, against 10 to 25 per cent for those from China.

"Anecdotal evidence suggests that a portion of the strong FDI inflows into the country (Vietnam) over the past year has been in anticipation of the passage of the agreement," Moody's said.

Japanese carmakers and parts suppliers also stand to benefit. For these companies, the importance of the trade deal is in dramatically expanded market access to Canada, the US and New Zealand.

Tariffs on 70 per cent of exports of industrial goods will disappear when the agreement comes into effect, and "eventually be eliminated entirely", Moody's said.

Japan's farmers are among those to face the greatest downside, as the pact grants greater market access for Australian and New Zealand agricultural producers. Shipments of New Zealand beef to Japan will be subject to import tariffs of 9 per cent, down from 38.5 per cent.

Property group CBRE said it expected agricultural land prices in Australia and New Zealand to gain from the projected increased output.

Singapore is also poised to benefit in its push to become a trade and professional services hub.

"As a small, open economy driven by external trade, the TPP will serve to complement [Singapore's] existing pacts and boost investment and trade flows with partner countries," Moody's wrote.

CBRE said the trade agreement was positive for selected assets in the city state over the medium term.

Increased regional trade would translate into growth for Singapore's logistics, chemicals and electrical services companies, it said.

The TPP "will support office demand as the city remains a regional hub for multinationals", it said.