A delegation of representatives from 12 agricultural companies here will leave for Vietnam this week with the hopes of joining a growing list of local businesses operating in what is one of the world's hottest investment areas. "Right now, Vietnam is a very attractive place to invest in because of all the deregulation that is taking place there," said Aaron Leitner, global investment strategist at Tandem Capital, who is bullish on opportunities in the former Communist country. Currently, some 200 Israeli companies have established operations in Vietnam, with 40 having done so in the last year alone, the Israel Export Institute said Sunday. Leitner explained that in 2000 the Vietnamese government created a stock market and began a program of ongoing structural reforms that included the lifting of restrictions on private enterprise and the liberalization of regulations with the aim of encouraging foreign investments. Additionally, Vietnam recently was accepted to the World Trade Organization, further enhancing the country's attractiveness to outside investors. The economic measures enacted by the Vietnamese government are proving quite effective as last year approximately $10 billion was invested by foreigners, including some $17 million from the Israel-based "Vietnam Fund." The fund was established through the Halman-Aldubi Group and following the approval by the securities exchange authority, Israel, in December 2006, became the first country to launch a mutual fund specializing in Vietnam investments. Most of the fund's investments are focused on publicly traded real estate companies, infrastructure and mining. However, Vietnam is still experiencing growing pains as it develops its economy and infrastructure in the post-Communist era - while the country may export $7.5b. worth of agricultural products around the world on a yearly basis, it is still facing serious challenges in providing its 85 million citizens with clean water. To help tackle this problem, there are currently 170 water-based projects in operation there, with the country's stated goal being to provide 85 percent of its citizens with usable water by 2010 and 100% by 2020. As one of the world-leaders in developing water-technology solutions, Israeli water-tech companies will be among the delegation traveling to Vietnam this Thursday under the auspices of Minister of Agriculture Shalom Simhon, and Yitzhak Quirati, the director of the agricultural branch of the Export Institute. According to the Trade Ministry, last year's exports to Vietnam, excluding diamonds, grew 3% from 2005, reaching $36.6m., with an increase expected this year as well.