Mr. Francisco J. Sánchez, the U.S. Under Secretary for International Trade at the U.S. Department of Commerce, wrote for VietNamNet before his official visit to Vietnam.
On November 13-16, I will lead a U.S. Department of Commerce infrastructure sector trade mission to Vietnam, providing an excellent opportunity to expand mutually beneficial economic and commercial ties between the United States and Vietnam.
This will be my third visit and second trade mission to Vietnam since April 2011. It is intended to highlight how the U.S. Government, working with our public sector organizations, has made a long-term commitment to help build the critical infrastructure Vietnam needs for successful global integration using proven American products and technology.
The mission delegation, which includes eight major U.S. companies, will travel to both Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City to meet and work with government and business leaders to explore and engage greater American participation in infrastructure projects such as energy, including civil nuclear energy; aviation; environmental technology; and architecture, construction, and engineering.
I have invited our federal partner agencies, the U.S. Trade and Development Agency and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, to join this trade mission and bring to Vietnam our “whole-of-U.S. government” or Team USA approach to building commercial relations.
The trade mission comes at an opportune time as Vietnam seeks to work with the United States to put in place the physical and human resource infrastructure critical to the next phase of growth and development. Vietnam’s economy is expanding, with growth in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) averaging more than 6 percent annually during the past decade.
Although there has been a recent slowdown, I believe this is a reflection of the global economic environment, and highlights the critical need for Vietnam to accelerate its three-pillar economic reform plan that Deputy Prime Minister Ninh shared with the Obama Administration when he visited Washington earlier this year.
Meanwhile, our two countries continue to reap benefits from the U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) (2001) and Vietnam’s WTO accession (2007)—with total bilateral merchandise trade growing from $3 billion in 2002 to nearly $22 billion in 2011. Vietnam’s global exports also topped $95 billion in 2011.
I believe the U.S.-Vietnam BTA and our expanding trade partnership has contributed to an economic success story that has changed peoples’ daily lives in Vietnam for the better. Moreover, it has laid the groundwork for expanded cooperation in other areas, allowing the United States and Vietnam to realize the true partnership that we enjoy today.
Additionally, I applaud Vietnam’s central role in strengthening consensus and priorities among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) which represents 609 million people and one of the largest and most dynamic markets for American exporters.
These 10 member states have a collective GDP of nearly US$2.2 trillion, and the region’s merchandise trade with the United States has skyrocketed, rising from around $120 billion a year in 2002 to $194 billion in 2011—a growth of nearly 62 percent.
While challenges exist for U.S. firms looking to do business in Vietnam, U.S. businesses are increasingly finding the country a true emerging market. This trade mission will advocate for U.S. companies’ participation in major projects and facilitate collaborative partnerships between the delegation members and Vietnamese companies and government officials.
My organization, the International Trade Administration, has arranged numerous business matchmaking meetings, thus laying the groundwork for a successful trade mission.
During this mission, I plan to explore with stakeholders the best way to apply public-private partnership models to financing major infrastructure projects, as well as provide alternatives and supplements to official development assistance and other funding resources. These approaches can play an important role in attracting foreign direct investment to infrastructure and other sectors. I will also seek important updates on Vietnam’s commercial and structural reforms through our meetings with Vietnamese government leaders.
Looking forward, the United States highly values working with Vietnam as a negotiating partner to the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership, which has the potential to become one of the most economically robust free trade agreements of the 21st century.
U.S. businesses—offering some of the most innovative technologies and services available—are well-positioned and eager to help support Vietnam’s growing economy. Having led an education business development mission to Vietnam last year to help build its human resource infrastructure, I am enthusiastic about the prospects of returning once again to support this mission and to help bring important infrastructure deals to fruition.
Francisco J. Sánchez
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