How attractive is Vietnam to U.S. companies?
The prospects of economic cooperation between the United States and Vietnam are tremendous. I have been back to the U.S. for a couple of times and everyone has come to me and all are interested in Vietnam.
Any U.S. companies that are interested in investing in Southeast Asia are interested in being in Vietnam. A tremendous number of companies are asking us questions. They are coming here and learning about Vietnam and looking for opportunities in Vietnam. I think this will continue.
You have stated that the U.S. will become the No. 1 investor in Vietnam. When will this happen?
By some accounts, it already is. Because some companies like Pepsi
, Coca-Cola and Intel
invest through Singapore or through a third country. So if you take into account all the third-country investments, probably the U.S. is already at least the No. 2 or No. 3 [investor].
I don’t think it’s gonna take very long. U.S. companies are not waiting for the entry into force [of TPP
]. They are betting on Vietnam and making investment decisions now.
U.S. companies are interested in many sectors in Vietnam: manufacturing, agriculture, services, and information technology. When Vietnam moves up in the value chain, it will not just be producing apparel and footwear, but also high value-added products.
How about the challenges that Vietnam is facing?
There are challenges. Vietnam still has a long way to go to meet some of the commitments made in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
I have been in other countries for 20 years. And if you bet on the Vietnamese people, you always win, because Vietnam has always resisted to the challenges. Vietnam has the BTA [Bilateral Trade Agreement] with the U.S., it implemented its commitments. When Vietnam joined the WTO, it also implemented its commitments.
I am absolutely confident that Vietnam will implement its commitments in the TPP. It’s not easy, but I’ve seen great unity in Vietnam’s commitment to take full advantage of TPP and other FTA opportunities.
What will the U.S. do to support Vietnam in overcoming the challenges?
First of all, we will provide technical assistance in areas such as implementing labor commitments, environmental commitments, etc. But that’s not enough.
The real importance is that businesses also have to contribute to this process. As I said in my remarks, it’s a triangle: The two governments and businesses all working together to ensure that Vietnam takes full advantage of its involvement in TPP.
Vietnam is not alone in this process. The international community, especially TPP members will support Vietnam in this process. Companies will support Vietnam as well, because companies stand benefit from Vietnam’s success.
A number of provincial leaders are present here to invite U.S. companies to invest. How do you see this?
They are a lot. We didn’t anticipate this strong turnout. There are 40 leaders from provinces, and representatives from more than one hundred companies here.
Vietnam is taking important decisions to further its comprehensive international integration. Joining the TPP and other free trade agreements suggests Vietnam is very serious about pursuing this policy.
And companies want to be a part of that. They are concerned about investment in other countries, so they are looking more seriously at Vietnam than they did in the past.
What commitments have provincial leaders made?
We have been doing the Provincial Competitive Index (PCI) along with the VCCI for a number of years and we see that provinces are competing with one another to show greater transparency, smoother administrative procedures. They are trying to create better investment climates. And the winner is the people of Vietnam.
Thank you very much!
U.S.-based companies directly invested $11.1 billion in nearly 700 projects in Vietnam as of August 2015, ranking seventh among countries and territories investing in the Southeast Asian country.
In the first 11 months last year, U.S. businesses pumped more than $226 million in investments into Vietnam, ranking 14th among 57 foreign investors in the country, according to the Foreign Investment Agency.