Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam
Thursday, February 23, 2017
Good morning everybody. I am very pleased to join you in today’s workshop.
I’ve been a student of the Vietnamese language for many years now, and I’ve learned it is rich in wise proverbs. For instance: Trong cái rủi có cái may. In English, we might say something like “inside every challenge, there’s an opportunity.”
I like that phrase, because it’s a powerful way to think about problems.
As Vietnam develops and integrates into the global economy, it faces some substantial challenges. Some of these are common to any rapidly developing country, and some are unique to Vietnam’s geography, its history, and its neighborhood.
For instance, Vietnam needs energy to power its development. With your economy growing at more than 6.5% a year, with your people getting richer, and with even more foreign investment coming your way, that’s the need for energy is a certainty.
And at the same time, we appreciate how Vietnam is thinking hard about its budget, and how to spend its tax dollars wisely.
And of course Vietnam is also working to protect its waterways, and especially the precious Mekong River – the Nine Dragon River – as it faces threats coming from rising sea levels, changing weather patterns, increased salinization, decreased flows, and industrial pollution.
Those are big challenges, and they will take creativity and wisdom to resolve.
But they are also opportunities. Opportunities to drive change, and to build a stronger, more prosperous, and more independent future for your country.
It is those opportunities that I am so excited to discuss with you here today. Our friends at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, working together with specialists at The Stimson Center, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature, the Nature Conservancy, and the University of California at Berkeley, have organized this workshop to discuss how all these challenges can drive positive development for Vietnam and for the region.
Vietnam’s demand for energy is forecast to grow at a rate of 11 percent per year for the next several years. This huge energy demand can be harnessed as a driver of change. Change in the way energy is produced, and in the way it’s bought and sold inside Vietnam. Change in the relationships between Vietnam and its neighbors, who seek markets for their energy and reliable business partners. And change in the way the region thinks about its most valuable common asset: the Mekong River and its tributaries.
Of course it won’t be easy. Significant change – even when that change is positive – is almost always difficult, and requires great ingenuity and determination. But Vietnam already has very powerful minds working on these problems, many of them right here in this room. And it has partners and friends in the international community – again, many of them here today and tomorrow to discuss solutions.
And so I’m proud of the role our Embassy is playing in supporting this dialogue.
I’ll close with one more Vietnamese proverb: Cái khó ló cái khôn. With adversity brings wisdom.
Thank you, Dr. Tung, for inviting me to speak, and thanks to all those gathered here for turning their collective wisdom to the challenges at hand. I’m looking forward to hearing about the outcome, and to engaging with all of you in the weeks and months ahead.
Finally, I wish you all good health and happiness. May our workshop be successful.