May 19, 2017
Thank you very much Natasha for the introduction.
I’d like to express my very sincere thanks to President Tran Dai Quang for his support of this conference.
Mr. President, your presence here – and that of so many of your ministers – demonstrates clearly Vietnam’s commitment to collaborating with the private sector as you lead your country toward a prosperous future built on sustainable economic growth.
I look forward to your remarks and to each of the panels with great anticipation.
My thanks also to the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the American Chamber of Commerce, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and all of the corporate partners here today for helping establish this dialogue.
You’ve done a remarkable job, and I’m sure we’ll all come away from this with renewed energy to tackle the challenges that lie ahead.
For more than six months now, today’s theme – the future of U.S.-Vietnam bilateral economic relations – has been my focus.
It’s what many want to hear about, and that’s not surprising.
The U.S. withdrawal from TPP understandably left many here in Vietnam with unanswered questions.
My response to all has been consistent: U.S. policies may change as a natural result of the democratic process, but our fundamental interests in Vietnam remain the same.
The future of the U.S.-Vietnam bilateral economic relationship remains as bright as ever.
Our greatest interest, and the foundation of the future of that relationship, is the continued growth of trade between our countries.
With or without TPP, we live in a globally integrated economy, and within that system it’s simply not possible for two vibrant economies like ours to isolate themselves from each other.
With 93 million potential customers and one of the fastest growing economies in the world, Vietnam presents enormous opportunities both for the export of American products and for the investment of American capital.
Here’s an important statistic to prove my point: among top-tier export markets – and by that I mean countries that import over one billion from the U.S. — Vietnam has for the last two years been the world’s fastest growing market for American goods.
How can we ignore that?
U.S. businesses are clamoring to access those opportunities.
And I want to emphasize that the U.S. government stands ready to help in any way we can.
To be clear, there are still substantial obstacles we need to address.
Vietnam still maintains barriers to trade that affect U.S. producers in many industries – from pharmaceuticals and medical devices to electronics to agriculture – and this prevents U.S. businesses from competing on a level playing field. Vietnam’s system of state-owned enterprises crowds out small and medium enterprises and stifles innovation.
And Vietnamese courts have yet to gain the full trust of foreign investors.
This may sound a bit critical, but I hope it is taken in the spirit in which it was intended: as one partner speaking honestly to another partner.
Acknowledging our difficulties is the first step towards resolving them.
While testifying before Congress just a few weeks ago, our newly-confirmed U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer reiterated President Trump’s message that the United States will implement policy that aims to make trade freer and fairer, and that we will seek to enforce trade laws and agreements as they were written.
To that end, we will continue to work hard to break down barriers to trade and investment. We will help U.S. sellers connect with Vietnamese consumers.
We will work with U.S. investors so they can access the many opportunities that exist here in Vietnam.
We will continue to advocate for measures to make it easier for small and medium enterprises to do business here.
We wil share the best practices of the U.S. judicial system to build Vietnam’s capacity and bolster investors’ trust in the Vietnamese system.
Through the past few years of negotiation, Vietnam has unambiguously demonstrated its commitment to good-faith dialogue and a steady process of reform.
We made significant progress towards all of our goals during TPP negotiations, and I’m heartened that Vietnam in carrying on with much of that work.
I have no doubt that those continued efforts are being watched favorably by the firms represented here today.
A prosperous, stable, and globally-integrated Vietnam is a Vietnam that presents more opportunities for American businesses.
The United States has an undeniable interest in helping Vietnam meet its own development goals, and we will remain Vietnam’s close partner now and into a shared, prosperous future.
Thank you all very much for your kind attention.