Speech by Ambassador Ted Osius at “Meet the USA” Conference

Ambassador Osius at “Meet the USA” Conference

Hanoi, March 23, 2016


Good afternoon, everyone. [Hanoi People’s Committee] Chairman [Nguyen Duc] Chung, [Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs] Minister [Le Hoai] Trung, thank you for participating in our inaugural “Meet the USA” conference. Ambassador Long, I would be remiss if I did not recognize you as the driving force behind this event.

This is the first time we’ve hosted such a conference. We didn’t know what to expect, but the turnout has been fantastic: over 50 U.S. companies representing an impressive array of small, medium and large enterprises.

One thing that my Embassy team knows is that you can’t truly understand Vietnam—its people, its culture, or, yes, its economy—from a seat in Hanoi or in HCMH. You have to get out in the provinces. And we have done a very good job in this respect. I’m not trying to boast…ok, maybe I am…but my team and I visited all 63 of Vietnam’s provinces in 2015. In January of this year, I led 20 American and Vietnamese cyclists on a 7-day bike ride from Hà Nội to Huế. An expedition we called Hành Trinh Mới—a new journey. During these trips, I always try to get a first-hand look at what American companies are doing. And I’ll tell you, the breadth and depth of U.S. business activities are pretty impressive.

One of the main objectives of this conference is to discuss how Vietnam’s different economic regions can attract U.S. investment and raise provincial competitiveness. With such a diversified range of trade and investment activities, there is no one “cookie-cutter” solution.

But there are some overarching themes:

  • Across the board, U.S. companies need confidence and security in their investments here. This means a level playing field, especially in terms of property rights and rules of competition that are clear and well enforced. These are reforms that must be led at the national level.
  • Second, companies are looking for a labor force with the skills and education to compete in an integrated global economy, especially as they plan to move their operations up the value chain.
  • And finally, they need a backbone of modern services and infrastructure allowing them to connect to their global trade networks.

But this is not a one-way street. It’s not a set of unilateral expectations. At the end of the day, it’s about partnership. And I’m very proud of the corporate culture that American companies have brought to Vietnam—how strategically they have invested in the development of an emerging partner with tremendous potential.

I want to leave you with this thought:

2016 is a decisive year for Vietnam. Its leaders have promised the people regional and global integration, and now they must begin delivering. It’s a formidable road ahead to meet the milestones laid out by TPP and other free trade agreements. But there is a triangle of support to help Vietnam down this road, formed by foreign governments, international organizations, and global industry. The private sector has become particularly vital, because on some of the toughest issues, like international labor standards, industry can lead the way far better than government. But we all stand ready to make this Hành Trình Mới—this new journey—together.

{In Vietnamese} Thank you again for participating today. I wish all of you health and great success in all your work.