TPP Workshop: MPI Academy of Policy and Development

(as prepared)

Speech by Ambassador Ted Osius
Thursday, December 10, 2015

Good morning. Thank you for your kind introduction.

Vice Minister Nguyen The Phuong, thank you for those insightful remarks.

I would also like to recognize some of our speakers and panel members:

Mr. Dao Van Hung, President of the Academy of Policy and Development; Le Van Tang, former director general of the Public Procurement Agency, MPI; Mr. Nguyen Hoai Nam, deputy general secretary of Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters & Producers; And my good friend Ginny Foote, the new AMCHAM governor.

I am excited to return to ADP for this very important workshop.

It has been two months since Vietnam, the United States, and 10 other member states completed negotiations on the TPP, sealing a historic trade pact that will integrate nearly 40 percent of the world’s GDP.

We have been in a celebratory mood since then—well deserved, after years of intensive and at times very difficult negotiations.

But now, in workshops like these, the hard work begins again.

I’m encouraged that Vietnam is, as we say in the U.S., “taking the bull by the horns.”

And I believe that Vietnam, although the smallest TPP economy in per capita terms, has some distinct advantages moving forward.

First, Vietnam has a confidence and determination borne of experience.

I was a young political officer in Hanoi in 1995, the early days of Doi Moi.

I watched a country in the process of transforming its entire economic system—an undertaking requiring the redirection of enormous economic as well as political and social forces.

Since returning as ambassador, I have seen a country with a strong sense of validation for having chosen the right course…and sticking with it.

In the past 20 years, Vietnam has achieved an economic growth rate second only to China’s—reducing poverty levels and growing the ranks of its middle class.

The government’s commitment to improve the efficiency and inclusiveness of future growth is evident in the pillars of its five-year plan.

This is another advantage: Vietnam’s leaders understand they need to do better in balancing the speed of economic progress with the quality of that progress.

That is how a small economy gets admitted to a high-standard, rules-based free-trade agreement with some of the world’s economic giants.

Vietnam is ready to compete on equal footing on a platform that will, yes, spur economic growth and enhance competitiveness, but also raise standards in environmental sustainability, in labor, in health care, in education, and in women’s, children’s, and minorities’ rights.

Building such an unprecedented platform will be a challenge for all TPP members, undoubtedly.

But the opportunities are immense.

Which brings me to Vietnam’s next advantage.

Vietnam stands to be the biggest beneficiary of TPP.

TPP will provide access to markets capturing approximately 10 percent of the world’s population, and representing huge upside for Vietnamese export industries like footwear, textiles, seafood, and some agricultural products.

At the same time, the adoption of international standards will accelerate investment in people, equipment, and technology, modernizing existing industries and diversifying the economy into new ones.

I’m sure many of you have seen the analyses from various research organizations.

There are predictions that Vietnam:

  • Will see the biggest gain in real GDP growth: 11 percent additional growth in 10 years.
  • Will see the biggest percent gain in investment: 25-30 percent.
  • Will see export volume surge over 28 percent by 2025.

Such an outlook provides a powerful motivator as Vietnam’s leaders, including the group assembled here, strive to make tremendous reforms in the next two years, some of them very difficult, in preparation for TPP’s entry into force.

And I don’t want to downplay the hard road ahead.

At the U.S. embassy, we meet with American companies every week.

They are looking to making big moves in Vietnam.

But they also raise concerns:

They wonder whether Vietnam can move fast enough to strengthen the rule of law and level the playing field, especially in property rights and the enforcement of competition policy.

They look at the state of industrial relations and current legislation and question Vietnam’s preparedness to meet international labor standards.

They are aware of Vietnam’s declining productivity growth and question whether its workers will have the skills needed to move up the value chain.

They see the acute need for a backbone of modern services and improved infrastructure to connect to global trade partners.

But I believe that in 2016 we have an excellent window of opportunity to position Vietnam for success.

We have momentum from the TPP signing.

We have a country with lot of positive energy among its leaders and citizens for deeper economic integration.

We also have some potent forces to bring to bear, among the U.S. government, other TPP partners, industry, and forward-thinking leaders in Vietnam, united by a common interest in seeing Vietnam move from “TPP aspirant” to “TPP implementer.” We stand ready to assist Vietnam as it builds capacity and aligns its laws and policies with its TPP commitments.

Today we have an excellent forum to build understanding of TPP requirements and build strategies for Vietnam to meet these requirements.

I’m looking forward to the upcoming presentations and panel discussion. I know we’re going to generate some great ideas.

Thank you once again for your time and attention.

I wish all of you health and great success in all your work.