Under Secretary of Commerce For International Trade Francisco SÁnchez
Vietnam's 66th National Day Reception
Thursday, September 1, 2011
As prepared for delivery
Good evening and thank you all for that warm welcome.
At the outset, I want to thank Ambassador Cuong and the Vietnamese Embassy for hosting us tonight, and for their tremendous contributions to the international community.
Let me also recognize my colleagues in government who are here: Under Secretary Kennedy, Under Secretary Vickers, Deputy Under Secretary Polaski, Assistant Secretary Campbell and NASA Administrator Bolden.
It is a great honor for us to be with you tonight to celebrate the independence, the culture and the people of Vietnam as we approach this 66th National Day. Earlier this year, I had the privilege of leading a trade mission to Vietnam to promote higher education opportunities in the U.S. There were a number of highlights, including meeting with Deputy Prime Minister Nhan and several other ministers.
But just as memorable were the everyday experiences, like walking around in amazement because everyone was so collaborative — despite all the congestion in the streets.
To me, it was impressive to see up close how committed the Vietnamese people were to working together, growing together and succeeding together. This spirit of partnership is reflected in the fact that the poverty rate has dropped from 58 percent in 1993 to just 12 percent in 2009. And, I’m so thankful that this spirit of partnership now extends to our shores.
We all know the history between our two countries. There have been challenges.
But — over time — we’ve come to realize that we have a lot in common, that we share similar hopes for our children and our future.
And, we now recognize how important it is to build this future together.
Our gathering tonight is yet another reminder of the progress we’ve made. Diplomatically, we’ve come so far since the United States and Vietnam normalized relations in 1995.
We share a common national interest in an ever-widening range of regional and global issues, from security and economic development, to climate change, health and education. And, economically, we’ve made incredible strides since launching the US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement a decade ago. From our vantage point, Vietnam is becoming an increasingly important place to market our goods and services.
As many of you know, last year, President Obama launched the National Export Initiative. Vietnam is one of the markets we most want to do business with.
Last year, U.S. exports grew almost 20 percent over 2009. And, the benefits are flowing both ways. During the same time period, Vietnam’s exports to our country increased 21 percent — making the United States its third-largest trading partner and top export market.
The bottom line is: Our economic ties are booming. Vietnam is benefiting. The United States is benefiting. And, when both sides are winning, that is the sign of a great partnership, which is why we must build on our success.
Our two countries must continue to enhance our commercial relationship through such forums as Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and the World Trade Organization.
Let me also commend Vietnam for:
- Its leadership as Chair of ASEAN last year;
- Its contributions to APEC, both as host in 2006, and in helping us host this year;
- And, its work in the Trans-Pacific Partnership to push for trade and investment expansion in the Asia-Pacific Region.
With the help of Vietnam — and other TPP negotiating partners — we look forward to finalizing a comprehensive agreement that will incorporate a forward-looking approach to doing business, one that can serve as the platform for further APEC integration into the world economy.
We have a number of other opportunities ahead of us. I could go on and on. But the point is clear — our economic partnership is here to stay. Both sides are committed. Both sides are eager to work together. Both sides are ready to continue writing a new and prosperous chapter in our history.
This not only reflects us expanding our trade channels, or even opening our minds, it also reflects our changing hearts.
That’s why I’m honored to wish you—and the people of Vietnam — prosperity and good fortune in the year ahead.
Once again, thank you. It’s an honor to join you tonight. Enjoy the rest of your celebration.
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