Thank you, Minister Tuyen for that introduction, and thank you all for that warm welcome. On behalf of President Bush, Vice President Cheney and the US Delegation, let me convey warm greetings to you and the people of Vietnam. It’s a great pleasure to be here today, and to have the opportunity to be with all of you.
We are joined today by many distinguished guests, but I do want to acknowledge one person in particular. Ambassador Susan Schwab, President Bush’s nominee for United States Trade Representative, has joined us in Vietnam this week, and I am very pleased to be able to recognize her today. As many of you know, Susan has not only been a leader in international trade over the past 25 years, but she has also been a passionate supporter of strong US-Asia trade ties
We are fortunate the President made such a superb choice, and we look forward to her confirmation by the United States Senate very shortly.
Today is an historic day for the United States, for Vietnam, and for
the US-Vietnam bilateral relationship. Nearly 11 years ago, the United States and Vietnam laid out a roadmap for the normalization of relations between our two countries. Today, we mark the achievement of a major milestone in the fulfillment of that roadmap.
Today’s signing of this bilateral market access agreement is the culmination of years of hard work and preparation by both sides - 11 years, to be
As the Minister and my USTR colleagues can attest, this was not an easy agreement to reach, but that makes today’s signing all the sweeter. So today, we have the enviable task of signing on to an accord that clears the way for Vietnam to join the WTO and to receive permanent normal trade relations with the United States.
In completing this bilateral accord, Minister Tuyen and his Government have placed Vietnam firmly on the path of full membership in the rules-based, international trade system that offers so many benefits for producers and consumers throughout this nation. The United States, in turn, signs this agreement confident in the belief that it will open new markets to American exporters and will afford Americans back home greater access to a larger variety of goods from Vietnam.
This agreement comes at an exciting time in the economic relationship between our two countries. Vietnam is well along on a program of liberalization that has yielded impressive economic progress. Vietnam’s gross domestic product has more than doubled in the
past four years, from $23 to $45 billion. Through deregulation and expanded transparency, Vietnam is ‘tapping into the ingenuity and drive of its people. And Vietnam’s economy is attracting more and more foreign investment, which we believe is essential to sustaining that growth.
For the United States, too, this agreement comes at an auspicious moment, both in our bilateral relationship with Vietnam and also in our trade relations with the nations of Southeast Asia in general. Our exports to Vietnam have increased 150% in the last five years. Our overall trade with Vietnam has expanded to $7.8 billion, an increase of 400% over those same five years. It is clear that American companies recognize the potential of this new market, and are moving aggressively not only to offer their goods and services, but to invest here as well.
Today’s agreement is also evidence of our full engagement with Asia and the nations of Southeast Asia. There is no region of the world more important to the United States economic future than Asia, and we are working hard to strengthen and deepen our trade relations with the region. We recently announced formal negotiations for free trade agreements with Korea and Malaysia. And we continue to push for deepened trade relations with numerous other partners in the region.
Today’s agreement seeks to keep up the momentum in our trade relationship by committing Vietnam to make specific, substantial changes to its laws and trade policies. Vietnam has pledged, for example, to reduce the tariffs it applies to U.S. agricultural and manufacturing exports, to provide greater market access to U.S. services providers, and to eliminate subsidies to domestic industries so that the companies of our two nations can compete on a level playing field.
As a member of the WTO, Vietnam will enjoy both the responsibilities and benefits conferred by full participation in the international trading system. Those benefits - which include access to the markets of 150-plus WTO members and a place at the table for the trade talks that seek greater multilateral liberalization - bring with them the responsibility to abide by the rules that the WTO establishes, to enact and enforce fair and transparent trade laws, and to treat Vietnamese and WTO member companies alike.
We look forward to Vietnam’s full accession to the WTO in the very near future. In the United States, we will promptly seek the approval of our Congress for permanent normal trade relations status for Vietnam. In the WTO in Geneva, both sides will need to hammer out the final text of the accession agreement. We look forward to working with our Vietnamese colleagues and our fellow WTO members to see
this process through to a successful conclusion.
Before closing, I want to thank Minister Tuyen and his team, ably led by Vice Minister Tu and Mr. Khanh, and the US Government team, led by Assistant USTR Dorothy Dwoskin, for the dedication and very hard work that led to this occasion.
Let me also note the leadership and support of many in the U.S. Government from both Democratic and Republican Administrations over the past decade in getting us to today, including former US Trade Representatives Bob Zoellick and Rob Portman, and my predecessors as Deputy USTR.
I am privileged to represent the United States today as we take an historic step forward in
the process of building the economic relationship between the United States and Vietnam – a relationship that we believe holds great promise. My hope is that, working together on this and other initiatives, we can capitalize fully on that promise, to the benefit of both our countries.