John Rockhold, the newly-appointed Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce (AmCham Vietnam) and AmCham Hanoi, told The Hanoi Times about his plans and expectations on the growing relationship between Vietnam and the US after he was elected to the position.
|AmCham Vietnam's Chairman John Rockhold (L) and AmCham Hanoi's Executive Director Adam Sitkoff (R). Photo: AmCham|
Congratulations on your new role at AmCham Vietnam. How do you feel about taking on this new position?
Thank you for your kind words. Back in early 1994, around the same time, that Amazon was founded and Justin Bieber was taking his first breaths, a small group of Americans held AmCham’s first meeting at the Dragon Hotel near West Lake. AmCham then began holding small monthly meetings on the top floor of the Army Hotel in Hanoi.
We organized many activities for members of the community in those early days including lunches with visiting government officials, softball games, a traditional Thanksgiving holiday dinner in the former conference hall of the Metropole Hotel, and the first American Independence Day celebration in over 40 years in Hanoi.
Since then, AmCham members have contributed significantly to the transformation and growth of Vietnam’s economy. It is with great humility that I take on the position as Chairman this year to strengthen AmCham as the voice of American business in Vietnam in order to create a competitive and sustainable business climate for companies and investors here.
I very much look forward to working with my AmCham colleagues to ensure the organization’s ongoing success.
What will you do to promote business and investment cooperation between the US and Vietnamese businesses during your tenure?
AmCham’s mission is to increase trade and investment between the US and Vietnam and our diverse membership of agriculture, retail, education, manufacturing, services, and the not-for-profit sector is unified by a common commitment to the principles of free trade, open markets, private enterprise and the unrestricted flow of information.
We support the success of our members by promoting a healthy business environment, strengthening bilateral commercial ties, and providing high-quality activities and information for members. AmCham provides trade information and guidance for companies seeking new business contacts or for those wishing to establish operations in Vietnam or in the US, as well as a forum where knowledge and experience can be exchanged among members and prominent guest speakers.
Recently, we have worked to strengthen our relationship with many provinces in Vietnam and have set up small chapters in Vietnam’s central region to promote increased trade and investment ties. As major investors here, American companies have an interest in Vietnam’s continued success. We believe that the business climate can best be helped by actions that increase productivity and reduce the costs and risks of doing business in Vietnam.
More importantly, decreasing the cost and complication of doing business will benefit Vietnamese-owned businesses-many of which are small businesses-and will spur entrepreneurship which will ensure Vietnam’s future competitiveness and growth. Our members see great opportunity and a bright future here.
AmCham will continue to work on lowering barriers to trade, to help the Vietnamese government make it easier to do business, and to create a high-standard, transparent, and stable business environment to ensure that all investors have fair access to that opportunity.
|State President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Boeing leaders at a meeting in New York in September 2021. Photo: Boeing|
What are the visible challenges that could impact this growing relationship between the two sides to advance? Based on what factors do you think it is possible to overcome those?
It is a credit to the Vietnamese and American people that our two countries have been able to move beyond the tragedies of our shared past to build such a vibrant and strong friendship. One of the relationship’s strengths is its multifaceted nature. Economically, the US is a key trading partner and investor for Vietnam, and the US remains the largest export market for Vietnam, even during this terrible pandemic.
Politically, Vietnam and the US share the same interest: peace and stability in East Asia, and mitigating the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic that has upended lives, jeopardized employment for millions, and disrupted the global trading system on which both nations depend.
Our countries now have a strong friendship anchored in mutual respect and work closely in many areas including regional security, education, global health, food and energy security, disaster response, and more. Of equal importance are cultural links. The US has the largest population of Vietnamese people outside Vietnam.
Americans of Vietnamese ancestry are playing a critical role in Vietnam’s development. Their investment, as well as their talent and entrepreneurship, have helped drive Vietnam’s impressive economic growth.
In addition, there are over 30,000 young Vietnamese people studying in the US, where they are acquiring much-needed skills and knowledge. And now we also have new direct flights between our two countries.
Together, AmCham members represent billions of dollars in foreign investment, tens of thousands of direct employees, hundreds of thousands of indirect employees, and a significant share of Vietnam’s exports and tax revenues. Business activity started slowly for Americans here but now we see US companies and investors active in almost every sector of Vietnam’s economy.
Right now, there are many reforms that can make it easier to do business here. The most important factor for a favorable investment climate is to ensure a fair, transparent, predictable, and streamlined regulatory environment that values innovation-not only to attract new investment, but also to maintain and grow the investment already here.
As looking towards the future, we hope both governments can begin efforts towards a bilateral Free Trade Agreement. This would improve investment and trade flows, assist sustainable supply chains, and improve business conditions that strengthen the private sector, ensure sustainable economic and social development, and promote prosperity here.
Thank you for your time!