Chairwoman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (AmCham) Virginia Foote told Hanoitimes a piece of history about a significant event that set the foundation for the current and future Vietnam- US relations.
|AmCham Chairwoman Virginia Foote. Photo: Quang Tan
It took more than five years for Vietnam and the US after diplomatic normalization in 1995 to ink the US – Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) [July 13, 2000]. Looking back, what is your view on the trade deal?
It was a very big agreement and more than just trade and goods, as there were also trade and services, as well as an investment chapter. Overall, it was a very comprehensive trade agreement so we had to take bit by bit.
During the process, we had some periods when both sides were very angry and nothing happened for months. Then we came back together and kept working on it.
In the end, it took longer than we thought [for the deal to complete], but when we look back to the past, it seems quite logical that the deal took a long time. Because it was a difficult set of issues that Vietnam needed to absorb, look at and understand how it would be good for your country as well as for the US.
Mr. Tran Dinh Luong [Vietnam’s Chief Negotiator] and the BTA are very important pieces of history that showed how individuals and groups of people working together can achieve great historic accomplishment and make a difference for countries.
I know Vietnam think the BTA made the difference for your country, but it also made a big difference in the US, of how to go from war to peace, from enemy to friendship.
It was a very important process for both countries.
Over two decades after signing the BTA, how do you see the role of the trade deal in Vietnam – US relations?
I think over 20-25 years have shown that the trade deal was a very important framework for our business and trade relations. It has served us all very well as a fundamental foundation in economic relations between Vietnam and the US. Later on, it proved to be the most important document for our relationship.
|Vietnam's Trade Minister Vu Khoan and US Trade Representative Robert Zoellick sign the deal in December 2001. File photo
What do you think about the prospect of a US – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement? Is there a big gap for both sides to overcome and realize this deal?
Of course, I was very sad when the US pulled out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP, currently known as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership - CPTPP).
But I think it could be that the new US administration would look at the role of a free trade agreement. Right now, I think they are still assessing it, but a deal could become a reality in the future.
A free trade agreement has significant meaning and I think this is well-known in Washington, so I hope it would come very soon.
Meanwhile, there is a gap for two sides to overcome, but it is not to big of an issue. Much of what the US and Vietnam negotiated in TPP, the country has implemented it and has moved forward.
I think there will be new things to work on, including the whole area of digital economy that is new for all countries. There will be a gap, but not insurmountable.
As one of the major contributors to the US – Vietnam relations, what do you think about the future for this relation and its importance for the region?
I think the US – Vietnam relations have been getting bigger, deeper, stronger and wider. From my view, almost every year, we have been very successful in continuing to expand that relationship.
The US is very interested in the region and Vietnam. Through education, trade, tourism, and many other areas, we have built a deeper and stronger friendship. And I see nothing but good thing for the future.
Thank you for your time!