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Vietnam-US relations: From cultural exchange to comprehensive strategic partnership
Son Nguyen 10:55, 2024/02/05
Thirty years after the lifting of the embargo, Vietnam and the US are now major economic, investment and trade partners.

Cultural exchange is the foundation of a warm relationship between Vietnam and the US, according to business leaders at a panel discussion held early this month on the Vetnam-US relations after the lifting of the trade embargo.

The chairman of multi-platform service company Beta Group said American culture has had a great impact on his self-development. He credited American-style movies for his career, saying these cinematic products shape his overall view of people striving to achieve good things in their lives.

  Specialists at the discussion panel. Photo: US Embassy in Hanoi

Recalling his experience, Bui Quang Minh said he started his business career in 2009 by opening a coffee shop in Hanoi. He expanded it into a franchise with six outlets, still lacking experience in business management and administration.

Having spent all his savings on the coffee shop project, Minh said he was at a loss as to how to expand the business.

"I don't know how to keep expanding my business. I don't know how to keep growing my business," he said. "I didn't even know it was possible to start a business, run it well and then talk to a fund or talk to an investor and try to get some kind of financial support to expand the business."

Minh then decided to sell his shops separately. He said he would have packed up the whole business and sold it outright, as is now common practice. He then went to Harvard and returned to Vietnam in 2014, where he founded the Beta Group.

"When I talk to young people, I can't think like you did when I was your age, because I didn't grow up in the environment you enjoy now," he said.

Many opportunities can be learned and adopted from the US, especially when these opportunities are brought about by the warm relations between Vietnam and the US, he said.

"Asian and Vietnamese cultures have a lot to offer the world," Minh said during the panel discussion.

"If we can find a way to integrate these values of Vietnamese philosophy and mindset with an international business model, maybe there's something we can create and offer to humanity."

Can Van Luc, chief economist of the Bank for Investment and Development of Vietnam (BIDV) and a member of the Vietnam National Committee for Pacific Economic Cooperation (VNCPEC), said cultural exchange was the most important component of Vietnam-US relations

He estimated that there are now about 24,000 Vietnamese studying and working in the US. On the other hand, about 750,000 American tourists visited Vietnam in 2023.

Luc expects the number of US travelers to Vietnam to reach one million soon.

Green energy, green growth

According to economist Can Van Luc, the Vietnamese government has identified renewable energy as one of its priorities to move the country towards a sustainable state.

Renewable energy now accounts for about 16% of total energy in Vietnam, he said, adding that Vietnam aims to increase this to 30% by 2030 and 60% by 2050.

The advantages are the long coastline, lots of wind, and lots of sunshine, Luc said. He urged US companies to invest in Vietnam's renewable energy sector and provide financial and technical support.

To achieve sustainability, Chairwoman of Deloitte Vietnam Ha Thu Thanh urged local businesses to improve their corporate governance and transparency to make their operations more sustainable.

Thanh noted that Vietnamese companies are still struggling with international sustainability standards, especially the Environment-Society-Governance (ESG) criteria set by the OECD.

"Good corporate governance practices and transparency will help Vietnamese companies attract foreign capital from the US to work on their projects," she said.

Bright future for both

The lifting of the embargo on February 3, 1994, was a major milestone that ushered in a new era of comprehensive partnership between Vietnam and the US.

After 30 years, the two nations have become major partners in economic activities, trade, and investment. Bilateral trade has increased more than 300-fold to reach a record US$139 billion in 2022.

According to the General Statistics, Vietnam and the US exchanged a total of US$111 billion worth of exports in 2023. This is the third consecutive year that bilateral trade has surpassed the $100 billion mark.

Vietnam is now the US's eighth-largest trading partner in the world and the largest in Southeast Asia. Meanwhile, the US is Vietnam's second-largest trading partner, buying about a third of Vietnam's total exports.

"We firmly believe in the importance of Vietnam in terms of global supply chains," said Marc E. Knapper, US Ambassador to Vietnam.

The ambassador was also enthusiastic about the prospects for Vietnam-US relations, highlighting the potential for development in the semiconductor and high-tech industries. "We very much welcome all the great market-oriented economic reforms that Vietnam has undertaken and its commitment and our commitment to work with Vietnam for a broad, enhanced, and supportive engagement as Vietnam continues its transition to a market economy," he said.

Economic expert Can Van Luc said that February 3, 1994, marked the beginning of Vietnam's global integration, which has brought great benefits to its people and businesses.

"Many other nations have looked at Vietnam and the US as very good examples of partnership. And we are very pleased with the development of the relationship between the two countries," he concluded.

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