Mr. Prime Minister, Ministers, honored guests.
First, I would like to thank Tom Donohue. As he says, we are old friends. I was thinking that when we first met, we were the youngest people in every room we went into. That will give you some idea how long ago it was. Now we sit down and talk to the children of the people we were in rooms with.
I’d like to thank the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Alex Feldman and the U.S. ASEAN Business Council for hosting this gala dinner.
It is a genuine honor and a great pleasure to be here this evening to welcome Prime Minister Phuc and his distinguished delegation to Washington.
Some of you may know that a week ago, I attended the APEC ministers meeting in Hanoi. I had the opportunity to discuss trade issues with the Prime Minister and with Trade Minister Anh.
The APEC meeting was a great success. I would like to again thank the hosts for all of their hard work in moving the agenda forward and in organizing the very important ministerial.
And I know all of us in the U.S. government look forward to returning to Vietnam for the APEC Economic Leaders Meeting in November.
As the Trump Administration begins to advance its agenda for free and fair trade, Prime Minister Phuc’s visit to Washington is a timely and important opportunity for our two countries to reflect on the impressive growth of our bilateral relationship over the past two decades.
Working closely together, our trade and investment ties have grown significantly since we normalized relations in 1995.
In 2001, we signed a Bilateral Trade Agreement to serve as a roadmap for increased cooperation on economic reforms in Vietnam.
The United States and Vietnam worked together to fulfill those commitments, which served as a stepping-stone towards Vietnam’s WTO accession.
And in January 2007, Vietnam became the WTO’s 150th member.
That year we also began to further strengthen our ties through a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement.
We have made significant progress since then in trade in goods, agriculture sales, and services.
Yet, we still have a lot of work to do. Over the last decade, our bilateral trade deficit has risen from about $7 billion to nearly $32 billion.
This concerning growth in our trade deficit presents new challenges and shows us that there is considerable potential to improve further our important trade relationship.
Prime Minister Phuc is uniquely positioned to help us achieve that objective.
Since becoming Prime Minister in 2016, he has shown that he is committed to maintaining high economic growth and promoting Vietnam’s competitiveness and integration into the global economy.
He has focused on tackling graft and corruption, and promoting broad economic reform, including continuing to privatize Vietnam’s state-owned-enterprises.
Before becoming Prime Minister, he served in a series of important positions at the provincial and national level that gave him experience in economic management and a recognition of the importance of economic reform to the country’s future growth and regional and global competitiveness.
The Prime Minister has shown true leadership and a deep understanding of how to advance his economic goals and a deep commitment to further the U.S.-Vietnamese ties.
We very much look forward to his thoughts tonight on his important economic agenda and his views on how we can continue to develop our relationship.
Please join me in giving a warm welcome to the Prime Minister of the Government of Vietnam.