Remarks by Ambassador Demetrios Marantis
Deputy United States Trade Representative
June 9, 2010
Foreign Trade University
*As Prepared for Delivery*
"And, 'cam on' to your University President and to Ambassador Michalak for those kind introductions. It is wonderful to be back in Vietnam and see so many familiar faces and old friends. I was looking forward to introducing you to my boss and President Obama’s U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk. After hearing me talk about my living in Hanoi for two years, I know Ambassador Kirk was very excited to come to a country that to me radiates dynamism and opportunity. Unfortunately, Ambassador Kirk was involved in car accident that forced him to cancel his travel. But I am glad to report that he is recovering well at home and is already looking for a time to reschedule his trip to Hanoi.
"Whenever I come to Vietnam, I try to find a few free minutes to visit the places that were home to me when I lived in Hanoi eight years ago. This week I woke up early one morning to see my old apartment on Hang Khay near Hoan Kiem Lake. Later I walked down Ly Thai To streetStreet to the former offices of the U.S.-Vietnam Trade Council where I used to work. I was happy to see the little shop where I always bought my tea and the stall whose pho ga I still crave.
"I think I take comfort in seeing a few familiar things in Vietnam, because everything else changes so quickly. The first time I travelled to Vietnam in 1993, the United States still had its embargo in place. We didn’t trade at all. When I came back to Vietnam in 2001, our countries had signed a bilateral trade agreement, and you were in the process of acceding to the World Trade Organization. Since then, Vietnam held a successful APEC host year, and the United States and Vietnam began negotiating a Bilateral Investment Treaty.
"Today, I am in Hanoi just a month short of the 15th anniversary of the re-establishment of diplomatic relations and in the middle of the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations in which Vietnam is a key partner.
"In the seventeen years since I first travelled to Vietnam, you never ceased to pursue your ambitions and seize new opportunities in international trade and investment. The United States couldn’t have a better partner, as President Barack Obama and Ambassador Kirk work to seize the opportunities of the 21st century in global trade.
"Earlier this year, President Obama released the annual Trade Policy Agenda for the United States. His vision of trade policy for the next year, and for the coming decade, is one that:
supports global economic recovery in a stronger trading system,
recognizes the value of strong ties with responsible partners, like Vietnam,
and opens new opportunities for the future – such as those we are seeking along with Vietnam in the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum and in the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
"The Obama Administration sees strong trade flows as a key component of world economic recovery.
"The recent economic crisis has shown the world two things: first, how interconnected all of us are in this global economy – and second, the vital importance of a robust, rules-based global trading system.
"World leaders committed during the economic downturn to keep markets open. And the World Trade Organization found that those pledges were largely kept. Member economies including the United States and Vietnam largely avoided the protectionism that might have made the crisis worse.
"The rules-based trading system proved its worth during this difficult time. And that is why Vietnam deserves such a large measure of congratulation and admiration for the challenging work you undertook to conclude the Bilateral Trade Agreement and join the WTO and for your robust participation in the global trading system.
"Cooperation for economic prosperity is another major goal of President Obama’s trade agenda.
"The U.S. relationship with Vietnam is one of the best possible examples of how far a relationship can come in a short period of time when partners are committed to growth.
"Vietnam deserves the admiration of the world for its rapid integration into the global trading system. As I mentioned, it was a mere 15 years ago that the United States and Vietnam renewed diplomatic ties. Shortly thereafter, Vietnam and the United States sat down at the table to negotiate the Bilateral Trade Agreement, which we sealed in 2001. This agreement enabled us to move our relationship forward, establishing normalized trade relations to complement our diplomatic ties. The United States was proud to support the implementation of the Bilateral Trade Agreement and help Vietnam advance its transition toward a market-oriented economy.
"By 2007, Vietnam had done the hard work and heavy lifting necessary to become a full member in good standing of the World Trade Organization. And now, just three years after your entry into the WTO, Vietnam is a key partner in one of the most ambitious trade agreements the United States has ever attempted to negotiate: the Trans-Pacific Partnership.
"Few countries can be credited with the determination and achievement that Vietnam has shown in building trade and investment ties with America and with the global economy. Global integration and domestic reforms have brought impressive income growth to Vietnam’s citizens and some of the most dramatic poverty reductions in recent times.
"The United States admires Vietnam’s achievements. And the United States values Vietnam’s 86 million people, not only as customers, but as friends and partners in trade and investment. We have great confidence in this relationship.
"The value and trust of this relationship lead us to continually seek new opportunities to deepen and strengthen our bilateral ties. And when we find ourselves in disagreement, those ties – plus our membership in the WTO – give us a common framework for addressing differences.
"In the U.S. view, enforcing the rights and benefits negotiated in trade agreements is an important part of ensuring a free and open system of global trade. This enforcement is a major component of President Obama’s Trade Policy Agenda, as efforts to address differences with our trading partners within a rules-based framework is an important part of maintaining public faith in the global trading system.
"As a friend of Vietnam, the United States will deal frankly and cooperatively with Vietnam on trade issues – both in areas of agreement and even disagreement, as we both seek to live up to our international commitments.
"Membership in the global rules-based trading system gives Vietnam not only rights and responsibilities, but also creates opportunities to be a part of the major shifts that we will see in global trade over the coming years.
"Just this weekend, I joined your Minister Hoang in Japan for a meeting of trade ministers from the APEC Forum. APEC is a vital vehicle for economic cooperation across this region. Together, trade ministers in Sapporo discussed what more APEC can do to deliver more substantive results and measurable benefits to its members – including regulatory cooperation, greater ease in doing business, jobs, and overall economic growth.
"The United States is hosting APEC in 2011. We see this as a chance to remind Americans of the importance of our relationship with the dynamic Asia-Pacific, including Vietnam – and also a chance for major advances in APEC. Building together on the accomplishments of 2010, we wish to construct a framework that will keep APEC’s trade and investment agenda on the cutting edge for the next 20 years.
"Of course, Vietnam is also a partner with seven other countries in a new and exciting venture: the Trans-Pacific Partnership negotiations. The TPP partners intend to shape a high-standard, broad-based regional trade agreement. It is our aim for the TPP to create a platform for economic integration we are seeking across the Asia-Pacific region. And the second round of negotiations begins in just a few days in San Francisco, California.
"These will be complex and challenging talks.
"The eyes of the Asia-Pacific are on you. Some are wondering if Vietnam can do what it takes to be part of the Trans-Pacific Partnership and others are wondering if you should do it. My response to the both these questions is absolutely ‘yes’. Vietnam can; the United States knows from watching and working with you in the past that Vietnam has the strong capacity to meet the international commitments it undertakes. And Vietnam should do what it takes to be part of the TPP, because your participation will enhance your own competitiveness and further your integration into the global economy.
"TPP partners are taking a new approach to trade negotiations – a 21st century attitude that reflects how companies from Hanoi to Houston will do business in the future. We want to ensure that small businesses benefit from this agreement, that it promotes development and regional integration and address key issues such as worker rights and environmental protection and conservation. These are priorities not only of the Obama trade agenda but of every forward-looking nation.
"The United States hopes that TPP will eventually grow to include countries across the Asia Pacific region. But to achieve something so ambitious, it is important to start with a group of like-minded countries. And we are exceedingly pleased that Vietnam is among them. As part of the TPP from the beginning, Vietnam will have the chance to shape the rules of what will become the most significant trade agreement in the Asia-Pacific. From our rich, recent history, there is every reason to believe that, t Vietnamthrough the TPP, Vietnam and the United States will continue to achieve together things that seemed impossible not long ago.
"What will it take to accomplish all of this? It will take the dedication not only of government officials like me, but of young and dynamic minds like you.
"Forging a new and modern relationship between the United States and Vietnam has been hard and challenging work. But in the last 15 years, we have learned a great deal about each other, and developed mutual trust and respect.
"Today, the outlook for our two countries could not be more promising. The United States looks at Vietnam with hope – hope that Vietnam will always be with us, and we with Vietnam, in a relationship of mutual prosperity for all our people. I am proud to be here with tomorrow’s Vietnamese leaders– you who will ensure that bright future.
"Much has changed in Vietnam since I first visited in 1993. But one thing remains the same: When our countries work together we can achieve great things.