Vietnam was abuzz as President Obama and members of his administration visited Vietnam last week, where they arrived in Hanoi for government meetings, discussions on bilateral issues and a review of multilateral and regional issues.
After Hanoi, the President visited Ho Chi Minh City to do a little bit of sight seeing and to address and meet with entrepreneurs, startups and members of the business community.
The President’s visit was timely are here are some of the highlights
- The President held meetings Vietnam’s President, Tran Dai Quang and then National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan and then held a joint press conference with President Quang.
The big news we were waiting for ... President Obama announced the normalization of relations between the USA and Vietnam, including the sales of military equipment to Vietnam.
Normalization is important and a BIG DEAL because it sends the message to the US and international business community that Vietnam is a country that they can do business with as an equal partner in international affairs.
- The President got to try one of Vietnam’s favorite foods, “Bun cha Ha Noi” and beers with celebrity chef, Anthony Bourdain. The two ate at a local restaurant in the capital, Bun Cha Huong Lien and Bourdain posted pictures of the President and him on Instagram.
The President will appear on an upcoming episode of “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown” which is broadcast on CNN. And just so the Presidents critics don’t get upset and criticize the President for unjustly using taxpayer funds, the dinner cost only $6- and Bourdain paid!
- The President’s spoke to more than 2,000 delegates, including top government and business leaders at the Vietnamese National Convention Center in Hanoi and talked about US and Vietnamese relations and the Trans Pacific Partnership.
The President also said that territorial disputes in the South China Sea should be “resolved peacefully” and said, “Big nations should not bully smaller ones and disputes should be resolved peacefully”.
The President also shared his views on the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement and echoed comments that Secretary of State John Kerry made the day before that the trade pact will be completed by the end of 2016.
Many Vietnamese businesses are worried that TPP won’t pass since current US presidential contestants – Clinton, Sanders and Trump have said they’re against the agreement and will either seek to change it (reopening negotiations with the other countries involved in TPP) or will veto the agreement.
My personal perspective – I hope that the Vietnamese government will make a contingency plan for TPP’s failure in the US and then move forward to create agreements with as many of the other TPP countries as possible.
Vietnam should not stop its economic development because of TPP’s failure in the USA.
- The US and Vietnam signed an agreement that will allow the US Peace Corps to work in Vietnam for the first time. The agreement follows more than 10 years of negotiations between the two countries and the new program will allow Peace Corps volunteers to teach English in schools in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
- The President visited Ho Chi Minh City and visited the Huoc Hai Pagoda, which is also called Ngoc Hoang (Jade Emperor) Pagoda in District 1. The Temple is 124 years old is and is famous for its intricate woodcarvings and sculptures. The visit to the temple was the only cultural visit that the President had time for in HCMC due to his tight schedule.
- The President gave a “boost” to Vietnamese entrepreneurs by speaking at two events, a digital entrepreneurs event at Dreamplex and a large event with 800 members of the Young Southeast Asian Leaders Initiative (YSEALI) at the GEM Center.
The President’s remarks were both encouraging and inspiring and Vietnamese who attended the YSEALI event said that the opportunity to see and hear the President was uplifting and gave them optimism that the future will be bright and fruitful.
The President’s attendance at these events also highlighted how much the business environment has changed and did cause some “hurt feelings” based upon the fact that President’s staff and the US Embassy in Hanoi and US Consulate in HCMC did not create opportunities for the President to meet members of the American business community.
American business people living in Vietnam would have loved the opportunity to have meet with the President and hear his thoughts and views. We know that the President’s schedule is extremely tight, but it’s unfortunate that the President’s staff did not schedule time for the President to interact with American men and women living in Vietnam.
I’d like to conclude this post by saying “President Obama – Thank you for your visit to Vietnam” - we welcome and feel energized by it. And being from Hawaii I would also like to say to my President:
Aloha nui loa ... e komo mai ... Ke akua pu a hui hou...
Welcome with much love ... enter and be at home ... God bless and see you again...