(Hanoi, Vietnam)—The US-ASEAN Business Council (US-ABC), following its Board of Directors meeting December 12 in Hanoi, met with Prime Minister of Vietnam Nguyễn Xuân Phúc. The delegation of board directors, led by outgoing US-ABC Chairman Keith Williams and President & CEO Alexander Feldman, discussed the strong bilateral relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam, as well as priorities for Vietnam’s 2020 Chairmanship of ASEAN.
2019 marked the 25th anniversary of the establishment of economic relations between the U.S. and Vietnam, while 2020 will celebrate the anniversary of official diplomatic relations between the two countries. Over the past 25 years, U.S. businesses have brought capital, corporate governance, and training programs to Vietnam. The Council and its members played an important role in maintaining and growing these robust economic and commercial relationships. For example, three member CEOs presented briefings on the digital economy at the 2016 Sunnylands Summit where the US-ASEAN Internship Program, offering internship opportunities to ASEAN students at top U.S. companies originated. The US-ABC along with the U.S. Mission to ASEAN co-operate the US-ASEAN Internship Program which currently offers over 200 internship possibilities at companies including Apple, GE, Marriott, Seagate and UPS.
Although the overall relationship between the United States and Vietnam continues to be strong, the Trump administration has expressed concern over the trade deficits across Asia, and one of America’s fastest growing deficits in 2019 is with Vietnam. The meeting focused on identifying areas where U.S. businesses can support greater economic cooperation with Vietnam, particularly in areas of high growth such as infrastructure, technology, aviation, and financial services. President Trump invited all 10 ASEAN leaders to a Special Leaders Summit in the United States which will likely take place in early 2020. The Council will seek continued engagement with the Government of Vietnam leading up to the proposed ASEAN Leaders Summit.
For the first nine months of 2019, Vietnam is currently the United States’ 13th largest trading partner with a total trade value of $64.52 billion. In 2018 it ranked number 17. U.S. Exports to Vietnam for the first nine months of 2019 totaled $9.12 billion while U.S. imports from Vietnam totaled $55.39 billion, a deficit of $46.27 billion. Over this period, imports from Vietnam rose 33.93% year-on-year, according to Census Bureau data.
For Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship in 2020, Prime Minister Phúc articulated his vision for a “Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN” with the goal of upholding stability, solidarity, and unity through economic and cultural links. Furthermore, 2020 will mark the halfway point to completing the Master Plan on building the ASEAN Community by 2025, and Vietnam’s chairmanship is an opportunity to boost the community’s development.
Mr. Keith Williams, CEO of Underwriters Laboratories (UL) and Chairman of the US-ABC Board of Directors, acknowledged the U.S. business community’s ongoing commitment to Vietnam especially next year as Vietnam Chairs ASEAN.
“I am now completing my fourth and final year as Chair of the US-ASEAN Business Council, and I am excited and very honored that Prime Minister Phúc has accepted our invitation to receive the Board of Directors this afternoon.” said Keith Williams, CEO UL. “Vietnam is an important growth market for our business. Our investments here support local manufactured products to meet global standards and requirements for export markets. In addition, our research in safety science goes toward helping safe, secure and sustainable living and working environments in Vietnam.”
“As UL demonstrates, Vietnam has been an attractive destination for American trade and investment in recent years because of the leadership of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phúc and his cabinet” said Alexander Feldman, President and CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council. “The Prime Minister and his team have engaged U.S. business as a key stakeholders in the Vietnamese economy and have addressed the challenges which our companies face in Vietnam in a constructive manner that helps improve the business environment and create new opportunities. In the first three quarters of 2019, Vietnam’s GDP growth reached 7.0 percent—the highest rate for any similar period in the last 9 years. American businesses look forward to playing a role in the continued growth in Vietnam as well as supporting growth across the ASEAN region.”
Directors that were part of the delegation included Mr. Keith Williams, Chairman of the US-ABC Board and CEO of UL; Mr. Sajeev Jesudas, President International at Underwriters Laboratories; Mr. Craig Smith, Group President for Asia Pacific at Marriott; Mr. Philip Myers, SVP of Global Public Policy and Government Affairs at PepsiCo; Ms. Kawal Preet, SVP of Operations at FedEx; Mr. Mike Orgill, General Manager for Southeast Asia at Airbnb and Mr. Alexander Feldman, President and CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council. The Council’s Board of Directors meeting was hosted at the J.W. Marriott Hotel, Hanoi.