Robert D. Hormats
Under Secretary for Economic Growth, Energy, and the Environment
Hanoi, Vietnam
March 20, 2012

As prepared for delivery


I would like to thank the AmCham for hosting this luncheon today and to all of you for coming.

All of you are on the cutting edge of a bilateral economic relationship that is growing in leaps and bounds.

Not only are U.S. exports to Vietnam expanding rapidly – from $3.1 billion in 2009 to $4.3 billion in 2011 – but the number of U.S. companies invested in Vietnam also is proliferating, as is evidenced by your presence here today.

I’m looking forward to learning from all of you today about how we can further strengthen the U.S.-Vietnam economic relationship.

I want to take a moment to thank Adam Sitkoff from AmCham Hanoi and Sesto Vecchi from AmCham Ho Chi Minh City for their participation in Secretary Clinton’s Global Business Conference last month in Washington.

It was the first-ever Global Business Conference at the State Department in Washington. We brought together senior U.S. officials with more than 160 business leaders from over 120 countries.

The Global Business Conference had one goal: to figure out how the United States can make it easier for companies to do business internationally and create American jobs.

The State Department and Economic Statecraft

Now you may be asking yourselves “Why is the State Department spending so much time thinking about the U.S. economy and America’s commercial interests abroad? This is not something the State Department has spent so much time worrying about in the past.”

Strengthening the U.S. economy and creating jobs is a top priority back home. With the launch of the President’s National Export Initiative in early 2010, all agencies with a role in U.S. international trade, including the Department of State, were asked to play a more active role in export promotion. And given the numbers of state of the U.S. economy, no issue is more important today.

In addition, Secretary Clinton recognizes “that America’s economic strength and our global leadership are a package deal and that you’re not going to have one without the other.”

In a speech she delivered last fall describing this challenge, she said “Our power in the 21st century depends not just on the size of our military but also on what we grow, how well we innovate, what we make, and how effectively we sell. Rising powers like China, India, and Brazil understand this as well, and we can’t sit on the sidelines while they put economics at the center of their foreign policies.”

And so the State Department is engaging in Economic Statecraft. That was why we hosted the Global Business Conference, and brought together senior U.S. government officials and U.S. multinational business executives from around the world to exchange information and ideas on how best to shape our work going forward.

At the time of the conference, the Secretary announced the creation of “Jobs Diplomacy,” a series of programs to promote American business competitiveness overseas and equip Foreign Service Officers with the skills and tools they need to better advocate for America’s economic interests abroad.

Through the Jobs Diplomacy initiative, the Secretary stated her commitment to meet with business leaders on every foreign trip. She also launched the “Direct Line to American Business” program, in which ambassadors in key markets are being asked to conduct regular conference calls to brief the U.S. business community on economic opportunities in their countries, as well as answer questions.

But, very importantly for this audience, the Secretary also fully recognizes the positive role played by U.S. companies that are investing overseas.

While export promotion remains a critical component of the U.S. government’s support of business, we also recognize that working with foreign governments to improve their investment environments for companies like yours here in Vietnam also benefits the U.S. economy.

Economic Shift to Asia

I don’t need to tell you that much of future global economic growth will be centered in the Asia-Pacific.

Asian economies and populations are growing rapidly and so are the opportunities to expand our exports to the region.

In 2011, the United States exported nearly $900 billion in goods to APEC countries. That’s more exports than we sent to any other group of regional economies.

We hope that our economic shift to Asia has been obvious and beneficial. We were able to get KORUS passed, we hosted a successful APEC year in 2011, and we are increasing our engagement with ASEAN.

In Southeast Asia in particular, the U.S. government is looking to launch a couple of new initiatives to support our private sectors interests in the region.

The U.S. Trade Development Agency (USTDA) is leading a Connectivity Cooperation Initiative with ASEAN. As part of this effort, TDA is planning to hold a workshop on “Smart Grid and Power Transmission” with ASEAN in July.

In addition, the State Department is collaborating with the U.S. ASEAN Business Council to organize a Lower Mekong Initiative Infrastructure Best Practices Exchange.

We want to look for innovative ways to be more proactive in Southeast Asia – to partner with ASEAN and to help give a boost to U.S. business interests.

Rules-based System

As we make this shift to Asia, though, it is imperative that we do it in the right way.

The decisions Asia’s emerging economies make together with the United States will help govern a rules-based system that will guide us through the 21st century. If we get the rules right, all of our countries will prosper together.

The Trans Pacific Partnership is a big part of forging this new system.

TPP members, including the United States and Vietnam, are working to complete the TPP negotiations as expeditiously as possible, recognizing that all members need to share a high level of ambition for this agreement.

As we build a more prosperous future through the TPP and other initiatives, we should be clear.

We are striving to build a global, rules-based system in which all businesses stand a chance to succeed. Secretary Clinton has clearly articulated our vision that economic competition should be open, free, transparent, and fair.

In the case of Vietnam, this vision should include enhanced protection of intellectual property rights. While Vietnam has made some progress in this area, I know I don’t need to tell you that Vietnamese enforcement agencies are overwhelmed by high levels of copyright and patent infringements, counterfeiting and piracy, internet piracy, and fake goods.

The U.S. Government will continue to cooperate with Vietnam to improve intellectual property protection here, including by providing training and technical assistance to Vietnamese enforcement agencies.

Our vision of open, free, transparent and fair competition also will need to include continued discussions with Vietnam on the proper role of its state-owned enterprises.

We will continue to advocate for policies that support “competitive neutrality.” In other words, while we do not object to SOEs per se, we do not believe they should enjoy unfair advantages from government support that private companies – including U.S. companies – do not receive.

Private Sector Collaboration is Critical

And we want to do everything we can to support U.S. companies in Vietnam.

As the Secretary noted in her speech at the Global Business Conference on February 21st, we want to work with the AmChams around the world to best support U.S. businesses abroad and drive recovery at home.

As part of this effort our embassies have identified best practices that demonstrate how the U.S. government and AmChams can better collaborate to expand opportunities for U.S. businesses worldwide.

However, we can and must do much more in the coming years to advance this economic statecraft agenda, and we need the business community to be our full partner.

We need to sit down together more, in forums like this one or the State Department Global Business Conference.

Building sustainable global growth and creating jobs at home is a joint venture.

The private sector innovates and allocates capital, and the government opens doors to new markets and ensures that the system is fair.

We must take our partnership between business and government to the next level.

We are relying on you to think big, to generate new ideas, to open doors with jobs and capital. And the government will be right beside you – knocking down barriers, connecting partners, protecting everyone’s interests.

Together, we can build a system of healthy economic competition that will be sustainable and profitable for many years to come.

Strong commercial ties lead to prosperity at home and abroad and I look forward to our discussion about what we can do to strengthen those ties.


In conclusion, I would just say that we should all be asking: What can the government and the State Department do to improve opportunities for business in Vietnam? How can we do better?

We really want to hear from you – the U.S. business community – about the best way forward for our trade and investment relations with Vietnam.

I look forward to hearing your insights and am more than willing to answer any questions you might have.

Thank you.