Madeleine K Albright

Remarks to the American Business Community in Vietnam - June 28, 1997

Madeleine K Albright
June 28, 1997— Ho Chi Minh City, Democratic Republic of Vietnam
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This address was presented at the Equatorial Hotel.

Mr. Scown, Ambassador Peterson, members of the American business community in Vietnam. Good morning, thank you all for coming. I would have said "Good Morning, Vietnam" but we just signed an agreement yesterday to protect intellectual property and the State Department does not want to get a bill from Robin Williams.

I am delighted to see all of you, and I am very pleased to be the first Secretary of State to visit this city since the end of the war. The message I have brought to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City is straightforward: the United States is committed to full normalization of diplomatic, political and economic relations between our country and Vietnam.

We want to see the people of Vietnam prosper and their society play a constructive role in the region and the world. Yesterday, I had excellent meetings with the Prime Minister, the Foreign Minister, General Secretary of the Communist Party and City Council Chairman. We covered a full range of issues on our bilateral agenda from our highest priority which is accounting for American POWs/MIAs to human rights, to going forward with economic normalization. On this last issue, I stressed our hope that the process of reform here in Vietnam would regain its momentum. Barriers to trade and investment must be brought down. The role of state run monopolies must be reduced. A framework of law that will protect domestic and foreign investors alike must be established.

The United States Government is prepared to do its part. The visit of Secretary Rubin and the arrival of Ambassador Peterson, and now my own visit, are evidence of our interest in going ahead as fast as our laws permit and Vietnamese policies warrant.

Although progress to date has not always been as fast or as far-reaching as we had hoped, movement continues in the right direction. Yesterday, as I said, we signed an important agreement to protect intellectual property. This morning, I was honored to participate in the ceremony commemorating the start of construction at our Consulate-to-be here in Ho Chi Minh City, and never has a Consulate been needed more.

I have also authorized the Trade and Development Agency to consider Vietnam for the full range of its programs. This will be the first U.S. agency directly supporting American investment in Vietnam, and I am confident it will not be the last.

In this connection, I was very encouraged by commitments I received yesterday from the Vietnamese officials concerning the refugee resettling program. The officials acknowledged that problems had occurred at the outset but promise significantly more rapid progress from here on out. If that progress materializes, I expect to be able to recommend to President Clinton that he waive the Jackson-Vanik provision very soon. And as you know, this would then clear the way or Ex-Im Bank and a number of other programs.

Finally, we are continuing with efforts to reach a comprehensive trade agreement, which is a prerequisite to fully normal trade relations. Caution in all this is that it takes two to reach a trade agreement. An agreement that does not open markets and assure fair treatment for U.S. investment, goods and services neither can nor should pass muster with Congress.

The members of the American business community have played a key role in facilitating closer relations between the United States and Vietnam. You have supported our efforts which have been successful to gain the cooperation of the government and seeking the fullest possible accounting of American POW/MIA. You are an ally in our effort -- so far not so successful -- to convince the government to provide greater economic openness with greater political openness and fuller respect for human rights for all individuals. And as I look down here, there are some people that I just saw as I was looking at Operation Smile which I think is a very good example of how American humaneness, with American businesses -- which is also humane -- is helping the children of Vietnam. What better example of cooperation among all of us to bring progress.

You, the business community, are pioneers who are in Vietnam because you understand the quality of the people here. You believe in the potential of this society, and you have faith in the future. I think you are right on all counts. Patience is not always a virtue, but in this case I believe it will in fact be rewarded.

As Secretary of State, I can assure you that we will do everything appropriate to support and assist you. We want to make sure that you are treated fairly and we want you to succeed.

Finally, let me say that I am very pleased that America is being represented here in Vietnam by such a responsible and diverse business community, by private voluntary organizations that are working to repair the legacy of the war while also looking to the future, and by and Ambassador who is clearly the best person that President Clinton could have chosen to bring the United States and Vietnam close together. Ambassador Peterson is one of the most remarkable people that I have ever met and he is exactly the embodiment of reconciliation and what is necessary to bring this society closer to the United States. So I am very grateful to be here with Ambassador Peterson, and I am very grateful to all of you for giving a lot of vroom to the pizzazz that I see in Ho Chi Minh City.

Thank you very much.

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