“U.S. Trade Policy – Implications for Vietnam” – Welcome Remarks by Sesto Vecchi, Governor

Good Morning. I’m Sesto Vecchi, one of the AmCham Governors, and Managing Partner of Russin & Vecchi, and I’d like to welcome all of you to this morning’s briefing on “U.S. Trade Policy – Implications for Vietnam,” organized by the American Apparel and Footwear Association (AAFA), with support from AmCham and VCCI.

This event is in connection with yesterday’s AAFA Conference on International Product Safety and Restricted Substances, with keynote address by U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commissioner Nancy Nord.

It is very significant that today’s discussion and yesterday’s conference are organized for the first time in Vietnam, although the AAFA has presented these topics many times to large audiences in both China and India.

The fact that the these events are in Vietnam this year is an indication of the large and growing market share for Vietnam in the Apparel and Footwear markets, as well as other consumer goods markets, in the United States.

For example, in the apparel sector, Vietnam has increased its exports to the U.S. from $2.9 billion in 2005 to an estimated $6.1 billion in 2010, and its share of U.S. apparel imports from 3.2% to 6.7% over the same period.

Vietnam has surpassed India as the Number 2 supplier country to the U.S. apparel market, and its lead will probably continue to grow. (see chart below – click the chart to zoom in).

U.S. Apparel Imports - 2005-1010

If we just use a simple trend line extrapolation, we can estimate that Vietnam’s exports to the U.S. will continue to increase to $7.4 billion by 2012, with an 8.5% market share (see table below – click the table to zoom in).

U.S. Apparel Imports - 2005-2012

As Vietnam’s trade with the U.S. and its market share increase, it becomes increasingly important that we in Vietnam understand U.S. trade policy trends, and the implications for Vietnam.

We need to hear about U.S. trade policy direct from a wide variety of sources, and especially from sources in Washington DC, the U.S. government center. We need to hear from business experts as well as government policy makers in both the executive and legislative branches.

As we all know, there have been many differences between the two U.S. political parties and within industry groups, so that action on trade policy has slowed over the past two or three years.

Free trade agreements signed during the previous administration, before 2009, have not been acted on by the current administration, for example, the U.S.-Korea Free Trade Agreement.

The current administration has proposed the concept of a Trans-Pacific Partnership Trade Agreement, which would include Vietnam as one of the members.

And now, with the mid-term elections last week, one party controls the House of Representatives and the other controls the Senate and the White House.

What does all this mean in practical terms for businesses operating in Vietnam?

We are fortunate to have with us this morning experts on both trade policy concepts, negotiations, and legislative strategy, as well as the “nuts-and-bolts” details of the implementation and enforcement of the various trade agreements and “trade remedies,” especially in the consumer product sectors that account for so much of trade between Vietnam and the United States.

So we in AmCham and our Vietnamese friends in business and industry associations are pleased to welcome this morning

Steve Lamar, Executive Vice President of the American Apparel & Footwear Association;
Andrew Schroth, Partner, Grunfeld, Desiderio, Lebowitz, Silverman & Klestadt LLP; and
Eric Emerson, Partner, Steptoe & Johnson LLB

They will share with us their insights on “U.S. Trade Policy – and Implications for Vietnam.”

And I know we will all learn a lot this morning.

Thank you.