You spent much of your career focusing on the US and with the onset of the dot.com’s and Asian financial crisis in the late 1990s shifted to a more international focus. You then seemed to shift back toward the US with your steel, textile and coal transactions but now have been making acquisitions in China and India. How do you see the world, what are the markets of greatest opportunity and where should investors and policymakers be focusing their attention?
We are also extremely excited about Vietnam. In terms of its political and economic evolution, it is about where China was 20 years ago.
Wages are about one half of China’s—yet the workforces are equally disciplined, and they have a good work ethic and manual dexterity. It is not on the same scale since Vietnam has only about 85 million people, 1/20th as many as China—but that is one and one-half times the population of South Korea.
And when you think about how important South Korea has become to the world economy, I don’t see any structural reason why Vietnam over time cannot approach or exceed Korean levels. This is particularly true now that Vietnam has been admitted to the WTO and has achieved permanent normal trade relation status with the US. In both cases Vietnam had to make some real sacrifices in terms of its contractual obligations—but it achieved these goals so we are very keen about opportunities there.
Our principal activity has been to establish a textile joint venture with the government in the Danang area. The major exports from Vietnam to date have been shrimp, textiles and apparel—so this fits very well into their industrial plan.
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