U.S. Maritime Agreement Could Boost Vietnam’s Economy

Wednesday, March 21, 2007
A new bilateral U.S.-Vietnamese agreement on maritime services could make the Vietnamese economy more competitive internationally and help Vietnam attract more foreign investment and know-how, U.S. maritime administration officials say. Signed March 15 in Washington, the Bilateral Maritime Agreement gives U.S. shipping service providers broader access to Vietnam’s growing transportation market, according to a U.S. Department of Transportation press release.

“The agreement puts American ship operators on an equal footing in Vietnam, paves the way to forming U.S.-controlled joint ventures, and sets a course to achieve wholly foreign-owned subsidiaries in Vietnam,” U.S. Maritime Administrator Sean T. Connaughton said in the release. Under the agreement, U.S. shipping service companies will be able to acquire a controlling 51 percent share in joint-venture enterprises. Prior to the agreement, they were restricted to minority holdings in Vietnamese companies. Five years from the date of the agreement’s implementation, they will be permitted to operate without Vietnamese partners. The United States welcomes foreign shipping businesses in its ports, and Vietnamese companies already have had access to American markets, a U.S. maritime official that did not wish to be identified told USINFO. “Our key goal was to achieve a level playing field,” the official said.

Opening shipping markets to U.S. and other Western companies could attract to Vietnam the best in global shipping and logistics practices today, the officials said. And those practices can in turn boost foreign manufacturing sourcing in Vietnam by making it more reliable and profitable, the officials said. “There is a lot of money to be made” on streamlining the supply chains and moving goods quickly to global markets, the officials said. The Vietnamese see a clear business advantage to their economy in bringing in Western software, technology and know-how, they said. The new agreement builds on previous U.S.-Vietnamese trade initiatives, which were launched following the 2000 Bilateral Trade Agreement between the two countries. Since then the United States and Vietnam have signed several other agreements, including ones on counternarcotics, textiles and civil aviation. Trade between the two countries and U.S. direct investments in Vietnam have been growing since the countries normalized their diplomatic relations in 1995, and has quadrupled since the Bilateral Trade Agreement went into force in December 2001, according to U.S. government sources. Both countries also cooperate on health issues, including bird flu and HIV/AIDS.

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