Vietnam wants to get back into mainstream of S-E Asia

Asia Society business conference ——————————–

VIETNAM is anxious to get back quickly into the mainstream of South-east Asia to develop its war-torn economy.

Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet said yesterday that Hanoi wanted to participate in regional and international economic forums, and to normalise ties with the United States as part of its modernisation policy.

Vietnam wanted to seek a short cut to prosperity, he said. “We are facing a new danger: the danger of lagging further behind in economic development…We are determined not to be driven out of this race.”

Speaking at The Asia Society’s business conference at the Shangri-La Hotel, he said that Vietnam had the potential to join the world community despite being devastated by successive wars.

It had natural resources, a favourable geographical location and a diligent labour force.

Vietnam could narrow the development gap and multiply its potential further by greater cooperation with other countries, he said.

He added that this was possible given the favourable post-Cold War environment.

“Vietnam is an integral part of the world. We not only desire but must participate in the international cooperation at all levels, as it is expressed by a Vietnamese saying: In doing business, one needs partners.”

He said his government was therefore preparing to join the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (Gatt) and Asean.

“Vietnam is making necessary preparations to be a full member of Asean at an early time,” he said.

Vietnam gained observer status in Asean last year.

Asean Secretary-General Ajit Singh had said earlier this year that Hanoi and Asean would boost cooperation in technology and drugs control in a step towards Vietnam’s full membership in the grouping.

Mr Kiet also welcomed the US government’s decision in February to lift a 19-year-old trade embargo against his country.

This opened up the possibility of a normalisation of relations which could speed up Vietnam’s development, he said.

The two countries have been holding talks on opening liaison offices and returning frozen assets.

Many American companies which were tied up by the embargo were now coming to Vietnam to find opportunities for business and investment, he said.

US companies had also set up business relations with their Vietnamese partners.

A successful Vietnam could provide ample opportunities for businessmen and investors, he said, adding that Hanoi was doing its best to improve legal, administrative and working conditions for investors.

He added: “Vietnam is willing to turn the pages of the past and open up new pages for the future and establish full relations with the US.”

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