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From foe economic ally   2008-06-24 - ThanhNienNews

Vietnamese businessman Nguyen Thanh Le walked out of a conference hall at a five-star hotel in Hanoi with his plump face wreathed in smiles. He had just enjoyed fruitful talks with American trade partners.

 
   
“The US is now Vietnam’s friend. Many partners of our company come from the US,” said Le, who completed a Master of Business Administration degree in the US four years ago.

In 1995, 20 years after the end of the war between the two countries, Vietnam and the US normalized their diplomatic relations.

Now, American symbols are present on every corner of Vietnamese cities like Hanoi, Hai Phong, Da Nang and Ho Chi Minh City.

Giant billboards overlook the streets and sports stadiums, promoting US enterprises such as American Express and MasterCard.

American businesspeople and tourists sipping frothing cappuccinos at wi-fi cafes or relaxing on sun-beds at seaside resorts have become a common sight.

The bilateral relations have developed in many fields, especially in the political, economic and investment arenas.

The two sides have exchanged many high-level visits.

US President George W. Bush visited Vietnam in 2006 and last year Vietnamese State President Nguyen Minh Triet visited the US

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is paying an official visit to the US until June 26 to consolidate the two countries’ relationship.

He is hoping to boost ties in the fields of economy, trade, investment, education, technology and environment.

During the prime minister’s visit, the two countries are expected to sign or start negotiations on agreements aiming at improving Vietnam’s investment climate and increasing trade, US Ambassador to Vietnam Michael Michalak told a press briefing last week.

Trade between Vietnam and the US rose to more than $12 billion in 2007, up from $9.7 billion in 2006 and $7.8 billion in 2005.

The rapid growth of bilateral trade reflects US businesses’ increasing interest in the Vietnamese market, Israel Hernandez, US

Assistant Secretary of Commerce for Trade Promotion and Director General of the US and Foreign Commercial Service, said last week during a meeting with the Vietnamese prime minister.

The two countries have also strengthened their cooperation in different areas, such as searching for the remains of US soldiers still listed as missing in action, fighting bird flu and HIV/AIDS and discussing issues relating to Agent Orange victims.

Many ordinary people are also looking forward to closer ties with the US.

“We can learn from the US in the fields of science and technology and economic development,” said 40-year-old engineer Nguyen Tuan Anh.

Many young local people want the better relations to open more opportunities for them to study in the US.

“Some of my friends are studying in the US. They are really lucky,” said 20-year-old student Nguyen Thu Ha, who is seeking a scholarship to study there.

“If the educational cooperation between Vietnam and the US gets closer, I think I will have more opportunities to attend a well-known US university.”

Other young people want the Vietnam-US relationship to improve to facilitate US firms investing in Vietnam and creating more well-paid jobs.

“I think that making friends with the US is good,” Ha said.

“It is better to have more friends and fewer enemies.”



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