The following week I was in Bangkok, Thailand where I spoke to a group of 90 Japanese business owners or company managers about Vietnam as a potential site for investment. I was joined in this presentation by Becamex who discussed opportunities in Binh Duong province, a Vietnamese province bordering Ho Chi Minh City at their Bao Bang and My Phuoc industrial parks and in the Binh Duong New City. Two Japanese companies resident in Becamex industrial parks discussed why they were in Vietnam and how they felt that Vietnam and particularly Becamex industrial parks offered a favorable location for Japanese business.
Recently, I was invited to speak publicly at three events. The topics involved updates on Vietnam and Thailand, ASEAN, AEC and Trade Agreements.
The first was in Seattle on July 27, 2016 at the Asia Business Forum – ASEAN Night at the Mayor’s Chambers at City Hall in Bellevue, Washington. Here I joined two other presenters to discuss business trends and economic prospects for ASEAN countries. I was asked to focus on Vietnam and Thailand, which I did for a group of about 70-80 Seattle area business executives. The group was particularly interested in how the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) was developing. There also was interest in how the other presenters and myself saw the opportunities for investment being impacted by US politics. I noted the way in which the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) was likely to be affected and had already become a “political football” that both sides were using to score points.
On August 6, my wife and I attended as guests of honor the graduating ceremony for the first four-year class from Eastern International University (EIU) in Binh Duong province, Vietnam. We watched the awarding of diplomas to 288 former students graduating in the fields of engineering, nursing and business. My wife and I have played a key role in the start-up of this University and seeing the effect it has had on these students was quite moving.
On August 11, I was back in Thailand after a stop in Cambodia in which I met with US and others investing in Cambodia. On August 11 I spoke at the Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Thai-Vietnam Diplomatic Relations co-sponsored by the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand. This anniversary event was held at the Central World Complex in Bangkok and was attended by approximately 300 guests. My presentation was titled “Unleashing the Potential of Trade & Investment Between Thailand and Vietnam and Reaping the Benefits from Free Trade Agreements”. In the event I laid out to a mixed audience of Thai and Vietnamese the differences and challenges facing both economies. I noted how the Thai economy was slowing in response to demographic and other challenges after a long run of success and how Vietnam’s economy now offered Thai companies unique opportunities to further expand business that they could no longer achieve by staying solely focused on the Thai market. I also discussed the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP), the EU-Vietnam FTA (EVFTA) and some of the other 16 free trade agreements involving Vietnam and how they all offered opportunities. The presentation was extremely well accepted and interest was high in my comments on the future of the TPP and other Free Trade Agreements given US and European politics.
Pictures above: I spoke at the Asia Business Forum – ASEAN Night at the Mayor’s Chambers at City Hall in Bellevue, Washington
Pictures above: speaking to a group of 90 Japanese business owners or company managers about Vietnam as a potential site for investment
Each of these opportunities plus the opportunity I gained to meet with US and other business executives in Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia have led me to believe that ASEAN continues to offer considerable opportunities for growth. Vietnam, in my opinion, offers the best opportunities at this time but there are also unique opportunities in Myanmar, Cambodia, Laos and elsewhere in the region.
Below left: At the event, my wife and I with Dr. Nguyen Van Phuc, Rector of EIU.
Below right: Dr. Michael Readon, former Predient of Portland State University and co-Rector of EIU with Mr. Nguyen Loi, Vice Chairman of EIU and Dr. Lee Buddress, Portland State University professor who also taught Supply and Logistics Management at the EIU.
Pictures above: On August 11, I spoke at the Celebration of the 40th Anniversary of Thai-Vietnam Diplomatic Relations co-sponsored by the Vietnamese Embassy in Thailand and the Vietnam-Thailand Chambers of Commerce, in Bangkok, Thailand
About the Author:
Christopher W. Runckel, a former senior US diplomat who served in many counties in Asia, is a graduate of the University of Oregon and Lewis and Clark Law School. He served as Deputy General Counsel of President Gerald Ford’s Presidential Clemency Board. Mr. Runckel is the principal and founder of Runckel & Associates, a Portland, Oregon based consulting company that assists businesses expand business opportunities in Asia. (www.business-in-asia.com)
Until April of 1999, Mr. Runckel was Minister-Counselor of the US Embassy in Beijing, China. Mr. Runckel lived and worked in Thailand for over six years. He was the first permanently assigned U.S. diplomat to return to Vietnam after the Vietnam War. In 1997, he was awarded the U.S. Department of States highest award for service, the Distinguished Honor Award, for his contribution to improving U.S.-Vietnam relations.