University of Notre Dame Mendoza College of
Trip of Executive MBAs, Professors and Alumni to Vietnam in June, 2008
The group in Vietnam with Al DeMatteis, founder and a General Director
in Delta Construction
Management Company and one of the longest
continuous serving business leaders in
In early June 2008 a group of University of Notre Dame
Mendoza School of
Business Executive MBAs, Professors and Alumni visited Vietnam to learn
more about the rapid international business development going on in
Vietnam and to help evaluate Vietnam as a site for increased future
trips sponsored by the Mendoza School of Business. Mendoza
College of Business Director of International Programs Bill Brewster
and Professor Mike Cloonan of the same College oversaw the trip.
(Picture) Some of
the places visited in Hanoi: Hoa Lo prison,
Cathedral and other scenic
Arriving on a Sunday, the trip started in Hanoi,
the capital of
Vietnam, with visits to some of Hanoi’s scenic sites link Ba Dinh
Square, the Ho Chi Minh Mausoleum, the President’s House, One Pillar
Pagoda, Hoa Lo prison and other scenic areas. Later in the day
Mr. Al DeMatteis hosted the group to lunch at Bobby Chin’s restaurant
at No. 1 Ba Trieu Street, near scenic Hoan Kiem Lake. Mr.
DeMatteis, who is founder and a General Director in Delta Construction
Management Company and has spent over 15 years in Vietnam, is a
well-respected leader of the business community in Hanoi.
Mr. DeMatteis introduced the group to the American Club.
The American Club in Hanoi (links are: click here
) sits on the site of the pre-1954 U.S.
Consulate in Hanoi. The land, which was returned to the U.S.
following the property and other settlements with the Republic of
Vietnam that the author helped to broker, has been the site of many
July 4th celebrations and many fund raising activities for Vietnamese
charities and is an unofficial gathering place for Americans from all
walks of life in Hanoi.
The following day, the group traveled
through the Red River Delta, one
of the country’s two rice baskets, with its verdant farmland dotted
with local villages to Halong Bay to meet with a local hotelier to
discuss tourism development in this UNESCO World Heritage scenic
area. The area which has over 2,000 limestone Karsts rising in
blue seas surrounding the coast was popularized in the 1991 film
Indochine with Catherine Deneuve and has been further wowing those
willing to make the long drive (nearly 3.5 hours each way) ever
since. The group then cruised on their own boat in a 4-hour plus
cruise including a sumptuous lunch and explored Dau Go, Thien Cung
limestone Grotto, Tuan Chau Island, Dinh Uong Island, Ga Choi Islet,
Dog Island and Sail Island before returning to shore and back to Hanoi.
(Picture) At Halong
Mr. Al DeMatteis
Mr. Al DeMatteis is founder and a General Director
in Delta Construction Management Company and has spent over 15 years in
Vietnam, is a well-respected leader of the business community in
Hanoi. He is one of the original co-founders along with James
Rockwell of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Hanoi and the Chamber’s
first Chairman of the Hanoi Chapter. He is also one of the
co-founders along with the James Rockwell, Phil Jornlin, Jim Ambrose,
Charles Neery, Carl Giampietro and the author of the American Club in
Hanoi. Mr DeMatteis is also one of the founders of the Hanoi
International Softball leagues and Director of the Al & Peggy
MeMatteis Family Foundation. Mr. DeMatteis, an ardent Catholic,
has spent considerably time on
giving back to the Community. He has helped raise funds and
contributed time and efforts to organizations such as Operation Smile,
the National Fund for Vietnamese Children and the Christina Noble
Children’s Foundation and helped find funding for projects such as the
reconstruction of St. Marie Rose Church in Quang Ninh Province.
He is Director of the Al & Peggy DeMatteis Family Foundation.
This foundation helped build three vocational training centers for
street children in Central Vietnam and is just completing a fourth
facility in Thai Binh Province. The centers have trained over
1,000 children of which 98 per cent have gone on to get jobs following
graduation. (For more on Mr. DeMatteis, click
The next day the delegation visited the U.S.
Embassy and was briefed on
U.S. business in Vietnam and the rising economic agenda between the
U.S. and Vietnam by Embassy officers led by Commercial Counselor Don
Nay. Later in the morning the group met with the Vietnamese
government Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) to discuss
Vietnamese perspective on the business environment and to discuss how
rising inflation and other economic developments were creating new
challenges for Vietnam. This was followed by lunch with students
from Hanoi University who discussed how economic change was opening new
opportunities for Vietnam’s youth. The students and the
delegation discussed the rising sense of possibility and the drive for
education and business training and advancement that are making Vietnam
such a stimulating place to live and work.
U.S. Embassy in Hanoi
afternoon the group flew from Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City, the
commercial center of Vietnam where they were met by Runckel &
Associates Ho Chi Minh City staff Nguyen Dien Hong Ngoc (Little Ruby)
who supported the entire trip in former Saigon. The next day
started off with a cyclo ride to get a flavor for the old French
commercial center and to see some of the scenic center city
sites. This was followed by a meeting with the U.S. Consulate to
discuss the economic situation in the South of Vietnam and some of the
economic and other challenges that were currently acting to stress
economic well being in both Saigon and in Vietnam as a whole.
This was followed by lunch and then a talk
with Dr. Rafi Kot, founder
of Family Medical Practice Vietnam,
which runs a series of
medical clinics throughout Vietnam that are the leading centers for
quality medical care. Dr. Kot spoke to the group about the
challenges that Vietnam was experiencing in the health and other
sectors and discussed how increased privatization of medical insurance
and western levels of medical care could assist Vietnam in sustaining
its economic improvements. Dr. Kot also noted the role overseas
Vietnamese medical professionals could have in improving the levels of
care to locals who no longer are willing to incur the lack of customer
service, poor levels of treatment and inadequate facilities and over
crowding of Vietnam’s hospitals.
The group then met with Mr. Richard Dien, Sales
Manager of CJ GLS (VN)
Freight Company, Limited (www.cjgls-asia.com) who discussed the role of
Freight Forwarders such as his company in helping business to prosper
in Vietnam through the rapid shipment and transshipment of goods in and
out of the country. Mr. Dien provided general information about
logistics and noted the increase in exports occurring in Vietnam after
WTO accession. He discussed Vietnam’s plan to set up an
international seaport in Van Phong Bay (Central Vietnam) in the period
from 2010-2015 and noted that all companies in Vietnam had to face
challenges because of current weak infrastructure such as roads,
bridges and ports.
(Picturea) Some of
Later the group met with VILAF Law Firm and
discussed Vietnam’s legal environment and the rapid transformation in
Vietnam law that has been driven by Vietnam’s WTO accession in
2007. The group then returned to the hotel and later enjoyed
dinner at Blue Ginger where they celebrated one of the group’s
birthdays with some of the best Vietnamese food in Vietnam along with a
sampling of the good beers that help to make a Vietnamese meal a fun
and enjoyable event. The birthday greetings continued at the
Saloon Bar before back to the hotel for the night.
Becamex Corp. and My Phouc Industrial Park
The next day, the group traveled to Binh Duong province which each year
scores as one of the economically most vibrant centers of business
expansion in Vietnam. There the group met with Vo Son Dien, Sr.
Sales Executive at My Phuoc Industrial City
(more information on the industrial park, click
and ( ) which the
group learned are
following a different more holistic development strategy than China’s
industrial parks. My Phouc which is operated by Becamex, a
province owned infrastructure, industrial park and investment
conglomerate) has followed a new path for Vietnam in creating an
industrial city with emphasis of all levels of community support
services to create a good place to work, live, educate family, receive
medical service, shop and receive other services.
Later in the day the group visited Dai Nam Park, which although still
under construction is a truly impressive creation that will
increasingly draw tourists and others to Binh Duong.
Later in the day, the group met with Ms. Ton Nu Thi Ninh and Ms. Nguyen
Trang Thu of Ho Chi Minh Open University to discuss the evolution of
education in Vietnam and to discuss the set up of Tri Viet University
(Vietnam’s Green University) in Vung Tau. Madame Ton Nu Thi Ninh
recently Vice Chairperson of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs
Committee where she travelled extensively to improve Vietnam's
with the countries of Western Europe and North America, particularly
the United States. As Vice Chairwoman of the Foreign Affairs
Committee in the National
Assembly of Vietnam, Ton Nu Thi Ninh was charged with improving
Vietnam's relations with the countries of Western Europe and North
America, particularly the United States.
That night the group enjoyed French and
Vietnamese food in a memorable
setting with top-level service and ambience.
The next morning after some shopping and a generous Vietnamese lunch
the group met with Mirea Asset Company (www.miraeasset.com). Mirae
Asset Company was established in 1997. It currently manages USD
130 billion of assets and has 10 affiliates internationally and is one
of the largest Asian asset management companies and has long had a
presence in Vietnam. The group talked with the Managing Director
who discussed development of Ho Chi Minh City’s HOSTC and the Hanoi
HASTC, the country’s two stock markets. HOSTC has 151 companies,
4 funds and 84 bonds, HASTC has 138 companies and 479 bonds.
Total market capitalization in both markets in 2007 was $30
billion. Since reaching a peak in March of 2007, Vietnam’s stock
market has fallen dramatically from a peak of 1170 to under 400
today. Mirae Asset attributes this dramatic fall to inflation,
which currently exceeds a quarterly rate of 22 percent and the affects
of a marked trade deficit, which has risen to 7.3 billion in
2008. In response to this the Vietnamese government has increased
the minimum request reservation rate to 8% and then to 11%. It
has issued compulsory treasury bonds and lifted the ceiling on interest
to now over 14%. It has already slowed down many government
projects and adjusted macro economic growth targets. According to
Mirae Assets, all of these steps are justified and will start to have
an effect. They see much short-term pain but believe that the
long-term fundamentals of Vietnam as a good site for investment and
business creation remain intact.
Madame Ton Nu Thi
Madame Ton Nu Thi Ninh
recently Vice Chairperson of the National Assembly Foreign Affairs
Committee Ms. Ninh traveled widely, and met frequently with
government and business leaders at home and abroad. She has represented
Vietnam at international conferences on issues with global
implications. She was and is viewed as an effective representative of
her country. Before holding her current position, Ms. Ninh served
more than 20 years as a diplomat in her country's Ministry of Foreign
Affairs. In that capacity, she focused on multilateral institutions -
the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement, Francophone, The
Association of Southeast Asian Nations - and global issues, including
international peace and security, development, environment, governance
and human rights. As Adviser to Vietnam's Minister of Foreign
she was responsible for key international efforts on behalf of the
country, such as the holding of the Summit of French-Speaking Countries
in 1997 in Hanoi. From 2000 to 2003, she was Vietnam's Ambassador
to Belgium and
Luxembourg and Head of the Mission to the European Union in Brussels.
grew up in France, was educated at the
Sorbonne and Cambridge University and began her career as an academic.
She taught English and English literature at Paris University in the
late 1960s and then at Saigon University until 1975. Born in Hue,
Central Vietnam, into a traditional
family, Ms. Ninh developed her political commitment to the National
Liberation Front for South Vietnam early in her student days in Paris.
Since then, she has been consistently active in social issues, with a
special interest in gender. She served a term on the Central Executive
Committee of the Vietnam Women's Union. Because of her life long
interest in women’s issues Ms. Ninh is currently heading the Global
Vietnamese Women’s Network.
Mike Cloonan of
University of Notre Dame Mendoza School of
Business oversaw the trip
arranged by Runckel & Associats
in the day, the group met with Odyssey Resources Limited which
provides both local and
international accounting services and to which Runckel & Associates
has introduced many clients. Odyssey has proved a good choice for
many firms since the company has internationally trained and
experienced staff most of whom have been educated and practiced outside
of Vietnam. Odyssey staff not only understand Vietnam's tax and
accounting requirements but also those of Australia, New Zealand, the
U.S. and many European locations as many of their staff have lived and
worked in these locations for top line international accounting
firms. Odyssey Resource Limited principals David Carter and Yen
Phan discussed Vietnam tax and accounting requirements plus also their
company’s efforts in supporting outsourced accounting services from the
region and beyond.
The group then split with part of the group
traveling to Cambodia for a
two-day visit to the scenic beauty and stunning architectural and
historical center around Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. Runckel
& Associates has sent numerous group to Siem Reap over the last
year where the groups have marveled at the stunning temples and
structures created during the height of Khmer civilization.
these visits, groups are met at the airport by trained English speaking
guides and conveyed to the hotel, stay at four and five star hotels
with all the amenities and travel in air conditioned cars or buses with
meals available or not as the group may require. These trips have
proved quite popular and are a great way to learn more about Cambodia
where Runckel & Associates supports visits in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap
and throughout most of the country to support the needs of business
investors whom are increasingly finding Cambodia not only to be a great
tourist destination plus also a great place to invest and start a
factory or other business. Another portion of the group
stayed in Ho Chi Minh City to catch up with friends and relatives plus
the final portion returned to Hanoi to enjoy further immersion in the
north of this stunning country.
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.
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. Mr. Runckel is one of
only two non-Ambassadors to receive this award in the 200-year history
of the U.S. diplomatic service.
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