Since the United States normalized relations with the Republic of Vietnam in 1995, dealings between our two nations have become increasingly cooperative and broad-based. These bi-lateral relations took a step further recently when the Vietnamese government welcomed the first-ever trade mission by companies from the American farm sector, led by a top official of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Vietnam is one of the fastest growing economies in Southeast Asia, and with this growth has come a rising demand for American agricultural products. In 2006, the country was our country's 49th largest agricultural export market; last year it was the 15th largest, importing $1.49 billion in meat products, grain and feed grains, cotton and other goods. U.S. imports of Vietnamese agricultural goods were even higher, totaling $1.88 billion in rice, nuts, spices and aquaculture products such as shrimp.
Hoping to build on this bilateral trade, 15 U.S. companies traveled to Vietnam from Sept. 26 to Sept. 29 to meet with trade officials and business leaders in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The firms ranged from fruit growers to tractor manufacturers to a company that makes and exports the ingredients for natural foods and cosmetics. The discussions gave American agri-businesses a chance to learn about the Vietnamese market, introduce their products to new customers, promote joint ventures and boost investment in Vietnam's developing agricultural sector.
Increased trade will benefit both countries, creating markets that support and expand employment and related activities. Michael T. Scuse is Acting Under Secretary of Agriculture for Farm and Foreign Agricultural Services: "We're going to create jobs in both countries, we're going to create opportunities for quality products to go into other countries…. I think the opportunities there help both of our countries and both of our peoples."
China remains our nation's leading trade partner in Asia. As Vietnam continues to integrate into the global economy, though, the opportunities for trade there in essential commodities, including farm products, will continue to grow and serve our mutual interests.