President Clinton welcomed in Vietnam

A state ceremony was held at the Presidential Palace in Ha Noi morning, Nov. 17, to welcome President William Jefferson Clinton of the United States of America and his spouse, who arrived in the evening of Nov. 16 for a four-day official visit, the first by an American president to the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam.

Present at the ceremony were President Tran Duc Luong and his wife and other senior officials of the Vietnamese State and Government and the Ha Noi administration.

Presidents Luong and Clinton reviewed the guard of honour of the Viet Nam People's Army after the American and Vietnamese anthems were played to greet the dignitaries.

President Luong welcomed the visit by President Clinton, his wife and other members of the U.S. delegation, regarding it as an important event commensurate with the aspiration and interests of the two peoples.

He said he believed that the visit would contribute to further developing the Viet Nam-U.S. ties in the economic and commercial areas for the benefits of each country.

President Clinton expressed pleasure with his first visit to Viet Nam full of beauty and hospitality and thanked President Luong and the Vietnamese State, Government and people for their warm welcome.

The U.S. President spoke highly of the new steps of development in the cooperative ties between the two countries. He expressed his belief that his visit would help the two sides promote mutual understanding and expand the bilateral cooperative ties in all areas.

President Luong held talks with his U.S. counterpart right after the State welcome ceremony.

On behalf of the State and people of Viet Nam, President Tran Duc Luong welcomed the first visit to independent and unified Viet Nam by President Clinton, his wife and entourage, describing it as a new step of development in the process of improving the relations between the two countries.

He expressed his hope that the visit would mark a new stage in the relationship between the two countries -- the long-lasting friendship and cooperation based on the principles of respect for each other's independence, sovereignty and terrirorial integrity, non-interference in each other's internal affairs, equality and mutual benefits, no detriment to each other's relations with any third countries, and contribution to consolidating peace, security and stability in Southeast Asia, Asia and the Pacific and the world.

President Luong briefed President Clinton of Viet Nam's great achievements in 14 years of the renovation process, saying that Viet Nam, emerging from socio-economic crisis and rice import in the late 80's, has become the world's second rice exporter and registered an average annual economic growth rate of over 7 percent in the 90's. The country has also recorded achievements in solving social issues such as hunger eradication and poverty reduction, education and health care.

President Luong renewed Viet Nam's foreign policy of independence, sovereignty, multilateralization and diversification of international realtions as well as its orientation to be friend and trusted partner with all countries in the world. "Viet Nam prioritizes developing relations with neighbouring, traditional and major countries," the President elaborated.

On relations between Viet Nam and the U.S., the President expressed satisfaction at improvements in the two countries' relations over the past eight years, particularly the establishment of diplomatic relations in July 1995 and the signing of the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) in July, 2000, saying these developments suited the benefits and aspirations of both peoples. He appreciated President Clinton's role in and his contributions to normalising the two countries' relations.

He stressed that to look forward to the future, the two countries could not avoid looking back the past. The war had left extremely heavy consequences on Viet Nam. The Vietnamese people held that the U.S. Government should acknowledge the responsibility towards the great losses that the Vietnamese people had suffered. Immediately, the U.S. side should pay due attention and respond, in an appropriate manner, to Viet Nam's humanitarian issues, cooperating in the search for information relating to Vietnamese people reported missing, demining and neutralizing unexploded bombs and ordnance, detoxifying former military bases and providing necessary assistance to Agent Orange victims and other humanitarian issues left over by the war.

He reiterated Viet Nam's unchanged stance to consider seeking information on American servicemen missing in action (MIA) in the war as a humanitarian issue and Viet Nam's pledge to continue to cooperate with the U.S. side in this issue.

President W.J. Clinton expressed thanks to the Vietnamese State and people for their ceremonial welcome given to him and his family and delegation. He also expressed gratitude to the Vietnamese Government and people for having assisted the U.S. side in seeking information on American servicemen missing in action in the war. He held that what had been achieved in the U.S.-Vietnam relations would serve as basis for further expansion of the two countries' ties, particularly in economy and commerce.

The U.S. President said that the two countries should quickly ratify the BTA signed in July this year and announced that the U.S. would grant Viet Nam USD 2 million in technical assistance each year over the next three years to help it implement the agreement. He also reaffirmed U.S. support for Viet Nam's bid to join the World Trade Organisation.

He promised to consider increases in assistance to Viet Nam in demining unexploded bombs and ordnance left over by the war and stressed the importance of bilateral cooperation in the research on impacts of Agent Orange on the nature and people of Viet Nam as well as U.S. servicemen involved in the Viet Nam war.

President Clinton handed over to President Luong computer disks containing 360,000 pages of documents which, according to the U.S. side, would be helpful for the search for information on Vietnamese people missing in the war. He promised to provide other documents containing information on the sites where the U.S. forces had stored toxic chemicals during the war.--

The talks were followed by the signing of an agreement on science and technology cooperation between the governments of the Socialist Republic of Viet Nam and the United States of America and a memorendum of understanding (MoU) between Viet Nam's Ministry of Labour, War Invalids and Social Affairs and the U.S. Department of Labor in the presence of the two leaders.

Prime Minister Phan Van Khai met with President Clinton:

Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai met with U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton at the Government Guests' House in Ha Noi in the afternoon of Nov.17.

PM Khai welcomed President Clinton's official visit, the first to independent and unified Viet Nam. He said after many years of war destruction, the Vietnamese people have an ardent desire for peace to concentrate their efforts on social development, gradually improving people's living conditions.

After briefing the US President on Viet Nam's important achievements in 15 years of renovation, PM Khai stressed on Viet Nam's goal to double its GDP in the next 10 years, to achieve national industrialization in the next 20 years, and to gradually narrow the economic gap between Viet Nam and other countries in the region and the world.

To this end, the PM said, in the years to come, Viet Nam would continue to carry out its policy of renovation and develop the socialist-oriented market economy, making full use of potentials and strengths of the whole nation for national industrialization and modernization.

On the other hand, Viet Nam would continue with its foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, diversification and multilaterialization of relations, and active integration into global and regional economies, PM Khai said, adding while realising this foreign policy, Viet Nam would attach importance to accelerating its cooperation with other countries, including the United States of America, a country that has the most powerful economic strength with high scientific and technological levels.

PM Khai expressed pleasure with the encouraging steps of development in the Viet Nam-U.S. ties. He proposed that the U.S. side ratify as soon as possible the Bilateral Trade Agreement signed by the two countries, provide technical assistance to Viet Nam in the implementation of the agreement, accelerate bilateral economic and commercial ties, waive the Jackson Vanik Amendments applied to Viet Nam, offer Viet Nam a Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) status and a Common Effective Preferential Tarrifs (CEPT), increase cooperation in agriculture, forestry, training of human resources, science and technology, and continue to assist projects on poverty alleviation, hunger elimination, natural calamity mitigation, and HIV/AID control.

PM Khai also pointed out that though the war ended 25 years ago, the Vietnamese people were facing the heavy consequences left over by the war, including the search for 300,000 people missing. He said unexploded bombs and ordance from the war continued causing casualty to civilians, especiallly millions of people had been facing untold effects of the Agent Orange.

Despite limited state budget, the Vietnamese Government had spent part of its annual budget to help Agent Orange victims, PM Khai said, expressing his hope that the U.S would know well its responsibility and contribute to solving this issue.

Speaking on this occasion, U.S. President Clinton spoke highly of Viet Nam's successes in implementing the policy of renovation and international and regional integration as well as its great achievements in socio-economic development in the recent past.

President Clinton pledged to help Viet Nam boost economic development, to continue with its technical assistance to help Viet Nam implement the BTA, and to support Viet Nam in joining the World Trade Organization.

Clinton said that the BTA should be ratified soon by the two legislative bodies for early implementation. This would be followed by the US provision of the PNTR status for Viet Nam, the President noted.

He thanked Viet Nam for close cooperation in the search for American servicemen missing during the war and expressed his sympathy with Vietnamese families having their relatives reported missing during the war.

He also informed that the US side would provide more information for Viet Nam to help it in the search for Vietnamese people missing, accelerate assistance to Viet Nam in demining unexploded bombs left over by the war, and cooperate with Viet Nam in studying the effects of toxic chemicals used during the war.

He also held that in order to expand the bilateral ties, other than agreements already signed, the two sides would make more efforts to reach a number of agreements on drug control, natural calamity mitigation and meteorological and hydrological cooperation.

The same day, Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien met with representatives of about 60 US leading firms who accompanied President Clinton during the Viet Nam visit.

The Vietnamese FM expressed appreciation of US businesses' active contributions to promoting the normalization and improvement of the relationship between Viet Nam and the United States in the recent past. He congratulated US businesses for their signing business contracts with Vietnamese partners.

US businesses expressed their wishes for early ratification of the BTA by the two countries' legislative bodies, thus creating favourable conditions for them to do business. They affirmed their commitment to continue making contributions to strengthening and broadening economic-commercial relations between the two countries.--

President W. J. Clinton of the United States of America and his wife and entourage visited the Viet Nam National University in Ha Noi afternoon, Nov. 17.

The President, his wife and entourage were given a warm welcome by the directorate, professors, doctors, lecturers and students of the university.

They were informed of the university's construction and development in teaching, studying and scientific research as well as the university's cooperation with universities of other countries, including the U.S., in education, training and research.

President Clinton expressed his honour to be the first American President to visit the university. He reviewed the process of normalization of relations between the two countries and positive steps in the development of Viet Nam-U.S. cooperation with the signing of the Bilateral Trade Agreement in July, 2000 and the Science and Technology Agreement during this visit.

President Clinton expressed his thanks to the Vietnamese Government and people for their efforts to cooperate with the U.S in searching for American servicemen reported missing in action (MIA) during the Viet Nam war. He also expressed his belief that the Vietnamese people with industriousness and cleverness would gain great achievements in the national construction. Viet Nam has achieved encouraging achievements with positive steps of development in the on-going comprehensive renovation, and in international and regional integration, the US President noted.

He said he hoped that Viet Nam and the US with national-level relations would continue helping each other in all fields. The US wants to boost cooperation with Viet Nam in MIA issues, mine clearance, assistance to victims of natural disasters, fight against AIDS and drugs. The US also wants to strengthen cooperation and mutual assistance between the two countries in economics, investment, commerce, science and technology, and education and training.

In the morning Nob, 17, the U.S. President toured Ha Noi's historic and cultural relic of Van Mieu - Quoc Tu Giam (Temple of Literature).

President Clinton, his wife and delegation were given a banquet by State President Tran Duc Luong and his wife. The two leaders delivered speeches at the banquet.

At the banquet he organized in honour of President Clinton at the Presidential Palace on Nov. 17 night, President Luong said: "It was of great significance that the first ever visit by a U.S. President to an independent and unified Viet Nam is taking place at a time when the nation is "devoting itself to building and developing the country in peace."

President Tran Duc Luong hailed U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton's visit to Viet Nam as a new milestone in the process of full normalization of relations between the two countries.

He recalled that the late President Ho Chi Minh had visited the U.S. in the first decades of the 20th century, and had expressed respect for the "American people's time-honoured fighting spirit for independence, freedom and national unification,"

It was not a coincidence that Ho Chi Minh had quoted the U.S. Declaration of Independence while proclaiming the independence of Viet Nam on September 2, 1945, he said.

The Vietnamese President also expressed gratitude to "widespread movements by people of America and the world" calling for an end to the war, and later, demanding the lifting of sanctions and promoting normalization of relations.

President Luong remarked that is is "understandable that the two sides may have differences regarding some specific positions and policies.

"However, we believe that it is important for us to respect each other not to interfere in each other's internal affairs and not to let differences stand in the way of mutually beneficial and equal cooperation."

He said Viet Nam and the U.S. have great potential to be exploited for the sake of development and cooperation, and that positive action by both sides was necessary to create a favourable environment to do this.

President Clinton responded by saying: "We are honoured to join you in writing a new chapter in the relationship between the United States and Viet Nam, and grateful that this chapter has a happy beginning."

He said a generation from now people will look back on this time and see the American veterans who came back to Viet Nam looking for answer about the past and the Vietnamese who enlisted them to build a common future.

He noted that people will reach the same conclusion as the great Vietnamese stateman Nguyen Trai of the 15th century when he said 500 years ago: "After so many years of war only life remains."

The US President, his wife and delegation attended a performance of Viet Nam's traditional arts at the Opera House.

Ha Noi, Nov. 18 (VNA)-- U.S. President W. J. Clinton and his wife and daughter on morning, Nov. 18, visited an excavation site of the joint task force on missing soldiers in Tien Chau village, Me Linh district, Vinh Phuc province.

The U.S. President was accompanied by Senator John Kerry and two sons of Lt. Colonel Lawrence G. Evert, who was shot down at the site in 1967.

President W. J. Clinton said at the event "I want to personally thank the people of the village, district and province for your kindness, for coming forward with artefacts and information useful to the search, and for working so hard alongside our service members and citizens."

He also expressed "the profound thanks of the American people to the Vietnamese Government for its support," and said "the United States is doing what we can to repay the cooperation of the Vietnamese and their government, by doing all we can to help the people of Viet Nam find answers about their missing as well."

He said he was committed to building a future of friendship and cooperation.

This afternoon, his wife Hillary Clinton and his daughter Chelsea Clinton visited the Viet Nam History Museum and attended a get-together with a group of Vietnamese women, convened by the Viet Nam Women's Union and the National Committee for the Advancement of Vietnamese Women.

She said she hoped she would be able to accelerate cooperation and improve mutual understanding and sympathy between Vietnamese and American women in the future, in an effort to constantly develop the bilateral relationship.

The day before, on Nov. 17, she and her daughter visited Yen Tang hamlet, Bac Phu commune, Soc Son district, on the outskirts of Ha Noi, where poor women have been receiving funds from the Viet Nam Women's Union (VWU) and OXFAM-USA to develop cottage industries such as pig-raising and tofu-making.

They called in at the homes of two beneficiaries in Phu Tang and Yen Tang hamlets.

On this occasion, VWU Chairwoman Truong Thi Khue awarded Hillary Clinton and her daughter the Union's badge.

On Nov. 18, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Manh Cam received Charlene Barshefsky, U.S. Trade Representative, who accompanied President Clinton on his current visit to Viet Nam, at the Government Office.

The Deputy Prime Minister highly valued the guest's contributions to the signing of the Viet Nam-U.S. Trade Agreement.

For her part, Barshefsky briefed her host of progress made by the two countries' commerce agencies in a process to establish a joint committee, as well as in ecomomic forums where measures are being prepared for implementing the bilateral trade agreement once it is ratified by the Vietnamese National Assembly and the US Congress.

Also this morning, Barshefsky and another member of the President Cliton's delegation, Secretary of Commerce Norman Mineta, had a working session with Minister of Trade Vu Khoan. The two parties discussed measures to establish a joint committee for implementing the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) as well as U.S. technical assistance to Viet Nam in implementing the BTA and joining the World Trade Organization (WTO). They also informed each other of measures to be taken to fulfil their leaders' commitment to establishing a bilateral economic forum as soon as possible.

In the afternoon, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Manh Cam received the U.S. congressmen from President Clinton's delegation.

Deputy Prime Minister Cam recognized the U.S. congressmen's active contributions to the normalization of the two countries' relations, and highly valued the exchange of parliamentary delegations between the two countries, thus accelerating mutual understanding and laying foundations for bilateral and multi-faceted cooperation.

Also this afternoon, Sen. Lt. Gen. Tran Van Quang, Chairman of the Viet Nam Veterans' Association, received a group of U.S. veterans led by Hershel Gober, Acting Secretary of Veterans Affairs and Robert Jones, Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defence for POW/Missing Personnel Affairs. Sen. Lt. Gen. Quang warmly welcomed the U.S. veterans's participation in President Clinton's visit to Viet Nam, describing it as a contribution to building Viet Nam-U.S. relations on principles of respect for each nation's independence and sovereignty.

The host highlighted the fine development of relations between the war veterans' associations of the two countries, which have, he said, helped boost mutual understanding and cooperation especially in POW-MIA issues. He expressed thanks to the United States for its information on Vietnamese servicemen listed as missing in action. He said he hoped the two countries would continue cooperation on MIA issues, demining and other humanitarian issues like Agent Orange.

Ha Noi, Nov. 18 (VNA) - General Secretary of the Communist Party of Viet Nam Le Kha Phieu received U.S. President William Jefferson Clinton afternoon, Nov. 18.

Speaking to the General Secretary, President Clinton expressed thanks to the Government and people of Viet Nam for their efforts in searching for U.S. servicemen missing in action during the war, saying the U.S. Government and people were concerned about this issue. He held that the two countries' relations had seen positive development over the past eight years and that the normalisation process was nearly complete.

The U.S. President said the U.S. had provided and would continue providing information to help in the search for Vietnamese soldiers who died in the war.

He informed the Party leader of the contents of his talks with President Tran Duc Luong and his meeting with Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, and expressed the desire to further strengthen mutual understanding and cooperation with the aim of boosting relations between the U.S. and Viet Nam. He hoped for early ratification of the U.S.-Viet Nam Bilateral Trade Agreement in order to facilitate the two countries' economic and commercial ties.

President Clinton expressed his pleasure at the fact that the two Governments had agreed to conduct high-level dialogues on economic cooperation, and said he hoped the dialogues would be conducted regularly to promote bilateral cooperation. He said he was glad the U.S. had granted relief to flood victims in central and southern Viet Nam and announced that the U.S. would together with the United Nations set up a forecasting centre in central Viet Nam to help the country mitigate natural disasters.

The U.S. President reaffirmed that the U.S. would continue seeking to heal the wounds of war. Describing the contents of his talks with President Tran Duc Luong and his meeting with Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, President Clinton said both sides had discussed in detail the U.S. plan to neutralise unexploded ordnance and settle the Agent Orange issue. He shared the view with General Secretary Phieu that the U.S. should take responsibility in settling the worldwide development gap, with the latest action taken by the U.S. being its initiative to reduce debts for poor countries and provide financial support to the fight against malaria, child tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS.

Party General Secretary Le Kha Phieu welcomed the visit by President W.J. Clinton, his wife and delegation. He said he had been informed of the President's talks with President Tran Duc Luong, his meeting with Prime Minister Phan Van Khai and his talk at the Ha Noi National University. Phieu concluded that each country, each nation had its own history, traditions and cultural identity, adding that Viet Nam was proud of its thousands years of culture.

The Party leader said he agreed with the U.S. President that the past could not be forgotten nor changed, and the question was to properly understand the nature of the past and particularly the anti-aggression resistance war which the Vietnamese people had to fight. Viet Nam waged the resistance war to end the country's occupation by imperialists. But why did the U.S. forces invade Viet Nam which did not seek invade the U.S. ?

The resistance wars had brought the Vietnamese people national independence and reunification to advance the country toward socialism, the Party leader said, so for the Vietnamese people the war was not ultimately a story of darkness, sadness and unhappiness.

Nevertheless, the recent war had heavy consequences for the people and country of Viet Nam, Phieu said. It was important, therefore, that responsible people should prevent the past from recurring. To Viet Nam, the past is the roots, the ground and the strength of the present and future.

General Secretary Phieu added that Viet Nam could not gain independence for the divided country by peaceful means, and therefore had to take up arms to win back independence. Viet Nam has long been one, the Vietnamese nation has long been one, and the people in the U.S. and the world had supported its people's just resistance struggle, Phieu said. Hence, both sides should learn from the past and take responsibility for it.

In regard to Doi Moi, Party General Secretary Phieu said the process was aimed at furthering national independence and socialism. He expressed thanks to the international community for their cooperation and assistance.

"The Doi Moi goal is to achieve an independent, socialist-oriented economy. That is a multi-sectoral economy where the State sector plays the key role," said the Party leader.

He made it clear that Viet Nam has room for a private economy, but is not privatizing the economy. Cooperatives have been re-organized, he said, not dissolved.

In the current economy, the State and cooperative sectors play a primary role. In more than 30 years of war and 19 years under embargo, which had posed numerous difficulties and challenges, socialism in Viet Nam had persisted and developed and would certainly further develop, stressed the Party leader, adding that he made the same statement during his visits to France, Italy and the European Union.

"The U.S. Secretary of State the other day asked me whether socialism would continue to exist; I replied that socialism would not only exist but further develop," Phieu said.

In regard to external policies, the Party General Secretary reaffirmed Viet Nam's policy of extending the hand of friendship to all nations the world over for peace, independence, friendship and development, equal cooperation and mutual interest.

He stressed that Viet Nam pursued an external policy of independence, self-determination, and diverse and multilateral ties. He cited the signing of the Viet Nam-U.S. Trade Agreement as a proof of the policy. Also under the policy, Viet Nam has established diplomatic relations with nearly 170 nations and commercial ties with more than 150 countries. At the same time, the Communist Party of Viet Nam has set up relations with more than 180 communist, left-wing and ruling parties. In the current global environment, every government and every nation all need to expand cooperation for mutual development.

"We respect the choice of lifestyle and political system by other nations. We, in return, ask for other nations to respect our people's choices. The fact that nations have different political systems does not prevent cooperation for mutual development, if they know how to respect each other's national independence and sovereignty, and not to intervene into the other's internal affairs," stressed the Party leader.

"It's certain that the 21st century will be defined by technology and science. But it also means a larger gap between rich and poor nations. The total property possessed by more than 300 billionaires the world over is equal to the incomes of more than 2 billion people in poor countries," said Phieu.

"The future of the Vietnamese nation is independence and socialism," stressed the Party leader, adding that he hoped relations between the two countries would further develop without any repeat of the past.

"Chelsea reminded me of Emily, daughter of Morison who had accompanied her mother in a visit to Viet Nam. They made a very nice symbol of the friendship between the two peoples," said Phieu.--VNA


Ha Noi, Nov. 18 (VNA) -- President William Jefferson Clinton of the United States of America, his wife and his entourage left Ha Noi for Ho Chi Minh City evening, Nov. 18.

A farewell ceremony was held at the Presidential Palace in Ha Noi in the presence of President Tran Duc Luong and his wife and other senior officials of the State, the Government, the National Assembly and Ha Noi.

President Clinton thanked President Luong and his wife, the State, the Government and the people of Viet Nam for their ceremonial welcome and said he had formed a fine impression of Viet Nam while visiting Ha Noi.

Both President Tran Duc Luong and President W. J. Clinton described the visit as a new step toward the enhancement of Viet Nam-US relations. They believed the visit would be a milestone in the long-lasting friendship and cooperative relations between the two countries, based on the principle of mutual respect for independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, non-interference in each other's internal affairs and each other's relations with other countries, equality and mutual benefit and contributions to peace, security and stability in Southeast Asia, the Asia-Pacific and the world.--VNA

Nov. 19 (VNA) -- President William Jefferson Clinton and his daughter Chelsea met with young representatives of enterpreneurs, intellectuals and artists in Ho Chi Minh City morning, Nov. 19.

The U.S. President and his entourage arrived in Ho Chi Minh City, the second and last leg of their four-day official tour of Viet Nam, in Nov. 18 night.

The President was told of activities attracting the city's youth and the youth's role in and contributions to the city's social, economic, political and cultural lives.

He shared the view with the youth on the importance of boosting education cooperation between the two countries.

He said that young people in the two countries now had more opportunities to better understand each other, to share similarity and common interests, and therefore to have more chances in the near future to boost effective cooperation.

He affirmed the important role to take by the Vietnamese and US youth in healing the wounds of the past and building up the future.--


Nov. 20 (VNA) -- President William Jefferson Clinton of the U.S. and his wife and entourage left Ho Chi Minh City late Sunday night, Nov. 19, winding up their four-day official visit to Viet Nam.

In Ho Chi Minh City, President Clinton was welcomed by Chairman of the municipal People's Committee Vo Viet Thanh, who outlined the city's economic development and resolution of social issues, especially in hunger and poverty eradication and improvement of people's educational level.

Chairman Thanh wished for further development of the two countries' ties. He said the U.S. Government should pay due attention and contribute to overcoming the aftermath of the war in Viet Nam.

President Clinton said he was impressed by the land and people of Viet Nam. He spoke highly of the city's achievements in economic renovation and solution of social issues.

After the reception, President W.J. Clinton and Chairman Vo Viet Thanh met with representatives of economic branches, social organizations, religions, intellectuals and businessmen of the two countries.

Chairman Thanh expressed his pleasure with progress in the process of normalization between the two countries. He highly appreciated the efforts made by President Clinton as well as political, social and economic organizations, including US businesses, to overcome difficulties in the process.

The city's authorities and people, Thanh said, hoped that the ties between the two countries, especially in economic and commercial areas, would be further will developed for mutual benefits.

President Clinton expressed his hope that the visit would help the Vietnamese and US people better understand each other and see each other as partner to achieve the aspiration and benefits commensurate with the two countries' potential.

He said he believed that Viet Nam's economy would be further developed in the future, and that Viet Nam and the U.S. would have a better future.

Visiting the Viet Nam International Container Port, President Clinton said it symbolized Viet Nam's gateway to the future, showing how the nation is seizing new opportunities of the 21st century.

He attended a ceremony to present helmets to children within the framework of the "Helmets for Kids" Programme launched by the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the Asian Injury Prevention Fund (AIPF) and US companies.

The same day, representatives from more than 80 U.S. businesses and 80 Vietnamese enterprises attended a Business Forum jointly organized by the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the AmCham, the US-Viet Nam Trade Council and the US-ASEAN Trade Council. Participants focused their discussions on the bilateral trade pact signed recently by the two countries and the importance of information technology in economic development.

At the municipal theatre, Mrs. Hilary Clinton met with teenagers participating in a campaign to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS, and women representatives from different sectors.

She spoke highly of the role of Vietnamese women in national construction as well as socio-economic development. She said she hoped the two countries' women would join efforts in cooperation and mutual assistance to face challenges.--VNA