Vietnam seeks closer trade ties with Colorado


"Vietnam needs Colorado’s expertise in renewable energy, cybersecurity and - in a shout out to ranchers in the state - raising cattle. Colorado will play an essential role in strengthening U.S. and Vietnamese relations,” said Ha Kim Ngoc, Vietnam’s ambassador to the United States, during a “Doing Business in Vietnam” workshop sponsored by the law firm Snell & Wilmer in Denver on Friday, April 19. 


Colorado represents Ngoc’s first visit to a state outside the beltway since taking over last year as U.S. ambassador. Colorado’s 41,000 residents of Vietnamese descent represents one of the largest concentrations in the U.S. after California, Texas and Washington state.



Once a controlled economy, about 60 percent of economic activity in Vietnam is now in private hands. Economic growth in the country of 100 million people is likely to top 7 percent for a second year and electricity demand is rising 10 percent to 12 percent a year. “Vietnam badly needs renewable energy,” said Ngoc. He and other officials in the country view Colorado as at the heart of the U.S. alternative energy movement.


Bui Huy Son, trade minister counselor of Vietnam, said the country has about 800 megawatts of installed wind capacity and 300 megawatts of solar capacity. It is targeting 6,000 megawatts in wind and 12,000 megawatts in solar by 2030 and needs private power producers who can help it get there. Vietnam is also trying to make its economy more digital. Boosting cybersecurity, an area where Colorado companies are considered leaders, is part of that. The country is also looking to create more opportunities in rural areas, and views cattle raising in its mountainous interior as a way to do that.


Ngoc and Son expressed disappointment that the Trump administration rejected the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a trade pact between the U.S., Vietnam and 10 other nations. But they described Republican Sen. Cory Gardner as a Congressional ally.


After TPP went down, Gardner wrote the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act, in part to send a message to allies that they weren’t being abandoned as China continues to flex its growing power in the region. The measure, approved by Congress and backed with $7.5 billion in federal funding over five years, seeks to strengthen economic and security ties between the U.S. and Indo-Pacific nations, including promoting denuclearization, the rule of law and freedom of navigation. “This is not small potatoes. This is a big deal,” Gardner told the audience. “We need to do a better job of engaging.”


Vietnam has worked out 14 free-trade agreements and could sign a bilateral agreement with the U.S. at some point. Gardner also encouraged Colorado officials to sign a memorandum of understanding with Vietnam and take the lead in fostering direct trade ties with the country.


By Aldo Svaldi (The Denver Post)