By Jose E. Latour
HO CHI MINH CITY, VIETNAM - As a former U.S. diplomatic officer, I remain active with the American Foreign Service Association, the organization which represents the interests of active and former members of the U.S. Foreign Service. I first joined the organization in 1987 as fresh-out-of-law-school new Vice Consul appointed by then-President Ronald Reagan; 31 years later, I still care deeply about the organization as former FSO member of AFSA.
Several weeks ago, I was invited to attend an event hosted by Vietnam’s FLC Group, a major developer, at the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C. As you know, Mr. Trump abruptly pulled the U.S. of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (“TPP”) trade agreement; those of us who have been doing business in Asia for decades – whether diplomats or in the private sector – universally agreed it was a tragic mistake. But in the aftermath of that extremely bad decision, here was a strong Vietnamese PRIVATE company taking the initiative to launch a road show intended to advance the agenda of U.S./Vietnam economic relations.
The one-day event was filled with a diverse mix of American and Vietnamese policymakers, professionals, and entrepreneurs and proved excellent…and the irony of it being hosted at Mr. Trump’s hotel was not lost on any of us. Among the many highlights was the announcement that Vietnamese start-up airline Bamboo Airlines had just agreed to purchase 20 Dreamliner commercial jets from Boeing in a deal worth up to $5.6 billion, the announcement that Vietnamese start-up airline Bamboo Airlines had just agreed to purchase 20 Dreamliner commercial jets from Boeing in a deal worth up to $5.6 billion.
But the highlight of the event, for me, was in listening to the observations, comments, and thoughts of Ambassador Ted Osius, a career U.S. diplomat who had served as the U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam until his resignation earlier this year. I listened attentively and, for the first time in a long time, I was listening from the perspective of both a U.S. diplomat AND a private international lawyer. While I knew that Ambassador Osius had resigned, I didn’t know why, and it has only been in the last few days that the whole story has been explained.
AVS Vietnam continues to grow and expand here in Ho Chi Minh. The second anniversary of being the only U.S. EB-5 Regional Center with full time offices in Vietnam is right around the corner, and as our EB-5 investor base has expanded, so has the demand for more support for HNW Vietnamese investors looking to the U.S. for investment. Today, our Vietnam office not only offers EB-5 investors the only Forbes pedigree EB-5 opportunity, but we also serve as the Vietnam office of Florida’s largest and most respected real estate brokerage. We are helping American companies explore opportunities in Vietnam while allowing Vietnamese investors safely explore the U.S. real estate market through the AVS Capital Fund, a three year closed end investment opportunity designed specifically for the needs of Vietnamese investors. So, as I sat there pondering Ambassador Osius’ comments, I realized for the first time that irrespective of Washington’s politics, the business opportunities available between investors in both countries have matured to the point were economic interaction will expand exponentially and profitably…TPP or no TPP.
Ambassador Osius is a man after my own spirit. I quit the State Department only three years into my diplomatic career for similar reasons: I could not, in good conscience, support a number of policies which tolerated bureaucracy, corruption, and mismanagement in foreign missions…so I left. In the coming weeks and months, as I return to Saigon monthly, I will be reaching out to men and women in Vietnam who, like Ambassador Osius and me, have clear vision of the potential power of economic collaboration between what I consider to be the two most passionately entrepreneurial countries on earth.
If you care about the future of U.S./Vietnam business opportunities, I encourage you to take a few minutes this weekend to read Ambassador Osius’ wonderful article in the Foreign Service Journal describing why, after a long and illustrious career, he decided to resign.