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DJ World Business Leaders Praise Vietnam's Economic Reforms
[November 16, 2006]

DJ World Business Leaders Praise Vietnam's Economic Reforms

(Comtex Business Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge) HANOI, Nov 16, 2006 (Dow Jones Commodities News Select via Comtex) --Top business leaders attending a Pacific Rim economic conference Friday praised communist Vietnam for its stunning progress in reforming its economy and joining the world trading system.

"Vietnam has demonstrated to the world its capacity for quantum leaps," said Craig Mundie, chief research and strategy officer for Microsoft Corp.

"It's clear that the government has recognized that broad-based reform and economic liberalization are essential to Vietnam's integration into the global economy," Mundie said.

Hanoi's role as host to the annual summit of Asia-Pacific business and political leaders gives Vietnam a rare chance to showcase its transformation from a war-ravaged backwater to a fast-growing exporter.

More than 20 years of "doi moi" market-oriented reforms have made Vietnam the region's fastest expanding economy after China, with growth racing ahead at a 7.5% clip.

The CEO gathering comes fresh on the heels of two of the biggest business developments to hit Vietnam in years - its approval for membership in the World Trade Organization and Intel Corp.'s announcement last week that it will invest $1 billion in a chip plant in Ho Chi Minh City.

Executives lauded Vietnam's effort to amend its laws to conform with WTO rules as it prepares to join the Geneva-based trade group next month.

Foreign investment in Vietnam is surging. The country's fledgling stock market - just 52 listed companies and growing rapidly - has seen its overall value increase tenfold in less than a year.

"Vietnam is generally recognized as one of the world's most promising economies and with good reason," said Michael Smith, president and chief executive officer of HSBC.

Smith said the policies had encouraged HSBC to invest, as well as many other multinationals.

Local business leaders joined the chorus of praise.

"Today Vietnam has arrived on the global stage," declared Vu Tien Loc, president of the APEC CEO summit and chairman of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The summit has brought fresh opportunities, with Vietnam signing two deals with U.S. companies worth $1.5 billion.

State-owned Vietnam Coal & Minerals Corp., or Vinacomin, signed a contract with global power producer AES Corp., based in Arlington, Virginia, to build a coal-fired power plant at a cost of $1.4 billion. AES will contribute 90% of the capital, with Vinacomin providing 10%.

In another deal signed Thursday, state-owned Vietnam National Shipping Lines, or Vinalines, agreed to form a $100-million container terminal joint venture with Seattle-based SSA Marine.

Vietnam's thinnest times came after the Vietnam War ended in 1975 and the communists united the country. Cut off by an economic embargo, the economy stagnated under a rigid, centrally planned system. People lined up to wait for rice and other goods and faced police action if they sold anything on the free market.

The country still faces daunting obstacles, however, in building up infrastructure and training its workers for the newly capitalist-style economy.

"In addition, new challenges from terrorism, pandemics, natural disasters and technological inequality threaten the sustainability of regional prosperity," Loc said. "We believe that worldwide prosperity can only be achieved through shared opportunities and shared development."

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

11-16-06 2349ET

Copyright (c) 2006 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.

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