Serving as US Ambassador to Vietnam from 2014 to 2017, Ted Osius made significant contributions to Vietnam-US relations. In October 2021, he published “Nothing is Impossible” - a book about the 20-year journey of efforts to ease and heal tensions between Vietnam and the United States. Currently, Ted is the president and CEO of the US-ASEAN Business Council.
As a long-standing organization that was established in 1984, the US-ASEAN Business Council now connects with 171 member companies whose collective revenue is just shy of seven trillion dollars, playing its role as the channel of communication between the US private sector leaders and the 10 ASEAN countries through making clear of both sides’ expectations and the regulations involved.
Talking to Hao Tran about the endless possibilities when bringing the two systems together, Ted believed US companies have already recognized ASEAN’s potential as a $3.2 trillion and rapidly expanding economy with a major market of more than 660 million people.
In this bigger picture, Vietnam comes in as a strong economy with a robust average growth rate exceeding five percent a year and the expected fourth-largest economy globally by 2030. Within the country, Ho Chi Minh City’s dubbed one of the largest innovation hubs with “tremendous entrepreneurial energy” and a dynamic hotspot for startups, especially in the tech sector.
As Vietnam is incentivizing the digital economy by creating more conducive conditions for growth, to US companies this means Vietnam is a desirable destination to diversify their supply chains of high-tech productions. Once the main production activity is in the country, low-value manufacturing is moving up the value chain to higher-value production, creating better-paid jobs. For Ted, Vietnam is “a hub for semiconductor manufacturing, which shows what some of the opportunities are.”
At the same time, digital transformation is opening up unique opportunities when “some of the world's greatest experts on artificial intelligence hail from or live in Ho Chi Minh,” Ted said. In the face of the pandemic, digitization has introduced new prospects for growth, with companies going online and the government setting clear aspirations and guidelines regarding the 4.0 industrial revolution.
To create and maintain the impetus for innovation and growth, however, the country should encourage open access and global exchange of information, as well as keep worldwide innovators in touch. “Just knowing how literate and industrious and smart Vietnamese people are, I'm convinced that Vietnam will successfully compete in that world as long as the internet stays open,” Ted emphasized.
Nevertheless, controlling the circulation of information and getting accurate, legitimate news to 100 million people is challenging, especially when it comes to healthcare, vaccines, or COVID-19 treatments in tricky times of the pandemic. For businesses, accurate information means being able to keep up with global and Vietnamese changes, trends and brilliant innovative ideas that they can take advantage of.
Looking back, Ted believed Vietnam’s regulation transparency has improved a great deal and is moving in the right direction, although there’s still room for improvement by enhancing the level of transparency and clarity in the country’s regulatory regime. “I think it was smart to choose a policy of comprehensive international integration and in order to really succeed, the more transparency the better,” Ted emphasized. “That will serve Vietnamese citizens and Vietnamese innovators well, the more transparent the country becomes.”