Obama praises Viet Nam's entrepreneurial spirit in talk with young businesspeople

09:18 | 25/05/2016
US President Barack Obama discussed the status of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement and Viet Nam's entrepreneurial growth during a talk with 100 young businesspeople after a brief meeting with the Secretary of HCM City's Party Committee Dinh La Thang on May 24.
US President Obama looks at the products made by Vietnamese start-up businesses at Dreamplex. - VNS Photo Van Đat

The US President spoke at the Dreamplex Co-Working Space at the Miss Ao Dai Building in the city's District 1 and saw products made by young Vietnamese, including apps created for people with nerve injuries, a smartphone-controlled laser cutter, and other innovations.

Dreamplex, which now has 60 start-ups, is a place for young entrepreneurs. Though the business model is popular in the US, Europe and Asia, it is fairly new to Viet Nam.

"Next month at our global entrepreneurs' summit, something that I have been hosting now for several years, I will welcome eight Vietnamese entrepreneurs to Silicon Valley so they can learn from some of the best entrepreneurs and venture capitalists in the world," the president told the audience at Dreamplex.

"Dreamplex is not only home for digital entrepreneurs like you, but it is also a place where you can share ideas and work together and build a community that supports each other," he added.

"Incubators like this allow Viet Nam, alongside its emphasis on entrepreneurship, to see more start-ups happening in this country than ever before."

US President Barack Obama chairs a panel discussion with young Vietnamese entrepreneurs. - VNS Photo Van Đat

Obama said that entrepreneurship was the fuel for "prosperity that puts rising economies on the path to success".

"It's what gives young people, like so many of you, the chance to channel your energy and your passion into something that is bigger than yourselves," he said. "It allows us to go across countries and cultures to solve some of the world's biggest challenges."

"Ultimately, what makes start-ups and entrepreneurs successful is good ideas and human capital. Obviously, investors are important and infrastructure is important. But the most important thing is people. The culture of entrepreneurship has really begun to grow in Viet Nam," he said.

"The world is taking notice," said Obama, who noted that a leading global venture capital firm called 500 Startups had just launched a US$100 million-fund in HCM City.

Three young entrepreneurs, Hang Do, vice president of Seedcom; Le Hoang Uyen Vy, managing director of Adayroi; and Khoa Pham, director of legal & corporate affairs for Microsoft took part in a panel discussion with the US president after his speech at Dreamplex.

Obama spoke about the interconnectness of today's world and the global marketplace, and the need for every business to think globally. With good products and business strategies, companies can now reach billions of people, he noted.

Pham told the president that he returned to Viet Nam to give the same opportunities to Vietnamese that he had received in the US.

US President Barack Obama speaks to members of the business community after a panel discussion with three young Vietnamese entrepreneurs at the Dreamplex Co-Working Space in HCM City. - VNS Photo Van Đat

He praised the spirit of entrepreneurship in Viet Nam, saying that it had inspired him to return and continue to work with Microsoft in the place of his birth.

Obama told the entrepreneurs that the 12-country TPP trade agreement represents a huge portion of the world's marketplace, creating "standards for trade and commerce that are fair, that create a playing field that has high standards, including intellectual property protection," he noted.

He closed his message with encouraging words for the country's dynamic entrepreneurial community.

"My message the other day is that I believe in you, America believes in you, and we will keep investing in your success. Ultimately, it's the inventors and dreamers people like those that I've just met, those who we will hear from soon and all of you in the audience, who are going to shape Vietnam's future in the decades to come," he said.

"I think that if you had any doubt about the outstanding future of Vietnamese entrepreneurs, then all those doubts have been pushed away because of the outstanding presentations by these three individuals. Give them a big round of applause," Obama said at the end of the talk with the young businesspeople.

President Obama at the co-working space Dreamplex. - VNS Photo Van Dat

Relations between the US and Viet Nam are at a historic high following the establishment of the US - Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership in 2013 and the celebration of 20 years of diplomatic relations in 2015.

Trade between the two countries has nearly tripled in the last seven years, and now tops US$45 billion.

US exports to Viet Nam increased by 23 per cent in 2015, the largest increase of the US's top 50 trade partners, and only one of two markets with double-digit growth.

At the same time, the US remains Viet Nam's largest export market, growing 24 per cent year-on-year.

Economic ties between the two countries are poised to expand even further with the implementation of the TPP agreement, which would hold nearly 40 per cent of the world's GDP, accountable to the highest labour, environmental, and intellectual property rights standards of any previous trade agreement, while leveling the playing field for workers and businesses, the US State Department said in a press release.

The US has committed to help Viet Nam continue on its path of economic reforms, including efforts required to fully implement its commitments under the TPP through technical assistance, the department said.

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