Top Vietnamese official visits Seattle on first stop of U.S. tour

Seattle -- Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Khahn, the highest ranking official of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam ever to travel to Seattle, concludes his historic three-day visit today. Khahn arrived in Seattle Saturday (Feb. 3) on the first leg of a journey that also includes stops in Washington, D.C., New York, and Boston.

Gov. Mike Lowry, who in September led the first U.S. trade mission to Vietnam since normalization of diplomatic relations, said Khahn's visit marks a significant step in the evolving relationship between Washington state and Vietnam.

"Washington's Vietnamese-American community is 60,000 strong," Lowry said. "Our cultural bonds to Vietnam and our drive to excel in the new global market make Washington state a natural link to the Vietnamese market.

During his September visit to Hanoi, Lowry and Vietnamese Trade Minister Le Van Triet signed a landmark agreement to establish an ad hoc working group that will develop new economic and trade relations between Vietnam and Washington state. The agreement was the first of its kind between Vietnam and any U.S. state.

Lowry said the fact that Seattle was the first stop on Khahn's itinerary highlights Washington state's position as the gateway to Vietnam. According to Bob Randolph, the governor's special trade representative, Washington does more international trade per capita than any other state.

"The deputy prime minister's visit to Seattle underscores Washington's vast potential as America's cultural and economic gateway to Vietnam," Randolph said. "Washington's ports are a day and a half closer sailing to Asia than are California ports. With products that Vietnam needs, such as aircraft, apples and software, Washington state is well positioned to become one of Vietnam's major trading partners."

Randolph added that great potential exists for increasing trade between Vietnam and Washington state. In 1994, 38 percent of all two-way trade between the Vietnam and the United States was shipped through Washington state ports. During the first nine months of last year, Washington's exports to Vietnam increased by 550 percent over the same period in 1994.

Khahn is one of three deputy prime ministers under Vietnamese Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet. With overall responsibility for science, technology, and education, Khahn is currently responsible for the development of a high-technology infrastructure in Vietnam.

From the late 1970s until 1987, Khahn served as director of the General Office of the Central Committee of the Vietnamese Communist Party. Prior to assuming his current position in 1992, Khahn was the vice chairman and secretary general of the Council of Ministers.

In Seattle, the deputy prime minister's discussions with Washington trade officials were aimed at increasing trade and technology transfer between the two countries. In addition to Randolph, the meetings included Mike Fitzgerald, director of the state office of Community, Trade and Economic Development; state Rep. Velma Veloria; Mic Dinsmore, executive director of the Port of Seattle; and representatives of leading Washington high-technology companies.


For more information, contact Bob Randolph or Deborah Wilkinson, Office of the Special Trade Representative, at (206) 464-7143.