Historic Trips and Events

4:55:42 PM | 5/3/2023

In 42 years working for VCCI, since his graduation from Foreign Trade University in 1976 till his retirement, VCCI has become an important part of the life of Mr. Hoang Van Dung, Former Standing Vice President of VCCI. In his long, passionate and dedicated journey with VCCI, the way to work with the business community to overcome difficulties is etched in his memory. He kindly shares some memories of that journey with our reporters.

In 2006, VCCI Standing Vice President Hoang Van Dung (2nd from left, first row) posed a photo with President Tran Duc Luong (first left, first row) and leaders of APEC economies

“Graduating from the second Interpretation and Translation Course, Foreign Trade University, in September 1976, I was assigned to work at VCCI, an agency under the Ministry of Foreign Trade. At that time, VCCI only had a modest headquarters at 33 Ba Trieu, Hanoi with about 20 employees. After the national reunification, VCCI took over the Saigon Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Technology, organized it into a branch of the Chamber of Commerce in Ho Chi Minh City, and started to expand its operations nationwide. At this time, the main task of VCCI was to promote trade relations with capitalist countries, serve post-war economic requirements, and foster economic exchanges among localities in the country. Key departments at that time were just the International Relations Department and the Trade Fair-Exhibition Department. Later, the Finance Department, the Organization and Personnel Department, and the General Department were established. VCCI had 100 members which were State-owned enterprises.

In 2006, for the first time, Vietnam assumed the Chairmanship of the Asia-Pacific Economic Council (APEC) and the Chairmanship of the APEC Business Advisory Council (ABAC). How did you feel as the Chair of ABAC Vietnam and the Chair of ABAC 2006?

In May 2005, then Prime Minister Phan Van Khai signed a decision to appoint me as Chair of ABAC Vietnam, along with Mr. Dang Thanh Tam and Mr. Nguyen Thanh Hung as members of ABAC Vietnam.

2006 witnessed Vietnam's entry into the World Trade Organization (WTO) and international economic integration was a very new matter for Vietnamese enterprises. Our businesses faced the context: Opening the market and opening services also means facing challenges of competition from giant multinational corporations of the world.

Therefore, the fact that Vietnam assumed the Chairmanship of APEC 2006 and the Chairmanship of ABAC 2006 was a good opportunity for businesses to further expand cooperation and international integration. Participating in ABAC, Vietnamese companies had the opportunity to have their voices heard, together with the APEC business community, to advise APEC Economic Leaders to improve and facilitate the business environment.

Attending these events, we, first of all, suggested that APEC Economic Leaders soon agree to quickly form a free trade market in the APEC region. Second, there was a need for SME development policies, especially capital policies; support training and reduce administrative procedures; enhance corporate competitiveness by slashing input costs (including electricity, telecommunication and transportation). In a nutshell, if our message was encapsulated into only one sentence in this Summit and Forum, it would be: Creating the most favorable environment for business development" and "Enhancing corporate competitiveness”.

However, that first time holding APEC and ABAC events in Vietnam, what concerned us most was not how to coordinate the organization or what to do, but how to have the budget for these events, because the State Budget did not provide the funds for such events and there were no available resources at the time. We called for support and funding through many different channels and received sponsorship from many large firms. The 2006 APEC Summit brought together about 500 international businesses, including transnational corporations. Many heads of state also attended and held talks with businesses.

The total amount of funds raised was about US$6 million. Perhaps, my seven years of living, studying and working in the United Kingdom gave me a lot of experience and knowledge in working with foreign businesses and I was therefore successful in calling for funds for the Summit. With this success, I was awarded the Third-class Labor Order by the President of Vietnam.

Following the success of APEC 2006, in 2017, Vietnam continued to host APEC and ABAC meetings in Da Nang City and I continued to fulfill my duties well. After this event, I was also awarded the Second-class Labor Order.

To be honest, I certainly feel proud because not many people in the world have the opportunity to host the APEC Summit twice, shake hands with leaders of 21 APEC economies, and attend APEC meetings in 21 member economies like me.

As one of the first to lead Vietnamese business delegations to "explore" capitalist markets when Vietnam was not as deeply integrated as it is now, what were your most special trips?

VCCI can be proud to organize and open relations in economy, trade and investment among others with many countries. VCCI is a locomotive that leads Vietnamese companies to expand their relations with the world.

In 1988, I led a delegation of Vietnamese electronics businesses to explore the South Korean market. After two weeks of visiting, working and researching, I realized many opportunities for companies of the two sides to promote trade and investment. After returning to Vietnam, I made a report in which I suggested to the Party and the Government to establish diplomatic relations with South Korea because Vietnam only focused on relations with North Korea at that time. Four years later, in 1992, Vietnam officially established comprehensive diplomatic relations with South Korea, opening up many opportunities for Vietnamese companies.

In October 1994, VCCI organized a strong business delegation of nearly 200 large Vietnamese companies led by VCCI President Doan Duy Thanh to visit and work in the United States in two weeks. At that time, Vietnam had not established diplomatic relations with the U.S.. This was the first time that such a large business delegation went to the U.S.. When the delegation arrived in San Francisco, many Vietnamese emigrants in the U.S. protested us with slogans that they did not want to do business with "communists". At that time, the Governor of California came and said to the crowd, "It has already changed, it's time for us to change!"

During that trip, a reporter from VOA (Voice of America) came to see me and interviewed me in English as below:

- What did you come to America for?

I answered:

- The policy of our Party and Government is to put aside the past and strengthen cooperation toward the future. I think the U.S. will be the biggest trading partner, the biggest export market and also the biggest investor to Vietnam. Science, technology, governance, finance and other matters are also very important for our businesses. All of these things will grow the Vietnam-U.S. relationship in the future.

The reporter asked me again:

- What do you think about many protesters outside?

- I am very sad because all the Vietnamese should join hands after the war to build the country. They immigrated to the U.S. a long time ago. But I don't blame them as they have been away from the country for nearly 20 years and they lack information and understanding about Vietnam. I am willing to invite them back to their homeland; they will have a different view when well-informed. I really hope that Vietnamese people, at home or abroad, will join hands in national harmony and join hands for national development.

Then, we led the business delegation to New York and Washington, D.C, to visit the Representative Office of Vietnam in the U.S. to meet relatives and overseas Vietnamese. At that time, many people were curious to know "Who is the Vietnamese man who gave an interview on Voice of America?" because this was the first time a Vietnamese person spoke in English for 15 minutes on VOA, broadcast to all Americans and Vietnamese people. Indeed, they felt very happy and very emotional about what I had said since this was also what our compatriots in the U.S. thought.

When our delegation visited the Center for Strategic and International Studies, many professors and researchers there said: "We should have quickly normalized relations to do business with each other after 1975 and helped Vietnam grow rich like what the U.S. had helped Japan and other countries after World War II. We help each other to become stronger and we will be friends forever.”

It is definite that VCCI with its historic trip in October 1994 left a great impression and contributed to the normalization of Vietnam's relations with the U.S..

I dreamt that the U.S. would become the largest market to help Vietnam export, attract investment, get financial support, access science and technology, and especially acquire managerial personnel training for Vietnamese companies. These would help Vietnam develop sustainably on the path toward international integration. And that dream is already a reality.

VCCI has made many trips to open markets for Vietnamese companies. In addition to the historic trip to the U.S., what impressed you when you led Vietnamese business delegations abroad to gain experience?

In 1996, I led a Vietnamese business delegation to Israel. The Israeli Ambassador to Vietnam personally led the delegation to explore this country. This was truly an amazing trip because Israel is a country of only about five million people, with most of the land being desert and without resources. It had to import everything, including water. But they got rich by applying science and technology, especially in agriculture.

We visited big cities of Israel where the grass had to be watered unlike in Vietnam where the soil already contains water. At that time, in winter, they exported tomatoes to Europe. The productivity of tomatoes is 200 tons per ha; bananas, 100 tons per ha; shrimp, 20 tons per ha; and fish 60 tons per ha. Despite scarce resources, scientific and technological applications in agriculture brought about very high efficiency and productivity.

In fact, all agricultural achievements in the world at that time came from Israel. Thailand quickly sent agricultural graduates to work there for two years and then set up joint agricultural production ventures with Israel. With this successful approach, Thailand's agriculture developed rapidly.

I realized that if Vietnam wanted to develop quickly in agriculture, Vietnam should send experts there to study. When I returned to Vietnam to make a report to the Government, I proposed sending graduates from the University of Agriculture to Israel and then cooperating with them on production in Vietnam. If we had adopted this at that time, our agriculture would have developed faster now.

I also proposed opening an embassy of Vietnam in Israel. I have been to more than 100 countries around the world but this country impressed me a lot because they have to both do business and fight to protect the country, but they still develop very well. With an open and profound vision, even though their natural conditions are tighter than ours, they already know how to grow well with them and realize their desire to enrich the nation and develop businesses in a sustainable way.

Thank you very much!

Source: Vietnam Business Forum