Vietnam could satisfy Bush's taste for history

PUBLISHED : Monday, 11 January, 1993, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 11 January, 1993, 12:00am

WITH only a week and a half of George Bush's presidency remaining, speculation is growing that he will at least partially lift the embargo on trade with Vietnam.

Like other outgoing politicians, after receiving a thumbs-down from voters he seems to be trying to win a thumbs-up from history, sending troops or negotiators all over the globe, from Somalia to Geneva.

And by lifting the embargo, he could cast himself as the person who finally closed the US campaign in Vietnam.

Hongkong investors have had an easy time in the country in the absence of US competition. Hongkong has had more projects approved than any other country.

The project to grow European-style vegetables in Dalat is a good example of how everyone can benefit from investment in Vietnam. There will not even be any landless peasants, as the land is unfarmed.

But questions are still asked about the government's commitment to market forces.

In September, 17 categories of goods, including all electrical appliances except video recorders, were banned for import.

Issues such as security of land leases also cause concern.

If Mr Bush does lift the embargo, there will be a stampede of US companies into the country, particularly in the oil sector.

Prices will rocket on everything from beer to land. Investing in Vietnam will be fashionable.

The Trade Development Council, which has worked hard to get Hongkong business into Vietnam, should not worry if the territory slips down the league table.

It takes nerve to turn down an overpriced or dubious business venture, and business people fresh off the aircraft will not have that nerve.