Canadians tie up US$70m in deals
From GREG TORODE in Hanoi
CANADIAN businessmen snared agreements yesterday on nearly US$70 million worth of trade and investment in Vietnam on the back of the historic visit by Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
Mr Chretien became the first North American government leader to visit Vietnam and departed yesterday saying it was 'business, not big speeches' that would forge freedom in communist Vietnam.
'Trade will lead to growth and more growth will lead to more freedom,' Mr Chretien said.
'I could have made a big speech and slammed the door . . . but that would achieve nothing,' he said when asked if he had merely traded human rights for business oportunities.
'I'm sure the opening of Vietnam to our markets and to countries with our values and traditions will be vital to any change.' Joint ventures between Vietnam and Canadian concerns in pill production, ship-building, oil exploration and construction were signed totalling some $22 million of pledged investment, while $46 million was signed in trade.
The deals follow trade and aid agreements between both governments totalling an additional $30 million, with Mr Chretien urging Canadians to think of themselves as a Pacific nation because 'that's where the growth will be'.
One of the most closely watched deals will be an $18 million oil production sharing contract between Canadian Occidential, the country's largest independent oil company, and PetroVietnam.
Occidential chief executive Bernard Isautier said the deal involved an unexplored 224,000 hectare area of the South China Sea off Vung Tau.
Seismic tests will start early in the new year and exploration drilling with one well is scheduled for July.
Mr Isautier said the fledging Vietnam oil business 'could simply not be ignored'.
'Private negotiations have been going on for a long time and at this stage we have got to be optimistic . . . but this is a very new area for us.' Meanwhile, Agence France Presse reports that Vietnam's exports to the United States since February, when Washington lifted an economic embargo on Hanoi, have reached $34 million, according to figures from Citibank.
The US, in turn, has exported $30 million worth of car parts, equipment, and plastic items during the same period.