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Boeing: Vietnam Air Formally Selects 7E7

Dec 31, 2004
AP via Yahoo!

SEATTLE (AP)--Boeing Co. (BA) said Thursday that Vietnam Airlines would become the latest taker for its new 7E7 jetliner, with a plan to order four 7E7-8s to be delivered in 2010. The deal is valued at about $500 million at list prices, although airlines usually negotiate big discounts.
The announcement comes as Boeing races to meet its goal of securing 200 orders for the 7E7 by year's end.
Including the deal with Vietnam Airlines, Boeing has announced agreements with eight airlines to buy 126 of the new widebody airplanes. But firm contracts are in place for just 56 planes.
Boeing said Thursday that it hopes to complete the sale with Vietnam Airlines in early 2005.
The deal with Vietnam follows an agreement announced Wednesday with Houston-based Continental Airlines Inc. (CAL) to buy 10 of the new planes. The 7E7 is scheduled to enter service in 2008, and Continental would get its planes in 2009.
Analysts have said it won't be serious if Boeing doesn't make its self-set goal, as long as the orders start flowing in 2005. But the company's chief nemesis, European rival Airbus (ABI.YY), may have made things more difficult by recently announcing plans to offer its own new airplane, the A350, to compete with the
Chicago-based Boeing says its new plane will be more fuel-efficient and carry more cargo than similar airplanes now on the market.


Vietnam Airlines signs up for 7E7s

Jan 3, 2005

The Boeing Co. announced it has secured a $500,000 million deal with Vietnam Airlines to provide four 7E7 Dreamliners in 2010. The airline is the eighth customer for the 7E7. Customer orders for the new plane, according to the company, now stand at 126. Boeing officials say there are ongoing negotiations with several customers. Boeing Wichita workers are scheduled to build the Dreamliner's forward section
and engine struts. The company was hoping for at least 200 firm orders for the airplane by the end of 2004. The announcement by Vietnam Airlines was the last of the year. "Vietnam Airlines joins a growing roster of Asian carriers who have chosen the 7E7 to gain its competitive advantages," said Larry Dickenson, vice president for sales at Boeing Commercial Airplanes, in a release.


The Textile Offensive

03 January 2005
The Wall Street Journal

Ho Chi Minh City -- For a journalist, there's nothing quite like having someone throw back his head and laugh at the absurdity of a question you've just asked. But that's exactly what Le Quoc An, chairman of the Vietnam Textile and Apparel Association, did when I asked him if anyone in Vietnam supported textile quotas.

As the world scrambles to prepare for the new quota-free era that began on Jan. 1, Vietnam finds itself at a unique disadvantage. The end of the Multifiber Agreement will open garment trade among members of the World Trade Organization. But that will effectively raise the relative costs of goods made in Vietnam, since its nonmember status means that the country will still be bound by the costly quota system. Despite this, there is a quiet confidence here that the Vietnamese garment industry can hold its own by sharpening its competitive advantages.

This confidence may seem remarkable considering that the end of the quota system  has spurred fears that smaller garment-producing countries like Bangladesh and Cambodia will be crushed by textile giant China. Vietnam has an additional obstacle: "Now China has no more quotas so they can reduce [costs], so they can be very competitive," explains Mr. An. When companies aren't allocated enough quotas to utilize their full capacity, they find themselves having to bargain with other companies for their quotas, a trading process that adds extra cost.

The garment industry employs about two million Vietnamese workers, representing almost 25% of the industrial labor force in Vietnam. It also accounts for $4.5 billion in exports, of which $2.5 billion go to the U.S., according to the American Chamber of Commerce. Yet despite the prominence of this industry, many Vietnamese are not panicking about China trouncing them in 2005. One reason is that Vietnam is not trying to compete head-on with China, but is trying to land the position of a viable No. 2 option. Foreign businesses understand that all of their needs cannot be satisfied by China alone. So instead of trying to compete with China's enormous low-cost labor force, Vietnamese producers -- with their emphasis on quality and timely delivery -- have won the loyalty of international retailers.

As one buyer who represents major U.S. retailers explained: "China can produce all categories, from low-end to high-end, but performance is not consistent. . . . We have a commitment to stay in Vietnam. We don't believe in putting all eggs in one basket."

Realizing how much quotas crimp Vietnam's potential, many Vietnamese are looking forward to the WTO accession, which will be realized in the next couple of years, they hope. But in the meantime, both the Vietnamese government -- as well as individual companies -- face the challenge of working within the confines of the quota system. Indeed, some private Vietnamese companies are less worried about the threat from China than about obstacles within Vietnam itself -- namely the lack of clarity in Vietnamese laws, and unfair advantages for  government-owned companies in the Communist country.

Some private companies, for example, claim that obtaining quota allocation can be difficult. "Private companies don't get much quota, but still [have] many customers," said one director of a private Vietnamese import-export company, as she proudly showed me around her clean and spacious factory outside Ho Chi Minh City. Why? "Because I always try to make what a customer wants -- high quality
and delivery on time."

While it is encouraging to see that some companies still manage to compete despite these obstacles, the onus cannot fall on business alone. As long as Vietnam isn't a WTO member, the government will need to concentrate on making the quota-allocation process efficient, transparent and fair. The American Chamber of Commerce is suggesting that the government allocate quotas on the basis of performance, as opposed to arbitrary, non-market factors such as the use of "local fabric." Issuing quotas on the basis of performance will help eliminate opportunities for corruption, and will also help ensure maximum utilization of the quotas.

Another weakness that needs to be addressed is Vietnam's shortage of raw material: Around 80% of cotton needs are reportedly met by imports. To address this problem, some interesting ideas are already on the table. Mr. An, for example, suggests ways that Vietnam and the U.S. could form a mutually beneficial relationship. For while the U.S. textile industry may not be the most competitive in low-cost labor, it has advantages in raw material, technique and management.

He explains, "We want to attract more U.S. textile manufacturers . . . that can supply us fabric produced in the U.S., or they can bring facilities to Vietnam to make fabric in Vietnam and re-export clothing to the U.S. market. That is a win-win procedure." While some will cast off this suggestion as simplistic or
unrealistic to implement, it nonetheless shows an appreciation of the fundamental laws of comparative advantage -- exactly the kind of thinking that will keep Vietnam moving forward.

This type of thinking would be valuable for U.S. textile lobbyists as well, who would do better to recognize that restraining Vietnamese imports is not the way to bring business back home. After Saturday, when textile and apparel quotas were eliminated for all members of the WTO, the U.S. will have quota arrangements with only Vietnam and Belarus, according to the U.S Association of Importers of Textiles and Apparel. Decisions by the European Union and Canada to drop their textile and apparel quotas on Vietnam have prompted calls by U.S. importers for America to do the same.

Vietnam's textile industry will face many challenges in 2005. But the silver lining is that Vietnam is responding to these challenges not by lobbying for protection, but rather by trying to capitalize on the advantages that set the small country apart.


Vietnam faces sluggish equitization of state enterprises

Dec 31, 2004

HANOI, Dec. 31 (Xinhua) -- Vietnam equitized 700 state-owned enterprises (SOEs) this year, realizing only 68 percent of its annualized plan, according to local newspaper Labor on Friday. The slow equitization stems from the fact that, some SOEs want to retain the state's preferential treatment, equitization procedures are cumbersome, operation of relevant steering committees at all levels is still weak, and financial issues in SOEs are not very transparent, the newspaper quoted Ho Xuan Hung, deputy head of the Central Steering Committee on Enterprise Renovation and Development, as saying.
To accelerate the equitization, Vietnam has decided to apply a new process that allows a SOE to go public within nine months instead of an average of 13 months as currently. Relevant organizations and individuals are to shoulder stronger responsibility for any sluggishness in the process. The country plans to equitize 1,500-1,600 SOEs in 2005, Hung said, noting that it has so far equitized 2,100 enterprises, 63.8 percent of which operate in the transport industry.
By late last year, Vietnam housed some 4,800 SOEs with combined capital of more than 189.4 trillion Vietnamese dong (nearly 12.1 billion US dollars), which represented 62.1 percent of the total capital of all businesses in the country. Of the SOEs, 13.5 percent were loss-making in 2003.


BP aims to raise Vietnam Nam Con Son gas output by 30% in 2005.

03 January 2005
Platts Commodity News

Singapore (Platts)-2Jan2005/931 pm EST/231 GMT BP, operator of Vietnam's offshore Nam Con Son natural gas project, plans to boost its annual supply in 2005 by 30% to 3.2-bil cu m (112.9 bcf), the company said last Friday. The project brought 2.5-bil cu m of gas ashore in 2004, 90% above plan, said John Ming, director general of BP Exploration Operating Co. BP supplies natural gas from the Lan Tay-Lan Do field to gas-fired power plants in the Ba Ria-Vung Tau province in southern Vietnam. The company said it also plans to expand its gas terminal and the compression capacity of the Lan Tay platform to increase production capacity, but did not give a timeframe. Among the milestones in 2004, Nam Con Son recorded 1-bil cu m of gas on Feb 17, some 14 months after start-up, and hit the 3-bil cu m mark on Nov 23. On Apr 3, the 30% BP-owned Phu My 3 power plant was put into commercial operation, raising Vietnam's power generation capacity by almost 10%.

BP also operates two lubricants joint ventures in Vietnam-BP Petco with Petrolimex, and Castrol Vietnam with Saigon Petro.


Vo makes unlikely journey from Saigon chaos to Texas House

01 January 2005
AP via Yahoo!

HOUSTON (AP) - Planes crashed to earth, rockets screamed across the sky and bombs exploded as 19-year-old Hubert Vo began his long journey. Three decades later, he's preparing to take the floor of the Texas House of Representatives as the state's first Vietnamese-born lawmaker.

"I remember my father gave each one of us a gun and said: 'Use it if you have to,'" said Vo, recalling how he, his five siblings and his parents fled Saigon in 1975 as their country collapsed. "It was chaos. The day I left, I stood on the boat, looked at horizon, seen airplanes falling from the sky."

That far exceeds any turmoil Vo has experienced following his election to the Houston-area District 149 seat he captured by a mere 33 votes over longtime Republican incumbent Talmadge Heflin.

Vo, 48, insists the election uncertainty and recount that confirmed his victory are behind him, even though a House committee is investigating and the full House could declare Vo a winner or declare the election void and ask the governor to order a new one.

"I've been mainly focusing on how to be a good member of the House," he said. "It's just looking forward now."

That has long been Vo's philosophy as he became the classic American immigrant success, building one of the most diverse resumes of any Texas legislator.

"I think I have quite a bit of experiences," he understated.

Vo worked as a busboy and a cook. He assembled digital watches and video games. He was robbed more times than he cares to remember as a convenience store clerk. He went door to door updating listings for telephone books. He's been a steelworker and a goldsmith, built computers and formed a computer company. He earned a degree in mechanical engineering from the University of Houston, where he met his wife. And they're raising three children.

He got into real estate, built shopping centers, manages apartment complexes and even earned a license as an air-conditioning technician.

"I worked at different places, getting understanding of a worker, of a manager, of a supervisor," Vo said. "From the ground up, I have that hands-on knowledge, different classes of society. Hopefully I can understand the people of my district better than anybody else, because I've been through all those things myself."

In war-ravaged Vietnam, where his father worked for the Vietnamese navy and coast guard and had ties to the CIA, Vo was a freshman in college studying economics and politics when their world imploded.

His father brought home word they'd have to leave.

They boarded a boat to the Philippines, then went to a resettlement camp in Little Rock, Ark., which they chose over California (too expensive) and Pennsylvania (too cold). He and his family were adopted by a church congregation in Palestine in East Texas, moved to Lubbock in 1976 and to Houston a year
later. His father had learne  through a friend that Houston would be a good place to settle, crowded like Saigon and full of opportunity.

Vo laughs now about how in Vietnam he admired U.S. President Richard Nixon, who would leave office in disgrace.

"I wanted to be a politician," he said, dressed like the Nixon we normally remember -- formal dark suit, tie, white shirt. "Since I was young, I wanted to get involved in legislation, with making laws."

Now, 30 years later, he's fulfilling that goal.

Unlike Republican Nixon, Vo decided the Democratic Party was more in line with his thinking, though he prefers to shun such designations.

"To me, if you put labels on a person, you're not going to go nowhere at all," he said.

It was the success of Asian candidates in recent years in Houston -- like Gordon Quan, a China native who serves on city council -- that "kind of opened the door for me again to be curious about politics," Vo said.

Quan said Vo brings an immigrant's perspective to office.

"They have a different work ethic, have had different struggles," Quan said. "When you have had to start over, don't speak the language, you can really relate. ... These types of backgrounds and experiences will help him to be an advocate for policies that will better serve a changing Texas."

Vo approached the House effort methodically, the same way he learned Spanish -- his fourth language.

"He's disciplined to work at it," said Mustafa Tameez, Vo's political consultant. "He won't give it up. He will stay at it until he gets it, to feel he masters at it. In the Legislature, that quality brings a lot to the table. He listens more than he talks."

Outside of work, one of Vo's hobbies is target shooting with a .45-caliber pistol. It's a link to his teenage years in Vietnam, where weapons and self-defense training were a high school requirement.

"It was chaos in Vietnam, so you'd had to fight to survive," he said.

As for being the first Vietnamese-born legislator in the state, Vo disagrees with those who wish to put him on a pedestal.

"It never crossed my mind about being an important person," he said. "I'm thinking more to the future than how proud I am or what a big shot I am. With me, I count myself as just another Texan working in the Texas Legislature."


A pilgrimage to the battlefields

02 January 2005
Sun Herald

Vietnam is opening up as a destination for war veterans and their descendants, Didier Lauras writes.

A PAINFUL pilgrimage for some, a history lesson for others. Vietnam's tourism authority and foreign travel agents are seeking to cash in on the country's historic sights to attract the curious and war veterans.

"We are proud of our fight for independence," said Duong Xuan Hoi, an official from the Ministry of Tourism. "Vietnam today is known throughout the world for its exploits.

"Helping tourists visit the battlefields is one of our priorities. We do build tourist packages based around this theme."

The Cu Chi Tunnels, dug by Viet Cong resistance fighters outside the former South Vietnamese capital of Saigon, the demilitarised zone (DMZ) that split the
country in half, and the white sands of Danang where GIs once enjoyed R&R leave, are already popular fixtures on the tourist trail.

"The Cu Chi Tunnels are a must-see," said Eric Merlin, one of the co-founders of the Vietnam-based Exotissimo travel agency.

"They are a demonstration of the courage and determination of the Vietnamese people. And people want to understand a little about these people who beat the Americans."

For Vietnam's younger generations, the war that ended in 1975 remains firmly in the past and is of little interest more than half of the communist nation's 81 million people are under the age of 20 but it is a selling point for tourists.

"The war is one of the essential parts of a trip to Vietnam, like the gondoliers of Venice or cowboy hats in shopping malls in Texas," Merlin said. "It may no longer reflect reality here, but the image remains."

The food, the beaches, rice fields and temples continue to be the primary selling images used by tour operators to pitch Vietnam to foreign tourists.

But some industry experts believe that in the long term, the country's historical sites will become as popular as Europe's World War II battlegrounds.

"When I visited France, of course I went to the beaches in Normandy," one expert said. "I am sure in Vietnam we will get to that stage too."

For the moment the most promising market is in the US, where an increasing number of veterans are returning to Vietnam.

"Now Vietnam appears to be open and relaxed enough to enable the veterans to come back," said Graham Heal, president of the US-based travel portal FrequentTraveller.com. "Ten years ago, they certainly did not feel that comfortable."

The prominence given to the Vietnam War during the race for the US presidency illustrates the profound impact Washington's bloody intervention in Indochina continues to have on the country.

From a tourism standpoint, this represents a potentially lucrative market for Vietnam: more than 3 million American soldiers fought in South-East Asia, and most of them are still alive.

"Vietnam still has a great significance in the history and psyche of the American people," Heal said.

Although the number of veterans returning to Vietnam is still limited no official figures are available he hopes that their business will generate the equivalent of $5.8 million a year in revenue for his company from 2006 through personalised tours revisiting their old battlegrounds or those where a friend or relative fell.

"The most important thing for me is to understand which branch of service they served in and which area they are interested in," Heal said. "We are organising tailor-made tours."

Those veterans who do make the trip are unlikely to face hostility from the Vietnamese. Displays of hatred or rancour towards American tourists are rare.

The window of opportunity for American war vets to return, many of whom are now in their 60s, is slowly closing, but tourism official Hoi does not believe the market will dry up.

"We already prepare the marketing for the younger generations of tourists, the children of soldiers who will come to visit the battlefield where their fathers or grandfathers fought," he said.