Thank you so much, David. Well, that was a long time ago. But who knows where the people out here on this meet and greet line will be in 16 years, David, and I want to thank you for your tireless, dedicated service to our country and all that you’re doing to improve and broaden and deepen our relations with Vietnam and the people of Vietnam.
I remember talking with you last October about how excited you were to be coming to Vietnam, and you put together that video greeting even before you arrived, which reached 20 million Vietnamese viewers. And I know you’re still trying to figure out how you’re going to reach the other 67 million at least. (Laughter.)
But it is exciting to be here on my third visit as Secretary of State. And the reason I keep coming back is because we think that there is an enormous amount of potential in our relationship. And I want to be sure we’re doing everything we can to explore how far we can go. Just yesterday, I think we’ve demonstrated once again we’ve reached a level of engagement that would have been unimaginable only a few years ago. We have two-way trade reaching $22 billion, increasing every year, working on everything from HIV/AIDS to disaster relief to trafficking in persons to recovering the remains of our soldiers. And our military-to-military ties, as evidenced by Secretary Panetta’s very successful visit, are also intensifying. We are working toward a strategic partnership agreement that will give us a framework to deepen and broaden this engagement.
But none of it would be possible without the energy and enthusiasm and the expertise of this team and your colleagues throughout Vietnam. When you launch programs that show farmers how to get more productivity out of their land, you’re helping them not only feed their families but earn more money and continue to rise into the middle class. When you connect Vietnamese companies with American investments, you’re helping to create jobs back home and produce economic growth for both countries. When you talk to students about opportunities to study abroad, you’re helping build bridges between our people, and with very tangible results, because I can remember back in the Clinton Administration, which is when I first met you all those years ago in Tokyo, just 800 Vietnamese were studying in the United States. Today 15,000 are, and we would like to double, triple, quadruple that number in the years ahead.
Now, look, I understand your work is not always easy. There are issues of government control and censorship that you have to work through and over and around every single day. It makes your jobs and your lives more difficult. We raise these issues and concerns in every single meeting that we have with Vietnamese officials and we will continue to raise them, because we happen to believe it’s not only part of American values, it’s universal values. The Declaration of Universal Human Rights is not just for Americans or Westerners. It’s for Asians and Vietnamese and everyone else. So we make the argument that as economic progress continues the opening of political expression and political space, the protection and respect for human rights is absolutely essential.
And I know that where you work has an impact on how you work. Being separated from each other can make it harder to operate as a team, and we’re going to keep working to finalize agreements for a new embassy compound. That is something we’ve been focused on and hopefully someday soon people will be able to work in one state-of-the-art location.
I want to say a special word of thanks to our locally employed staff. Ambassadors come and go, Secretaries come and go, but the locally employed staff here in Vietnam, like those around the world, are really the memory bank and the experience base for everything that we do, and we are very grateful that you’re part of this team.
So again, let me thank you and let me thank you especially for having to organize and implement three separate trips from me, the Secretary of Defense, and a continuous stream of high-level officials. I know it’s always extra work when that occurs, but we are deeply grateful, because we want to show at a high and visible level the importance we place on this relationship. So again, thank you very much, and let me shake some hands. Thank you, David. (Applause.)
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