By  on January 4, 1994

NEW YORK -- Organizers of VietnAmerica Expo '94 said they expect about 150 firms to exhibit at the first-ever Vietnam trade show solely for U.S. products and services.

The event, slated for April 21-24 at the Vietnam Exhibition Fair Center in Hanoi, is being sponsored by Vietnam Investment Information and Consulting (VIIC), San Diego, and World Access Corp., Wellesley, Mass.

On Monday, Hung Le, VIIC's executive director of research and planning, said the organization had about 50 "tentative" yes answers from companies that "still have to finish the paperwork."

Although he would not divulge any names, Le said, "They are substantial U.S. companies from just about every industry imaginable."

Le said he has been in contact with about 1,500 U.S. firms that have expressed some interest.

"Of that," he said, "we should easily get between 125 and 150."

"We think this will be a huge step in showing the American government and U.S. business leaders that Vietnam is a country that is on the rise," said Le Van Bang, Vietnam's ambassador to the U.N. Bang addressed a gathering of about 200 during a briefing at the Yale Club here last month, while the show's sponsors were in town to both drum up support for the event and discuss the current business climate in Vietnam.

Bang said a big exhibitor and attendee turnout could help push the Clinton administration to normalize relations. That, he said, would enable U.S. firms to take advantage of a favorable investment climate and a large pool of skilled workers, along with competitive labor costs.

The ambassador noted that the Vietnamese government is concentrating on upgrading its infrastructure, expanding commercial and domestic development, and promoting labor-intensive industries with export potentials, "including the textile and apparel markets."

Le said the show could easily draw about 100,000 visitors to the exhibition center, which has six exhibit halls and totals about 100,000 square feet.

Le also noted that the VIIC is investigating the possibility of holding a similar show in late 1994 in Ho Chi Minh City.

Vietnam, which opened its doors to foreign investment in 1986, is now engaged in joint ventures with firms from England, Australia, Germany and France, said Nguyen Hoan, director general of the show, in an interview at the briefing. Hoan added that the Vietnamese government has already approved more than 700 investment licenses representing potential capital investment of $6 billion.

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