US Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius shares diplomacy experience at Berkeley Forum

Originally published on October 2, 2016 for The Daily Californian

U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius discussed his experience in molding Vietnam’s diplomatic relationship with the United States on Saturday at a Berkeley Forum event.

The event lasted for an hour and a half and began with a 30-minute talk by Osius on his work in Vietnam. Osius said he has worked in Vietnam for 20 years — since Vietnam and the United States took their first steps toward a partnership.

“Last year marked a major milestone as we celebrated the 20th anniversary of normalized relations,” Osius said at the event. “Everywhere I travel in Vietnam … I’m seeing signs of that progress. I’m seeing people being lifted out of that poverty.”

During the forum, Osius addressed the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, which is a trade agreement among 12 countries that reduces tariffs and fosters trade. An advocate of TPP, Osius said he had heard the trade deal is “not particularly popular” on campus and he was willing to field questions.

“I believe that full implementation of TPP will provide an incredible opportunity for Vietnam to move many (of) its people out of poverty into the middle class,” Osius said.

He added that he believes the trade deal will reduce the dependence of Vietnam on any one market and strengthen the country’s relations with the United States as well as countries in its own region.

Campus junior Lilac Peterson asked Osius during the question and answer portion if he has worked with politicians to mitigate the side effects of globalization as opposed to blaming trade deals, such as the TPP.

Osius explained that on this trip to the United States, he plans to visit Texas, Pennsylvania and Florida to discuss long-term solutions. He said he agrees with Peterson that implementing training programs is a better solution than abolishing the TPP.

“I think trade is, especially at Berkeley, scapegoated for a lot of the problems (that) are, in essence, factors that globalization causes,” Peterson said, adding that she attended this event in order to learn more about how the TPP affects Vietnam.

Berkeley Forum’s talks manager, Sachin Holdheim, came across Osius when he heard that Ruth Bader Ginsberg renewed his marriage vows. Osius and his husband live with their kids in Vietnam.

“I’m white, my husband’s Black and my kids are brown. We’re a typical American family,” Osius said in the talk. “We are incredibly well-received wherever we go. Vietnam is a conservative country. It has conservative social values, but you know what? We’re a family, and family is really important to the people in Vietnam.”

The next Berkeley Forum speaker, KQED News’ evening anchor Mina Kim, will speak Oct. 5 from 5 p.m. to 6:30 p.m. at 316 Boalt Hall.

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