Washington governor moots ties in education, agriculture

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Washington governor Chris Gregoire said agriculture and education would be priority areas for boosting ties between the US state and Vietnam.

"Vietnam is one of the state's leading and fastest growing partners in Asia and we want to expand our relationship in trade and investment," Gregoire in Ho Chi Minh City after she completed her first visit to Vietnam. During her five-day trip, she met with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, several senior government officials as well as leaders of local businesses.

The governor, who led a delegation of 80 Washington-based businesses in agriculture and education to Vietnam and China, said Vietnam was a potential market for agricultural and farm products like potatoes, apple, beef, milk powder and cherries.

The Vietnamese government opened its market for fresh potatoes this summer, creating more opportunities for the state to boost exports of the product, said the governor who also spent her time in the trip to promote potatoes at KFC fast food restaurants in the city.

Gregoire told Thanh Nien Weekly her trip would not only promote the state's agricultural and farm products to Vietnam but also promote trading links between US partners and local businesses.

The governor said the state has the third largest Vietnamese community in the US, and was familiar with Vietnamese agricultural products like dragon fruits, rice, pepper, clothes, cashew nuts, tea, wooden furniture and rubber.

"We are negotiating with Vietnamese officials to further trade and education alike," she said, adding more sea port terminals developed by two sides would be needed to achieve the goal. The state would increase support to Vietnamese students to facilitate higher studies in Washington, she said.

An estimated 1,200 Vietnamese students are studying in Washington state at present.

The West Coast state, which houses international giants like Boeing, Microsoft, Amazon and Starbucks is the US's second largest potato-growing region. It exported potatoes worth US$1 million to Vietnam last year.

The state also shipped $5 million, $11 million and $2.5 million worth of apples, beef and dried milk powder respectively to Vietnam in 2009, according to state's Department of Agriculture.

Department's director Dan Newhouse added the strongest growth in the state's export to Vietnam was cherry which increased to 10,000 boxes in the first seven months from 1,000 boxes in the entire 2009.

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