Ricketts and Vietnamese prime minister meet

Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts met Friday with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuân Phúc to promote Nebraska’s ag products and investment opportunities.

LINCOLN — Gov. Pete Ricketts’ trade mission to Vietnam has snagged one commitment — a visit to Nebraska by the Vietnamese prime minister.

Speaking via telephone with reporters Friday, Ricketts said the yet-to-be-scheduled visit from Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuân Phúc would be an opportunity to showcase Nebraska farms and ranches to the leader of the fast-growing southeast Asian country.

“Vietnam has (import) criteria beyond what the standard is for other nations,” the governor said. “If they can see how safe our food supply is, that would give them comfort.”

Ricketts met with the prime minister on Friday, as well as ministers of several Vietnamese government agencies, including the ministers of agriculture and industry.

The meetings provide an opportunity for the Nebraska delegation, which includes representatives of state ag groups, to press for a lowering of import standards to allow more Nebraska farm goods to flow to Vietnam. One of the barriers is a strict standard for the amount of Canadian thistle seed contained in shipments of soybeans.

The expanding trade war with China is one of the reasons a trade delegation is visiting Vietnam, Ricketts said. Vietnam is growing fast — its gross domestic product is growing at 6% a year. Also, a recent outbreak of African swine flu has killed about 20% of the nation’s hogs, which opens up an opportunity for Nebraska hog producers, he said.

The University of Nebraska, Ricketts added, might be able to help develop a vaccine for the swine flu.

Earlier this week, the Nebraska Farm Bureau estimated that the trade war has resulted in a nearly $950 million loss in income for Nebraska farmers because of retaliatory tariffs. Ricketts said that despite that, the farmers he talks to remain patient that President Donald Trump will reach a better trade deal with China and other countries.

While Vietnam now ranks at about No. 12 among Nebraska’s ag trade partners, it’s a growing country, the governor said, that brings a lot of potential for growth in trade and investment.

The trade mission began Thursday in Hanoi, Vietnam, and will continue Sunday with meetings in Japan.

The trip is Ricketts’ fourth trade mission to Asia in the last five years.

The Governor’s Office said Vietnamese is the third-most-spoken language in Nebraska, behind English and Spanish.

This report includes material from the Associated Press.

Reporter - Regional/state issues

Paul covers state government and affiliated issues. He specializes in tax and transportation issues, following the governor and the state prison system. Follow him on Twitter @PaulHammelOWH. Phone: 402-473-9584.

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