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Foreigner introduces paddle board taxi service to flooded Hanoi street

Thursday, May 26, 2016, 17:21 GMT+7

After heavy rains deluged Hanoi earlier this week, a foreign man introduced a new means of transportation to give locals a lift across the city’s inundated streets.

Photos and video clips of the man on a paddle board coasting along a flooded street went viral on Wednesday, after motorbikes and cars became almost useless after the road turned into a river.

In the video, the man excites locals stuck on the street by paddling along with a banner that reads ‘thuyen om,’ or paddle board taxi.

‘Xe om,’ or motorbike taxis, may be useful during the dry season, but once streets turn into rivers, a ‘thuyen om’ does not seem a bad choice.

The boatman was quickly identified as Alex Okulovskyi, a Russian residing in Hanoi who is also member of a local stand up paddle boarding club. 

The ‘thuyen om’ idea was merely a fun one meant to reduce stress for those stuck on the flooded street.

While Okulovskyi had seen streets in Hanoi become canals many times, it was the first time had he tried stand up paddle boarding on the street.

The Russian said he wanted to encourage people to look to the bright side in any situation.

Obama trip to boost Vietnam-US trade ties

The historic trip of U.S. President Barack Obama to Vietnam is already believed to be boosting trade ties between the two countries, which are already growing quickly.

The three-day visit, ending today (May 25), comes as relations between Vietnam and the U.S. are at a historic high following the establishment of the Vietnam-U.S. Comprehensive Partnership in 2013 and the celebration of 20 years of diplomatic relations in 2015. 

The two nations currently have strong bilateral economic ties, which have made impressive progress in recent times.

According to the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (AmCham), in 2000, Vietnam accounted for one percent of all exports from the ten-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to the U.S.

Vietnam has surpassed Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia to be the largest ASEAN exporter to the American market, AmCham said in a recent report.

AmCham has also forecast Vietnam’s turnover from exports to the U.S. to continue to grow in the years to come, reaching some US$57 billion by 2020. That would be 34.1 percent of ASEAN's revenue from exports to the U.S., with Vietnam likely to leave other regional competitors far behind.

In a fact sheet released on Tuesday, the second day of Obama’s visit to Vietnam, the White House said the U.S. is continuing to strengthen its commercial relationship with Vietnam.

“[Vietnam] is a rapidly-growing country that offers U.S. businesses and workers substantial opportunities for expanded trade and investment, promoting economic growth and development, and supporting jobs,” the document reads.

According to the White House, Vietnam-U.S. goods trade totaled $451 million in 1995, the year the two countries normalized diplomatic relations, and since then has increased nearly a hundredfold to $45 billion. U.S. foreign direct investment in Vietnam grew to $1.5 billion in 2014.

The U.S. considers its economic relationship with Vietnam as being fast-growing, diversifying and inclusive.

Trade between the two countries has nearly tripled in the last seven years, and now tops $45 billion.

U.S. exports to Vietnam increased by 23 percent in 2015, the largest increase among Washington's top 50 trade partners, with the Southeast Asian country being one of the two markets with double-digit growth.

At the same time, the United States remained Vietnam’s largest export market, growing 24 percent year-on-year.

U.S. export growth is high in sectors ranging from integrated circuits to civil aircraft, cotton, dairy, nuts, and other agricultural products.

In the last five years, Vietnam has also developed an important role as a supplier of high-tech consumer products to the U.S. 

The White House explains that the bilateral economic relationship is inclusive in the way that trade includes small and family businesses in both countries, as well as large firms.

As of 2014, 6,031 small- and medium-sized American firms had exported to Vietnam while 5,895 small- and medium-sized U.S. businesses had imported Vietnamese goods.

Following all this progress, the White House said that the U.S. is “taking the next step” through multibillion dollar deals signed during Obama’s trip to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership accord.

On Monday, President Obama witnessed the signing of a historic US$11.3 billion order for 100 Boeing planes from low-cost carrier Vietjet, as part of his very first activities in Hanoi.

The total value of deals signed during the trip was more than $16 billion, according to the White House.

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