US President George W. Bush struck a gong to open Monday’s trading at the Ho Chi Minh City Securities Trading Center – Viet Nam’s stock exchange – before flying to Indonesia.
The president, who arrived in the city with the first lady on the Sunday night, hit the gong three times, shook hands with traders on the floor and met with a group of American and Vietnamese business leaders. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice also attended the meeting.
The Viet Nam stock exchange began operations in 2000 and there is now trading in 56 stocks and funds.
Mr. Bush quickly toured the city, visiting the Pasteur Institute, a facility that conducts research in preventive medicine and works to control the spread of infectious diseases. He congratulated health officials on Viet Nam’s efforts to combat bird flu and fight HIV/AIDS.
The president’s and the first lady’s last stop in Viet Nam was a tour of the History Museum. He left Ho Chi Minh City for Indonesia shortly before 1 p.m.
President Bush was in Ha Noi to attend the 14th APEC Economic Leaders Meeting on Saturday and Sunday.
He regretted "that he can't be a tourist right now" in Viet Nam and hoped to return, perhaps after he leaves office in January 2009, his spokesman said on Sunday.
"The president has expressed regret that he can't be a tourist right now, because he'd love to spend more time seeing it. It's a fascinating place," White House press secretary Tony Snow told reporters.
"It's not only growing very rapidly, but there's this sense of vitality," Snow told reporters aboard Bush's presidential Air Force One airplane.
US President Regrets not Being 'Tourist' in Viet Nam