HANOI, Vietnam (AP) — Phan Van Khai, an architect of Vietnam’s economic rise and the country’s first prime minister to visit the United States after the end of the war, died on Saturday. He was 84.
Khai died in his home district of Cu Chi on the outskirts of Ho Chi Minh City, the former Saigon, the government said on its website.
Khai oversaw Vietnam’s fastest and most stable economic growth during his nine years in office from 1997 to 2006. He signed a bilateral trade agreement with the U.S. in 2000 and oversaw Vietnam’s entry into the World Trade Organization in 2006. He was also the architect of the Business Law, which was introduced in 1999 and paved the way for private businesses to thrive in Vietnam.
He paid an official visit to the U.S. in 2005.
Khai was one of Vietnam’s most reform-minded prime ministers, according to economist Pham Chi Lan, one of Khai’s economic advisers.
“He was a good politician and technocrat because he was among the few Vietnamese leaders who were trained properly in economics,” she said.
Khai joined the revolutionary movement against the colonial French at the age of 14 and moved to the Communist-held North after the country was divided in 1954.
He then spent five years studying economics in the former Soviet Union until 1965, and returned to Ho Chi Minh City after the Communists unified the country in 1975. He worked up the ranks and was the city’s mayor from 1985 to 1989. He then moved to the central government, where he was appointed prime minister in 1997.