Vietnam to Sign Deals for Up to $17b in US Goods, Services: Prime Minister


MAY 31, 2017

Washington. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said on Tuesday (30/05) he would sign deals for United States goods and services worth $15 billion to $17 billion during his visit to Washington D.C., mainly for high technology products and for services.

"Vietnam will increase the import of high technologies and services from the United States, and on the occasion of this visit, many important deals will be made," Phuc told a US Chamber of Commerce dinner.

Phuc, who is due to meet with US President Donald Trump on Wednesday at the end of a three-day visit to the United States, did not provide any further details of the transactions.

GE Power chief executive officer Steve Bolze told the dinner that General Electric will sign new business worth about $6 billion with Vietnam, but also offered no details.

Phuc's comments came after US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer expressed concern about the rapid growth of the US trade deficit with Vietnam, saying this was a new challenge for the two countries and he was looking to Phuc to help address it.

"Over the last decade, our bilateral trade deficit has risen from about $7 billion to nearly $32 billion," Lighthizer said. "This concerning growth in our trade deficit presents new challenges and shows us that there is considerable potential to improve further our important trade relationship."

Lighthizer and other Trump administration trade officials have pledged to work to reduce US bilateral trade deficits with major trading partners. The $32 billion deficit with Vietnam last year — the sixth largest US trade deficit — reflects growing imports of Vietnamese semiconductors and other electronics products in addition to more traditional sectors such as footwear, apparel and furniture.

The trade issue has become a potential irritant in a relationship where Washington and Hanoi have stepped up security cooperation in recent years given shared concerns about China’s increasingly assertive behavior in East Asia.

In a meeting on Tuesday, Trade Minister Tran Tuan Anh told Lighthizer about Vietnam's views and solutions to some US concerns, such as advertising on US social media, electronic payment services and imports of information security and farm products, the Southeast Asian nation's trade ministry said.

Vietnam also urged the United States to remove an inspection programme on catfish, speed import licenses for its fruit and make fair decisions on antidumping and antisubsidy measures on Vietnamese products, the ministry said in a statement.

Phuc's meeting with Trump makes him the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the White House under the new administration.

It reflected calls, letters, diplomatic contacts and lower-level visits that started long before Trump took office in Washington, where Vietnam retains a lobbyist at $30,000 a month.

Vietnam was disappointed when Trump ditched the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership trade pact, in which Hanoi was expected to be one of the main beneficiaries, and focused US trade policy on reducing deficits.