Prospects for Vietnam - US cooperation from high-level visits

 "President Joe Biden's upcoming visit means that the US places high priority on Vietnam, as an independent subject with growing economic relations," said economics professor David Dapice of the Kennedy School, Harvard University.

Mr. Dapice added that previous visits by many senior US officials were consistent with this priority. Since 2021, Vietnam has hosted many top officials in President Biden's administration, notably the visit of Vice President Kamala Harris.

This year, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, congressional delegations and representatives of more than 50 US businesses also visited and worked in Vietnam. President Biden's September 10-11 visit to Vietnam will be the highest expression of this priority.

In the opposite direction, in May 2022, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh visited and worked for 7 days in the US, helping bilateral relations gain more momentum in many fields. Head of the Central Foreign Affairs Commission Le Hoai Trung also visited and worked in the US in July.

In March, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong had a phone call with President Biden on the occasion of the two countries celebrating the 10th anniversary of establishing the Comprehensive Partnership. Receiving US Secretary of State Blinken on April 15, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong said that the positive results in the relationship between the two countries in recent times were the basis to continue raising the relationship between the two countries to new heights, for the benefit of the two countries, of the two peoples, for peace, stability and development in the region and the world.

Professor Carl Thayer, of the Australian Defense Force Academy, University of New South Wales, said that these high-level exchanges demonstrated US recognition of the Vietnamese political system, as well as increased political trust and rules between the two countries.

Mr. Thayer said that since establishing the Comprehensive Partnership in 2013, Vietnam and the US have focused on 9 areas of cooperation, including politics - diplomacy, trade and economic relations, science and technology, education, environment and health, war legacy issues, defense - security, promotion and protection of human rights, culture, tourism and sports.

These areas have all witnessed notable progress, with trade and economics being the main drivers. According to the General Statistics Office, Vietnam-US trade turnover from 29 billion USD in 2013 has increased to about 123 billion USD in 2022.

Accumulated to June this year, US direct investment in Vietnam has reached 11.73 billion USD with more than 1,200 projects, ranking 11th among countries and territories investing in Vietnam.

Talking to the press in April, Secretary of State Blinken said that relations with Vietnam were one of the most dynamic and important relationships. In the following message, he said that his visit to Vietnam aimed to expand and deepen cooperation between the two countries, expressing his expectations for the prospects of cooperation between the two countries in the next 10 years.

Commenting on the development potential of bilateral relations, Professor David Dapice said that the two sides could focus on cyber security cooperation, something that Vietnam has paid a lot of attention to. This area may include investment in cloud computing centers in Vietnam, as well as solutions to enhance cyber security in which the US side has strengths.

"Some companies such as Amazon, Microsoft, and Google can build a secure cloud computing center in Vietnam. Although it may be expensive, such a project can be useful and will be discussed by both sides", Mr. Dapice said.

Besides cyber security, chip manufacturing and green energy conversion are also areas where the two sides can aim to further strengthen cooperation in the future.

In 2022, the US and Vietnam launched the Vietnam Low Emission Energy Program II (V-LEEP II) project, worth 36 million USD funded by the US Agency for International Development (USAID). The project is expected to provide technical support for Vietnam to realize the goals of sustainable energy transition.

USAID said V-LEEP II will contribute to the design, financing, construction and operation of new clean energy sources, including 2,000 megawatts (MW) of renewable energy and 1,000 MW of renewable energy sources from natural gas.

Professor Thayer said that trade and investment were still the core of the Vietnam-US bilateral relationship. The US wants to find a safe and flexible semiconductor supply chain from Vietnam, while Vietnam seeks greater investment and access to the US market, in the context of a volatile global economy.

During her visit to Vietnam in July, US Treasury Secretary Yellen assessed Vietnam as an increasingly important partner with the US and plays a key role in the country's Indo-Pacific strategy. She affirmed that the US was ready to support Vietnam in improving semiconductor chip and renewable energy production capacity.

According to Mr. Thayer, Ms. Yellen's visit has reinforced the US commitment to support Vietnam's economic reform and global integration, promoting operational shifts in the commodity supply chain, in order to "bring Vietnam a privileged position in America's global supply chain."

Secretary Yellen emphasized that Vietnam was an important intersection in the global semiconductor supply chain, proven by large investments of American technology enterprises in Vietnam such as Amkor Technology Company or Intel Corporation, with the company's largest chip assembly and testing factory in the world located in Ho Chi Minh City.

Professor Dapice said that Vietnam's improvements in trained workforce, green energy and highly specialized suppliers would open up opportunities to attract more FDI from the US.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that President Biden's visit this time aims to explore opportunities to promote the growth of a technology-focused economy and use innovation as its driving force.

Experts expect this visit will be a premise for the two countries to discuss a free trade agreement (FTA). Vietnam has participated in 16 bilateral and multilateral FTAs, but has not yet signed with the US.

"Economic cooperation between the two countries will continue to be enhanced if Vietnam and the US have a free trade agreement, to strengthen each other's ability to access markets with favorable conditions," Professor Dapice said.


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