Trump discusses trade deficit with visiting Vietnam leader

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has a tough task when he visits the White House this week: Convince President Donald Trump to advance trade ties that blossomed under the Obama administration.

Lighthizer met with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and later spoke at a gala dinner hosted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. That hasn't led to purchases by Vietnam, although the US recently delivered six coastal patrol boats to Vietnam's coast guard in a sign of deepening security cooperation. And so now Vietnam is left to consider how, exactly, it can continue to improve trade with the United States, particularly given that the US has a $32 billion trade deficit with Vietnam.

The Obama administration made the Trans-Pacific Partnership a priority in part to counter China's economic leverage in Asia.

Sitting next to Trump, Phuc said, "the relationship between Vietnam and the United States has undergone significant upheavals in history, but today we have been able to become comprehensive partners".

Ironically, Phuc's visit to the United States comes at a time when Trump has appeared to have relaxed his strings on China after reportedly securing business deals with the country he accused of manipulating currency during his presidential campaign.

Phuc is the first Southeast Asia leader to visit the White House since Trump's presidential inauguration in January.

Hanoi's leaders want to reduce Vietnam's economic dependence on China while further integrating with global markets, including the U.S. China accounted for 21 percent of Vietnam's total worldwide commerce in 2016, almost double from a decade earlier, while the U.S. accounted for about 14 percent. Phuc plans to ink deals with US tech companies worth a total of $15 billion to $17 billion during his visit, so GE's agreements take up about a third of his budget.

Vietnam is also looking to tie economic exchange with the United States to support in the South China Sea. Trade between the nations reached $47 billion previous year from nearly nothing in 1994, when former President Bill Clinton lifted a trade embargo.

He told PM Phúc that Nasdaq has signed a Memorandum of Understanding with VNG on listing the company's shares on the United States stock market.

President Donald Trump says he plans to discuss trade and North Korea with the prime minister of Vietnam.

Several experts on US trade with Vietnam suggest any deal will to take some time, and is unlikely to gain momentum until other trade deals, such as NAFTA, are renegotiated. The PM said he supports both sides in boosting trade cooperation and wants the Congress to help Vietnam's agricultural, fruit and aquatic products enter the United States market. The Philippines, a country that had previously aligned with Vietnam in opposing China's claims, has recently sought direct talks with China over disputed territory in the waters.

Mr Phuc said the two economies were "more complementary than competitive" and said USA exports to Vietnam had seen a rapid rise.

The Oval Office meeting could also be overshadowed by expectation Trump will withdraw the USA from a global agreement on climate change.

Moreover, what Vietnam can take economically from the meeting remains up in the air.

  • Zachary Reyes