Kerry Visits Vietnam in Effort to Boost Trade Ties, Dec 14-16, 2013

The U.S. SecreKerry - Nguyen Phu Trong Dec 2013tary of State met Vietnamese leaders on Dec 16 to discuss growing trade and security ties between the former adversaries.

The U.S. is Vietnam’s second-largest trade partner after China. Bilateral trade is expected to rise 15.3% this year to $28.7 billion, the American Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam said this month. Vietnam’s exports to the U.S. are on track to rise 16.7% this year to $23.7 billion, while its imports from the U.S. are likely rise 8.7% to $5 billion, according to the chamber.

Vietnam is now one of a dozen nations in negotiations to join the U.S.-led Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement, which is expected to give a boost to trade among countries that account for 40% of the global economy. Vietnam is looking to secure markets for exports of footwear and garments, while the U.S. is placing a premium on intellectual property protection.

“Vietnam has the potential to become one of the United States’ leading economic partners in the region, and we’re going to continue to work at that,” Mr. Kerry said Saturday. Mr. Kerry witnessed the signing of a $94 million contract Saturday under which General Electric Co. will sell 52 wind turbines to a Vietnamese company for a wind farm project in the Mekong delta. In October, GE signed a $1.7 billion deal to sell and lease 40 new jet engines to Vietnam Airlines, to be used for the flag carrier’s fleet of Boeing Dreamliner aircraft.

But underscoring the complex relationship between the U.S. and Vietnam, Mr. Kerry also raised issues of human rights, a topic that continues to undermine prospects for a broader relationship.

Mr. Kerry spoke with General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong in Hanoi Monday.

“Vietnam needs to show a continued progress on human rights and freedom, including the freedom of religion, the freedom of expression and the freedom of association,” he said. While Hanoi’s human-rights legacy complicates ties with Washington, some analysts say the current human-rights climate in Vietnam hasn’t significantly curtailed bilateral relations.

Read more …

Kerry Visits Vietnam in Effort to Boost Trade Ties, Wall Street Journal, Dec 16, 2013.

Kerry Seeks to Boost U.S. Ties With Vietnam, but Presses on Human Rights, Wall Street Journal, Dec 16, 2013.