U.S. and Vietnamese officials will be meeting this week to discuss how to take the relationship between the two countries “to the next level” and move forward on a strategic bilateral partnership, the president of Vietnam said at the East-West Center.
“We work very well on defense and security cooperation,” said Truong Tan Sang, in Honolulu for the APEC leaders meeting. “Vietnam views the U.S. as a very important partner. If we cooperate, it meets the interest of both countries and brings peace” to the region.
Officials in the United States and Vietnam “want to take the relationship to the next level and move forward on this strategic partnership,” Sang said.
Leaders of the 21 economies that belong to the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) are gathering in Honolulu, Hawaii, this week.
Vietnam and the United States normalized relations in 1995, 20 years after the Vietnam War ended. Vietnam is currently the United States’ 30th largest goods trading partner with $18.6 billion in total (two-way) trade during 2010. The United States is among the top countries bringing foreign direct investment into Vietnam.
Vietnam and the U.S. are partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership, or TPP, negotiations to develop a regional trade agreement. Officials hope to unveil a TPP framework on the sidelines of this year’s APEC summit.
“Trade will increase sharply in coming years,” Sang said.
Vietnam’s economy, with 90 million consumers, is growing at 7 percent a year, Sang said. Since the mid-1980s Vietnam has shifted from a highly centralized planned economy to a socialist-oriented market economy. PricewaterhouseCoopers forecasts that Vietnam may be the fastest growing emerging economy by 2025 with a potential growth rate of almost 10 percent a year.
Sang said Vietnam’s economic strategy includes restructuring investment and financial markets, developing a social safety net, reducing poverty and corruption, and developing a sustainable economy.
People-to-people exchanges between the United States and Vietnam continue to grow, Sang said, with 60,000 Vietnamese students studying in the U.S. and 400,000 Americans a year visiting Vietnam.
Pointedly insisting on answering every written question submitted by audience members instead of a selected sampling, Sang thanked the United States for its attention to contentious issues in the South China Sea, where China, the Philippines, Vietnam and other countries claim territory. He said China and ASEAN — the Association of Southeast Asian Nations — have resolved territorial disputes in the past.
Vietnam believes it’s important to maintain freedom of navigation in the strategic South China Sea for any country’s ships passing through these waters, Sang said.