VietNamNet Bridge - 04/12/2008
Vietnam pushing free trade area with US
“We are trying to promote negotiations on a free trade area (FTA) agreement with the US. This would be a long-term task,” said Vietnamese Ambassador to the US Le Cong Phung on the sideline of the 16th diplomatic sector conference, which opened in Hanoi on December 2.
What do you think about the Obama administration’s interest in Asia in general and Vietnam in particular?
Based on the US’s benefits in its relationship with Vietnam and the geopolitical position, role and development capability of Vietnam, the US wants to boost its relations with Vietnam. Bush, McCain, Obama - any US president has to base his policies on the US’ interests.
It is said that Asia, including Southeast Asia, will be the centre of political, security and economic strategic evolution in the coming time, so the Obama administration would have to pay more attention to Asia-Pacific, including Vietnam.
It may be true that Obama would be more interested in Africa because he is African-American, but Africa is not the US’ strategic target, but Asia.
It is said that the US worries about the expansion of China’s influence in Asia and Southeast Asia, so based on the US’s interests, they would necessarily attach more importance to our region.
I talked with some advisers and those who are close to Obama. Obama was born in a place which is near Southeast Asia and he lived in Indonesia, so he is close to us in one way.
Obama chose Hillary Clinton for Foreign Minister. How will this decision influence ties between Vietnam and the US?
Bill Clinton was the one who resumed relations with Vietnam. The Republican Administration pursued Clinton’s policy to promote relations with Vietnam. The upcoming Democratic Administration will do the same.
Hillary has visited Vietnam already so she may have a certain sympathy for Vietnam.
More and more Vietnamese-Americans have joined the US administration at all levels. Do you think that this is an opportunity for us to promote national harmony and enhance the connections between the two countries?
It is a good thing for our country when Vietnamese-Americans, especially young ones, quickly integrate into local communities and join governmental institutions and sci-tech centres. They participate in US governmental institutions while the US administration wants to boost relations with Vietnam, so it is a favourable factor.
Will there be a breakthrough in the trade relations between Vietnam and the US in the era of Obama?
We don’t expect great breakthroughs. The current trade ties are favourable. In 2001 the two countries signed the Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA). At that time the two-way trade revenue was $1 billion. This year the figure is nearly $13 billion, or nearly a 600% increase. That’s a great advance.
The US is the largest export market of Vietnam. The new administration tends to favour a protective policy like the tradition of the Democratic Party, so this will more or less affect trade with Vietnam the same way. In addition, the economic and financial situation next year will be complicated so we will try to maintain trade revenue with the US at the same level as in 2008.
The US currently ranks fifth among foreign investors in Vietnam. We want that in the next 2-3 years, the US will be the largest foreign investor in Vietnam.
The two sides are negotiating on the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and the negotiation process is favourable. We are also trying to start negotiating a bilateral trade agreement this year.
We are trying to promote negotiations about a free trade area agreement with the US. This will be a long-term task.
Noted by Phuong Loan