The US and Việt Nam both need to work out how to advance economic and strategic relationships with partners in the region at a time when important choices have to be made by governments around the world, US Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday at a meeting in HCM City. — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Vũ
HCM CITY — The US and Việt Nam both need to work out how to advance economic and strategic relationships with partners in the region at a time when important choices have to be made by governments around the world, US Secretary of State John Kerry said yesterday at a meeting in HCM City.
Kerry said the future of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s so-called pivot to Asia, was in doubt as Donald Trump, who opposes the trade agreement, would be sworn in as US president next week.
Kerry, however, believed that US commitments to the region would not change.
“I can’t predict what the new American administration will do with respect to trade. But I can absolutely tell you that the fundamental reasons for the TPP have not changed,” Kerry told a group of students at HCM City’s University of Technology and Education. “That fundamental need of countries to be able to sell their goods to other countries hasn’t changed.”
“I hope you are going to agree with me that the values embedded in the TPP, the fundamental values, such as a rules-based approach to economic relations, higher standards on labour, on the environment, and safeguards against corruption, are consistent with Việt Nam’s interests and the demands of the Vietnamese people themselves for good government and for economic opportunity.”
“Those things are still essential if Việt Nam is going to meet its stated ambition to become a middle-income country by 2035. That can only happen through reforms that solidify the rule of law, that encourage innovation and that unleash entrepreneurial energy,” he said.
Kerry noted the continuing close ties and good relations between the two countries.
“We are strengthening our ties in a host of areas, including education, the environment, science, technology, high-tech, the internet, and even military-to-military cooperation,” he said.
“Today, relations between the US and Việt Nam are comprehensive. Even as we focus on the future, we continue our joint recovery operations to answer every question regarding the possible fate of Americans or Vietnamese still unaccounted for, and this is something we have continued to do in the rest of Southeast Asia,” he said.
In addition, Kerry said that the US and Việt Nam shared support for security and freedom of navigation and overflights in the East Sea, which Việt Nam, along with China and four other countries, claim in whole or in part.
“We believe all countries in the region, whether big or small, should refrain from provocative acts that add to tensions or might lead to greater militarisation of the area,” he said.
He also repeated the US opposition to coercion or threat of force “by any state to assert its claim over another”.
“And I’m confident that the next [US] administration will continue to adhere with the same good faith to that policy,” he added.
“He will engage local experts on environmental issues affecting the region and ways we can partner with Việt Nam to develop clean energy and sustainable infrastructure, smart water governance and ecosystem resource management,” John Kirby, Kerry’s spokesman, said.
On Friday, Kerry along with the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) presented a letter of intent to Fulbright University Việt Nam (FUV) to support the design and construction of the university’s main campus in HCM City.
The OPIC project aims to bolster the university’s academic programmes as well as expand enrollment to 7,000 students.
The presentation took place at the HCM University of Technology and Education, near the future site of the university’s campus at Sài Gòn High-Tech Park.
Kerry, a Việt Nam War veteran, also praised relations with his former foes, saying two-way trade had jumped from just US$451 million 20 years ago, when US – Việt Nam ties were normalised, to more than $45 billion today.
The number of Vietnamese students studying in the US has increased from 800 to 21,000, while the number of American visitors to Việt Nam has risen from 60,000 to half a million today.
Kerry and US Sen. John McCain, who was held prisoner of war when his Navy jet was shot down over Hà Nội during the war, were key participants in the efforts to normalise relations in 1995.
Kerry arrived in Việt Nam late Thursday to begin what many consider a low-key visit at a time when all eyes are on President-elect Donald Trump’s team-in-waiting and the future of global politics.
Today (Jan 14), Kerry will travel to the southernmost province of Cà Mau where he was an enlisted American soldier nearly 50 years ago.