Published: Thu, June 01, 2017
World News | By Penny Hart

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The Geopolitical Monitor underscored the importance of the two leaders' meeting on May 31 because PM Phuc is the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the White House since the U.S. has a new administration, adding that the visit also opens up two-way trade opportunities amid mounting security challenges due to China's actions in the East Sea.

U.S. President Donald Trump said he discussed trade issues with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc during a White House visit on Wednesday and that the two countries had signed trade deals.

"They've just made a very large order on the United States and we appreciate that, for many billions of dollars, which means jobs for the United States and for Vietnam", Trump stated at the White House.

Details of the deals were not immediately provided. Hanoi has said it shares concerns about North Korea. Trade between the nations reached $47 billion past year from nearly nothing in 1994, when former President Bill Clinton lifted a trade embargo.

Vietnam is among governments claiming territory in the South China Sea, where China's assertive behavior and land reclamation has stirred tension.

Hanoi's leaders want to reduce Vietnam's economic dependence on China while further integrating with global markets, including the US. "I have received reassurances that there would be a level playing field for U.S. investments in Vietnam as part of a mutually beneficial trade relationship".

He also expanded security ties: The US lifted a ban on lethal arms sales, started joint naval drills and sent two warships to the Cam Ranh Bay naval base for the first time in decades. Vietnam needs access to the United States market and...

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The U.S. president is due to travel to Vietnam to attend an Asia-Pacific economic summit in November.

"We would need to discuss together with the stakeholders to make sure that all parties will benefit from whatever action that we decide to take to ensure peace in this area", Mr Phuc said of the South China Sea. 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.

Mr Phuc was more expressive on the need to form a consensus with the United States on trade.

Vietnam had stood to be a prime beneficiary of the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership free-trade agreement negotiated under Obama administration.

"We have given Matt Pottinger a list of almost 100 religious prisoners to ask ask Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuc or senior officials of the Vietnamese delegation, to consider", he said.

"We don't cheat. There's no cheating of any kind of products that we export to the United States", Mr Phuc said.

"As the Trump administration begins to advance its agenda for free and fair trade, Prime Minister Phuc's visit to Washington is a timely and important opportunity for our two countries to reflect on the impressive growth of our bilateral relationship over the past two decades", Lighthizer said. "There remains enormous untapped potential for economic cooperation".

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