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‘It’s not about containing China’, says Biden on strengthening trade relations with Vietnam


US President Joe Biden at a presser in Hanoi, Vietnam
Image Source : AP US President Joe Biden at a presser in Hanoi, Vietnam

Amid tensions with Beijing, US President Joe Biden on Sunday asserted that his push to strengthen relations with Vietnam was not part of any efforts to initiate a ‘cold war’ with China, but rather about providing global stability by building relationships with Asian countries.

“It’s not about containing China. It’s about having a stable base… I think we think too much in… cold war terms,” said Biden at a news conference in Vietnam’s capital Hanoi. His remarks came when the US and Vietnam are building a comprehensive strategic partnership.

The American President further said that the US-Vietnam relations are aimed towards economic growth and stability across the world. “We have an opportunity to strengthen alliances around the world to maintain stability. That’s what this trip is all about,” he added.

Notably, Biden recently attended the G20 Summit hosted under India’s presidency in New Delhi. He was part of several landmark achievements during the high-profile summit, such as the Global Biofuels Alliance and the India-Middle East Economic Corridor.

During the G20 Summit, Biden met Chinese Premier Li Qiang, the highest-level interaction between the US and China since the former met his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping last year. According to Biden, both sides talked about stability in a non-confrontational manner.

After his visit to Vietnam, the US President will make a stop in Alaska on Monday to commemorate the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks.

What does Biden’s visit to Vietnam mean?

During his visit, Biden described the US and Vietnam as “critical partners at a very critical time” and said that Hanoi was a “friend, a reliable partner and responsible member of the international community”. 

“We can trace a 50-year arc of progress between our nations from conflict to normalization to this new elevated status,” he said with Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

The comprehensive strategic partnership between the United States and Vietnam is believed to be part of a broader effort to counter China’s growing influence in the Indo-Pacific region. The US is currently seeking alternatives to imports from Chinese companies.

A comprehensive strategic partner is the highest diplomatic status in Vietnam’s relations with other nations – a status shared with China and Russia. Biden’s efforts to bring more allies to the American side comes at a time of China’s economic decline and Xi’s consolidation of political power. 

Vietnam, like Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Brunei, has been in a tense territorial standoff for decades with China, which has claimed authority over waters in the South China Sea that are hundreds of miles from the Chinese coastline.

As such, Vietnam’s decision to boost relations with the US suggests that it wants to hedge its friendships while American and European companies look for alternatives to Chinese commodities. Basically, the US wants to seek imports from other countries while also trying to smoothen deteriorating relations with Beijing.

Vietnam was also pursuing a deal to buy weapons from Russia. Acknowledging Vietnam’s military ties with Russia, Biden’s principal deputy national security adviser said that the US was working with Hanoi and other states to try and limit interactions with Russia, given the ‘war crimes’ Washingtion accuses Moscow of committing in Ukraine.

Trade between US and Vietnam

According to the US Census Bureau, American imports of Vietnamese commodities have almost doubled to $127 billion annually since 2019. However, it is unlikely that Vietnam can match the scale of Chinese manufacturing, as China exported four times more products than Vietnam to the US in 2022.

Additionally, infrastructure, workers’ skills and governance need further improvements to increase trade exports in Vietnam. Increased trade has not automatically put the Vietnamese economy in an upward trajectory.

However, US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo said that CEOs highly rank Vietnam as a place to diversify supply chains, which was overwhelmingly dependent on Beijing before the COVID-19 pandemic.

(with AP inputs)

ALSO READ | Biden aims to use G20 summit and Vietnam visit to highlight US as trustworthy alternative to China

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