In recent decades, economic growth has transformed Vietnam. Following a long history of food-insecurity and extreme poverty, the Southeast Asian country emerged as one of the world’s leading exporters in food commodities. Yet, as Vietnam faces rising threats posed by climate change, new vulnerabilities loom on the horizon, threatening a return to widespread food-insecurity and poverty. As Vietnam navigates these new and urgent challenges, the United States should remain steadfast in its support. Agribusiness is a cornerstone of the US-Vietnam partnership—the United States must strive for sustainable solutions to protect both trade and the environment in Vietnam.
Earlier this year, the Vietnam and US Agri-Business Dialogue convened in Washington DC, alongside the first-ever ASEAN-US Special Summit. Organized by Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development (MARD), the event provided an opportunity to enhance cooperation and partnerships in the region. Both the United States and Vietnam are home to robust agricultural economies, and the countries have a significant two-way trade relationship—in fact, Vietnam is the seventh largest market for US agricultural exports. This means Vietnam’s continued stability and prosperity will benefit millions of American farmers.
In 2020, agriculture, food, and related industries contributed over $1 trillion to the US GDP, while agriculture makes up over 14% of Vietnam’s GDP. Of Vietnam’s population of 92 million, 43% are employed in the agricultural sector, and many of them work on small family farms. As climate change poses an ever-growing threat to the Southeast Asian region, a resilient agricultural partnership with the United States is vital, not only for American and Vietnamese farmers, but for Vietnam’s future as a whole. Global forecasts show Vietnam will be deeply affected by climate change: environmental pressures will threaten crop yields and productions, reducing rural incomes, food security, and exports. To prepare for these coming challenges, it is critical Vietnam continues to build resilient and sustainable food systems, with the United States’ support.
At the Vietnam and US Agri-Business Dialogue, Vietnam’s Ministry of Agriculture shared the Strategy for Sustainable Agriculture and Rural Development to 2030 and a vision for 2050. The Strategy outlined specific goals to be accomplished by 2030, which included expanding Vietnamese export markets and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 10%. US Ambassador to Vietnam Marc Knapper has repeatedly applauded Vietnam’s strong environmental commitments. In June, he joined Vietnam’s Vice Minister of Industry and Trade Dang Hoang An to launch USAID’s $36 million, flagship clean energy project. Knapper described the program as “a cornerstone of U.S. support to Vietnam in achieving … climate change commitments.”
The United States and Vietnam must work together to uphold commitments and support the many Vietnamese people whose well-being depends on a protected climate and reliable trade. Certainly, the United States—and the millions of American farmers exporting goods to Vietnam—only stands to benefit.
Olivia Zeiner-Morrish is a participant in the Young Professionals Program at the East-West Center in Washington. She recently graduated from Trinity College with a B.A. in Political Science