Agriculture companies from New Mexico completed a trade mission to Vietnam in April with the aim of expanding export opportunities for their food products. The trade team, recruited by the New Mexico Department of Agriculture, had stops in Hanoi and Ho Chi Min City, and companies had opportunities to meet one-on-one with Vietnamese pre-qualified buyers, importers, and distributors for information exchanges. The trade mission was led by the Western United States Agricultural Trade Association and also included representatives from 12 other western states. New Mexico Secretary of Agriculture Jeff Witte participated in the trip. While he was accompanied by colleagues from 12 other states, public and media response to the trip was particularly noteworthy in New Mexico, where farmers are optimistic about increased trade with Asia.
New Mexico’s Department of Agriculture describes its state’s farming sector as “among the most diverse in the nation,” and its dairy industry leads all other agriculture industries in the state with more than $1.8 billion in cash receipts in 2014. Vietnam is an important consumer of Western US dairy products, importing over $99 million worth of dairy products in 2014. Vietnam is a member of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which could impact New Mexico’s dairy exports when the trade deal is implemented as Vietnam reduces tariffs. Under the terms of the deal, Vietnam is going to eliminate tariffs of 20% on cheese and milk immediately, and phase out a 34% tariffs on beef in 3-8 years. In addition, tariffs on fresh fruits and tree nuts will be eliminated, of which New Mexico is also a producer and exporter.
Vietnam enjoys positive relations with the US, both bilaterally and through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), in which Vietnam is one of ten members. A new initiative to expand ties between the US and Southeast Asia was recently announced at a leader’s summit in California earlier in 2016. Growing economic prosperity in Vietnam is transforming it into a significant market for US goods. Exports of US agriculture and related products to Vietnam increased from $1.5 billion in 2010 to $2.6 billion in 2015, making it the 11th largest export market for the US agriculture sector.
Zhengqi Wang is a Research Intern at the East-West Center in Washington and is a student at American University.