President Barack Obama meets with President Truong Tan Sang of Vietnam in the Oval Office on July 25, 2013 in Washington, DC. Mr. Sang is the second Vietnamese president to visit the White House since 1995. [Image Source: Dennis Brack-Pool/Getty Images]

United States and Vietnam Announce New Comprehensive Partnership

ASEAN The Mekong

President Barack Obama hosted Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang at the White House for the first bilateral meeting between the two leaders. Acknowledging the “extraordinarily complex history between the United States and Vietnam” President Obama and President Truong announced the establishment of a new Comprehensive Partnership between the two countries, with the end goal of increasing “cooperation on a whole range of issues from trade and commerce to military-to-military cooperation, to multilateral work on issues like disaster relief, to scientific and educational exchanges.”

The United States and Vietnam normalized diplomatic relations in 1995, signed a Bilateral Trade Agreement in 2000 and in 2007 Congress approved Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) for Vietnam. In 2005, the United States became the number one export market for Vietnamese products and as of May this year U.S. companies and businesses had invested almost $11 billion into the Vietnamese economy. Last year, 2012, Vietnam exported goods valued at over $20 billion to the United States and U.S. exports to Vietnam were $4.6 billion. For the academic year 2011/12, over 15,500 Vietnamese students came to study in the United States, ten years ago that figure was just over 2,500. For the academic year 2010/11 (most recent data available) Vietnam hosted almost 900 US students, in 2000/01 that number was just over 200.

Vietnam is one of the 12 participant countries in the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade negotiations, a 21st century trade initiative that is designed to increase trade, regional integration and commerce across the Asia-Pacific region. Both leaders expressed their hope for the conclusion of an agreement by the end of this year.

During their meeting the two presidents covered a wide range of topics covering security and defense, international law, human rights, ongoing legacies from the Vietnam War and the contribution of Vietnamese Americans to further strengthening people-to-people ties between the United States and Vietnam.

Speaking at a public event hosted at CSIS, President Truong welcomed the role and presence of the United States in Asia when he stated that “We welcome President Obama’s commitment to enhance cooperation with Asia Pacific for peace, stability and cooperation.” It was revealed at that forum that President Truong had extended an invitation to President Obama to visit Vietnam, maybe next year.

This visit was President Truong’s first visit to Washington, D.C. but not his first visit to the United States. At his presentation at CSIS, President Truong recalled his visit to Hawai‘i for the APEC forum in 2011 and where he gave a speech at the East-West Center titled Vietnam’s Comprehensive Integration and New Developments in Vietnam-U.S. Relations. During that presentation President Truong emphasized the importance of advancing the strategic partnership with the United States in order to increase peace and prosperity in the region. President Truong's visit to Washington, D.C. is another step forward in that process.