Seeing US ties, Vietnam appeals for 'market economy' status

Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son (third on right) speaks during a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on March 25, 2024 (Mandel NGAN)
Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son (third on right) speaks during a meeting with US Secretary of State Antony Blinken on March 25, 2024 (Mandel NGAN)

Vietnam on Tuesday called on the United States to recognize it as a market economy, saying stronger trade ties would benefit Washington in key areas as it seeks to diversify from China.

Vietnam and China are among a dozen countries designated non-market economies by the United States, allowing tougher actions on their exports. President Joe Biden's administration in October agreed to review Vietnam's status.

"Our American friends and partners often say a strong, independent, resilient and prosperous Vietnam is in the interest of the United States. We look forward to stronger actions by the US to realize this commitment," Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son said on a visit to Washington.

"We hope that the United States will soon recognize Vietnam's market economy status," he said at the Brookings Institution think tank, a day after meeting top officials including Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

In a letter earlier this year to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo, eight senators led by Sherrod Brown -- a union-friendly member of Biden's Democratic Party who faces a tough reelection fight -- urged a decision against market economy status for Vietnam, pointing in part to concerns about organized labor rights in the communist country.

But Bui said that Vietnam offered potential in key areas of interest to the United States including in semiconductors, critical minerals and artificial intelligence.

"Our cooperation in this area can elevate Vietnam's position in the regional and global value chain, which also benefits the United States and other partners," he said.

- Promising stability after president quits -

He also told the US audience not to expect policy turbulence in Vietnam despite recent political upheaval.

The Communist Party last week announced that Vietnam's president, Vo Van Thuong, had quit after barely a year on the job due to unspecified "violations and shortcomings."

"Vietnam's campaign for anti-corruption has been going on, and it is welcomed by the international community, including the businesses," the foreign minister said in explaining the resignation.

He noted that Vietnam has "collective leadership," with a Party Congress taking place every five years and a policy vision set out through 2045.

"The resignation of the president, I think, it would not affect our foreign policy as well as our own policies of economic development," Bui said.

Despite the trauma of war between the two nations, the United States and Vietnam have sharply expanded cooperation since the reestablishment of relations 30 years ago.

Vietnam has historic tensions with China including disputes in the South China Sea, where Beijing has increasingly exerted claims against Hanoi, the Philippines and others.

Bui said Vietnam was committed to relations with both the United States and China, which over the past year have expanded dialogue to ease their once-soaring tensions.

"We believe that competition among major powers is natural, but conflict is not inevitable," Bui said.

"In this connection, Vietnam welcomes the ongoing efforts to stabilize relations between the United States and China."