Visit of Vietnam’s PM Chinh to US for US-ASEAN Summit

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh left Hanoi (May 11) to visit US and hold meetings with US President Joe Biden. The meeting between the two leaders is expected to discuss issues related to health, climate change, renewable energy, sustainable development, and Indo-Pacific Economic Framework. Over a period of time the relationship between US and Vietnam has improved and US has been taking active interest in developing the ecosystem of health, human security and developing maritime security architecture. Even though US and Vietnam are seen as comprehensive partners but are still short of becoming strategic partners. US has time and again stated that it respects Treaty of Amity and Cooperation as well as ASEAN centrality in the Indo Pacific architecture. Vietnam has been seen as one of the promising economies in South East Asia with GDP growth rate expected to be anywhere between 6 to 8 per cent and Vietnam is also willing to explore possibilities with cooperation on science and technology, artificial intelligence, and research on medicine.

According to the Indo Pacific Strategy document, released by the US in February 2022, the US has made sure that ASEAN as an organization remains a leading regional institution and its centrality in the larger security dynamics is maintained. Given the fact that the two sides United States and ASEAN would be celebrating 45 years of dialogue relationship and the strategic partnership which was signed between the two sides in 2015. The areas of cooperation are bound to expand.

During the last meeting in 2021 which was held online it was clearly stated that US is interested in developing diagnostics, biomedical research, promoting science and technology innovation and connectivity within the Southeast Asian region. Issues related to public health, economic recovery, promoting employment and developing digital infrastructure were discussed in the last meeting between the two sides.

One of the important elements which has seen much attention from Southeast Asian countries is related to the Indo Pacific Economic Framework. Even though Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership has been implemented and is being seen as one of the biggest regional economic groupings while on the other hand the Comprehensive and Progressive Transpacific Partnership (CPTPP) which includes Brunei, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam is also trying to revive the possibilities of trade and investment between the participating members. In order to offset its withdrawal   from the TPP, the US is trying to develop a wide-ranging agreement related to digital economy and ecommerce. During the COVID-19 pandemic the ecommerce has grown multiple times and he is seen as the future of marketing and investment.

When one looks into Vietnam and US relationship it can be acknowledged that the new Ambassador of US to Vietnam Marc Knapper has been proactively engaging the high-level officials and also looking for ways and means to promote cooperation between the two sides. Vietnam has also seen high level official visits by vice president Kamala Harris Secretary of Défense Lloyd Austin, and also the previous two presidents of US have visited Vietnam particularly President Obama and President Trump. Even though president Trump visited Vietnam to hold bilateral talks with North Korean Kim Jong Un but he did looked into possibilities of exploring better relationship with Vietnam. During the ASEAN chairmanship in 2020, Vietnam has undertaken a major overhaul of the ASEAN structure particularly with regard to integrating the medical research, health institutions, and promoting cooperation within the region for diagnostics and treatment so that the population in Southeast Asia could benefit from latest technology and developments in medical research. Vietnam has also been proactive in supporting ASEAN for the three pillars – politico- security community, economic community and social cultural community, the future community building exercise.

US acknowledges that to harness the potential of the Southeast Asian countries it is important to develop few critical areas such as human resource development, resilient supply chains so that in case there is a disruption in supply chains primarily from China, then the countries from Southeast Asia can offset that deficit and developing infrastructure. Lately with the developments in Cambodia particularly related to Chinese that diplomacy and development of the Ream naval base, US is much interested in developing Vietnam as one of the cornerstones of its Southeast Asia policy. There is huge possibility for development of Mekong River catchment areas and smart agriculture. This will take care of the vagaries of climate change and the rise in global temperature given the fact that the impact will be very huge on the rice fields in the whole of Southeast Asia. Vietnam has also undertaken leadership positions in APEC, ASEAN and had even a very action-oriented strength as non-permanent member in the UN Security Council.

As it has been seen in the past US wants to diversify its supply chain and promote research related to COVID-19 and similar pandemics. US and Vietnam would be discussing issues related to biomedical research vaccines, biotechnology and development of low-cost vaccines for the larger population in the developing countries. Us is also interested in promoting cybersecurity and space research with select countries in South East Asia. President Biden is also expected to discuss issues related to Russia Ukraine war and how Southeast Asian countries can help in developing a free and open Indo-Pacific. The issues which also will be discussed will be related to Myanmar and the forthcoming ASEAN summit later this year. ASEAN as an organization is also required to work and respond to president Joe Biden Indo Pacific strategy end develop necessary structures for comprehensive economic growth, connectivity, people to people linkages and working on futuristic technologies.

Earlier also when the party general secretary Truong through visited US it was seen as a major tectonic shift in the bilateral relationship between the two sides. Over a period of time the ties between the two sides have improved when US lifted economic sanctions and adopted the Permanent Normalization of Trade Relations (PNTR) in the year 2007 and subsequently the visit of the high-level leadership to Vietnam also buttresses the fact that US wants to diversify its investment and promote trade with countries like Vietnam which has a thriving economy and also has potential for growth.

Vietnamese entrepreneurs are also trying to harness the potential and given the liberal measures adopted by the party, Ho Chi Minh City and adjoining areas is likely to become a major real state hub with the development of export processing zones, software technology parks and also establishment of training institutions as well as educational hubs. Vietnamese diaspora in the US is also a prosperous community and they have been supporting the cause of their nation.

Vietnam also looks towards US for investment and also the bilateral trade and investment which can help Vietnam to explore U.S. markets as well as develop defence relationship. Even though Vietnam is very concerned with regard to larger geopolitical imprint of China in the region but it doesn’t want to engage US as an alliance or a treaty partner in defence and strategic domain. This balanced approach adopted by Vietnam has at times help in diffusing the tensions between the China and US in contagious regions. While China has imposed the three month fishing ban starting from May 1st  ,it is expected that Witham along with other countries would ignore this unilateral fishing ban imposed by China. In this context countries like US which can offer group sails as well as select exercises with the interested countries would help in maintaining international order at sea.

Prof. Pankaj Jha
Prof. Pankaj Jha
Pankaj Jha is faculty with Jindal School of International Affairs, O P Jindal Global University, Sonepat. He can be reached at pankajstrategic[at]