Vietnam Sees Closer US Economic Ties Post-Diplomatic Upgrade

(Bloomberg) -- Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh is pressing for closer economic and technological ties with the US during his trip to America a week after the two countries upgraded diplomatic ties.

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US Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo told the premier in a Washington meeting she will push for designating Vietnam market economy status, according to a post on Vietnam’s government website. The US said it would “expeditiously consider” the request during President Joe Biden’s visit to Hanoi last week. The US currently classifies Vietnam as a “non-market economy,” which can be disadvantageous to Vietnamese exporters during anti-dumping petitions.

Chinh, in a meeting with US Trade Representative Katherine Tai, asked the US to further open its market for Vietnamese goods, such as textiles, footwear and agricultural products, and not apply trade defense measures on products from the country, according to the statement.

The prime minister’s US visit comes as his government works to boost a struggling export-dependent economy amid a global slowdown in demand for Vietnamese goods. Vietnam’s exports dropped for a sixth straight month in August, the longest slump in 14 years.

Chinh observed announcements of agreements involving Synopsys Inc. and Cadence Design Systems Inc. to help develop Vietnam’s semiconductor ecosystem.

The State Department last week announced a partnership with Vietnam under the CHIPS Act, which provides $500 million for incentives over five years and aims to ensure semiconductor chip supply chain security. The US initially will review Vietnam’s nascent semiconductor ecosystem.

Vietnam’s role as a tech leader is good for US security and resilience of its supply chains, particularly for critical technology, Mira Rapp-Hooper, director of Indo-Pacific on the National Security Council, said during a virtual briefing Sept. 13 Vietnam time.

Intel Corp. operates a chip assembly and test manufacturing facility in Ho Chi Minh City. US-based Amkor Technology Inc. is building a $1.6 billion factory in northern Bac Ninh province, while Synopsis and Marvell Technology Inc. are establishing semiconductor design centers in Vietnam. Some 50 chip design companies have set up operations in Vietnam in recent years.

Chinh has directed government ministries to develop strategies to attract more semiconductor investments and target 50,000 engineers in the chips sector by 2030, the government said.

--With assistance from Nguyen Dieu Tu Uyen.

(Updates the story with US commerce secretary in the second paragraph.)

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