Vietnam's premier touts ‘Asian dreams,’ hints at new trade pact with US

By VnExpress   June 5, 2017 | 11:08 am GMT+7

‘Asia will be a place where dreams of all countries… will all be heard of and respected,’ PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc says in Japan.

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Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaks at the International Conference on the Future of Asia in Tokyo, Japan, June 5, 2017. Photo by Reuters

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said his government would negotiate a bilateral agreement with the U.S., calling Asian countries not to let the fear of protectionism deter them from strengthening economic ties, the Nikkei Asian Review reported.

Phuc mentioned the trade deal plan with one of Vietnam’s largest trade partners on Monday during his speech at the 23rd International Conference on The Future of Asia in Tokyo, organized by Nikkei Inc. The U.S. and Vietnam were both meant to enter a Pacific-rim pact, but President Donald Trump pulled his country out of the deal early this year.

The Vietnamnese leader attended the conference as part of his four-day visit to Japan, which came shortly after his trip to the U.S. Phuc has been the first Southeast Asian leader to visit the White House under the new administration. He signed deals for U.S. goods and services worth $8 billion during the visit.

During his speech, Phuc reportedly said that Vietnam is currently negotiating four free trade agreements on top of its existing 12. The country is also working closely with the remaining parties of the Trans-Pacific Partnership, now dubbed the TPP-11. Without the U.S., this economic grouping becomes much smaller in terms of trade value, especially when compared to a regional trade pact being championed by China.

In Tokyo, Phuc emphasized Asia’s rising position in the global economy. The region boasted the largest nominal gross domestic product among the world’s continents in 2016, up from third in 2010.

“We often heard about the American dream or Chinese dream, but it appears that in the mass media, the Myanmar dream, Lao dream, Cambodian dream or Vietnamese dream are barely heard of,” he said, as quoted in the Nikkei report.

“I believe in the future, Asia will be a place where dreams of all countries, big and small, developed and developing, will all be heard of and respected,” Phuc reportedly said.

He also said Asian countries should not let mounting security threats and the rise of protectionism deter them from strengthening ties with countries inside and outside the region, as globalization “remains an inevitable trend.”