Summary: President Joe Biden will travel to Vietnam Sept. 10 to meet with the Vietnamese Gen. Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and other top leaders. Comments below from Duke University political science professor Edmund Malesky, director of the Duke Center for International Development and a leading scholar on the political economy of Vietnam, are available for use in your coverage.
“President Biden’s trip to Vietnam is expected to culminate in an agreement to advance the two countries’ formal relations to the highest tier of Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, a status that Vietnam has granted to only four other countries — China, India, Russia and South Korea,” says Duke University political science professor Edmund Malesky, director of Duke Center for International Development.
“The arrangement highlights the tremendous progress the two countries have made in their long journey from former battlefield combatants to close economic partners. The United States is now Vietnam’s most important trading partner and one of its most important sources of foreign direct investment.”
“Getting to this point has been an inspiring journey, beginning with early cooperation on finding American MIAs to the exchange of Ambassadors in 1997, a historic bilateral trade agreement in 2001, and later cooperation in Vietnam’s WTO entry, the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations, and even historic visits of US aircraft carriers to Vietnamese Ports.”
“The U.S. has also contributed to Vietnam’s economic development through the Vietnam Educational Foundation support for Vietnamese STEM students to receive advanced degrees in the United States, the founding of Fulbright University, Vietnam’s first liberal arts program, and the Vietnam Provincial Competitiveness Index (PCI), a comprehensive survey of 10,000 Vietnamese businesses and the ranking of the investment environment of Vietnam’s 63 provinces.”
“While the two country’s mutual security concerns regarding China have expedited the improving relations, the agreement will certainly not mark a shift of Vietnam into the U.S. security orbit. Vietnamese leaders will continue to triangulate their foreign relationships, attempting to maintain strong relationships with both despite their international disputes. However, Vietnam will certainly look to the U.S. for help in managing its territorial dispute with China in the South China Sea.”
“In addition to the upgrading of relations with Vietnam, Biden is also expected to discuss Vietnam’s climate commitments under the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JTEP), Vietnamese arms purchases from Russia, human rights and closing civil society space, and economic issues, particularly remaining Vietnamese concerns about their continued status as a non-market economy by the U.S. Department of Commerce.”
Edmund Malesky is director of the Duke Center for International Development and a leading scholar on the political economy of Vietnam. He also has been the lead researcher on the USAID-funded PCI since 2004 and served on the board of the Vietnam Education Foundation from 2013-2016. Malesky has numerous publications on Vietnam’s economic development, political institutions and international economic relations. He can also talk about the history of foreign and economic interactions between Vietnam and the United States.
For additional comment, contact Edmund Malesky at: