Tuesday, November 12, 2019

Vietnam and US sign new deals worth $8 billion

Jun 01. 2017
US President Donald J. Trump meets with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, DC, USA, on 31 May 2017. EPA
US President Donald J. Trump meets with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc of Vietnam in the Oval Office of the White House, in Washington, DC, USA, on 31 May 2017. EPA
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By Agence France-Presse

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WASHINGTON - Vietnam and the US have signed $8 billion in deals, including a massive engine contract with a Vietnamese budget carrier famed for its bikini-clad air hostesses, officials said.

The deals were announced during a visit by Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to the White House Wednesday, a trip aimed at drumming up trade ties after US President Donald Trump pulled out of a massive Asia-Pacific trade pact earlier this year, decrying it as a "job killer".

Vietnam, which stood to gain enormously from the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) before the US pullout, has been aggressively courting Washington to bolster business ties, and Phuc is the first Southeast Asian leader to visit Trump's White House.

The new deals saw Vietjet sign a 12-year engine contract worth $3.58 billion with CFM International, a joint venture of General Electric and Safran. The airline also signed a separate deal worth $1 billion with GE Capital Aviation Services in aircraft financing.

"We strongly believe that this agreement will promote economic and trade exchange between the two countries and create millions (of) jobs for the two peoples," said Vietjet CEO Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, who is the communist country's first and only female billionaire.

The country's largest low-cost carrier, Vietjet is best-known for air hostesses sporting bikinis on some of its flights. The company said it raked in $1.21 billion in revenues last year and its shares have soared since its market debut in February.

The other new deals, signed in the sectors of hospitality, science and technology, academia and energy, come as Washington opts for bilateral agreements over sprawling free trade pacts.

Trump has singled out Vietnam as one of the countries allegedly stealing American jobs and has vowed to boost exports to the fast-growing nation to narrow the $32 billion trade deficit tipped in Hanoi's favour.

"The growth of the middle class and the increasing purchasing power in Vietnam are further incentives to strengthening our long-term trade and investment relationship," said US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross Ross, according to a statement about the deals, which he said would create 23,000 American jobs.

Vietnam has clocked rapid GDP growth in recent years, hitting 6.2 percent last year.

US-Vietnam relations blossomed under former US President Barack Obama, who visited the country in May 2016, announcing a raft of deals and lifting a war-era arms embargo.

The former foes have also condemned Beijing's build-up in the disputed South China Sea, and Trump and Phuc reiterated the "importance of freedom of navigation" in the waterway, according to a White House statement on Wednesday.

Trump will visit Vietnam in November for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation leaders summit.

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