During President Biden’s visit to Vietnam, there were significant developments in US-Vietnam relations, signaling a “historic new phase” and an “upgraded” status to an “Integrated Strategic Partnership,” as outlined in a joint statement by the two leaders. Biden’s visit occurred in the context of escalating US-China competition and Washington’s efforts to leverage tensions between Hanoi and Beijing to strengthen its presence in the vital Southeast Asian region.
Vietnam maintains a labor force that is attractive to US monopolies, especially those which have been seeking to move manufacturing bases out of China. Dell, Google, Microsoft, and Apple have already shifted manufacturing of certain parts to Vietnam in recent years. Vietnam is also considered promising for the upgrading of military cooperation and integration into the production of semiconductors, both moves which take place in the context of the US rivalry with China-Russia.
Biden’s meetings with Vietnam’s ruling party leader, Nguyen Phu Trong, and other government officials primarily revolved around economic cooperation agreements but also carried implicit messages regarding Beijing’s interests in the South China Sea.
In their joint statement, Biden and Trong emphasized their support for peaceful dispute resolution in accordance with international law, without threats or the use of force. They highlighted the importance of freedom of navigation, overflight, legal trade, and respect for sovereignty and jurisdiction in coastal states’ Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZs) and continental shelves, following international maritime law.
The US committed to assisting Vietnam in developing its self-sustaining defense capabilities as part of their strategic relationship. They also agreed to establish an annual dialogue between the US and Vietnam’s foreign ministries.
In terms of economic cooperation, the US welcomed Vietnam’s progress in market-based economic reforms and indicated that Hanoi formally requested recognition as a “market economy”. The announcement acknowledged Vietnam’s potential in the semiconductor industry, with the US providing initial funding of $2 billion to enhance its position in the global semiconductor supply chain. Several American monopolies, including Marvell, Synopsys, Amkor, and Intel, are already involved in related investment plans.
During Biden’s meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, a significant $7.8 billion agreement between Boeing and Vietnam Airlines for the purchase of 50 passenger aircraft 737 Max was announced. Boeing also has a previous agreement with VietJet for the sale of 200 such aircraft.
The White House also revealed agreements between Microsoft and Nvidia with Vietnamese companies in the field of artificial intelligence. Biden underscored Vietnam’s importance in mineral supplies, particularly its substantial reserves of rare earths, which rank second globally.