President Obama announces lifting of embargo on first day of three-day visit to Vietnam.
US President Barack Obama has announced the complete lifting of the arms embargo on Vietnam.
During his meeting with President Tran Dai Quang on the morning of June 23 after a State welcome at the Presidential Palace, the two leaders witnessed the signing of cooperative agreements and held a press conference.
The decision to lift the ban, President Obama said, was not based on China or any other consideration. “It is based on our desire to complete what has been a lengthy process of moving towards normalization with Vietnam,” he said, adding later that his visit to a former foe shows that “hearts can change and peace is possible.”
“Part of our cooperation with Vietnam is to improve its maritime security,” he went on. “My decision to lift the arms ban is more to reflect the changing nature of the relationship.” He added that the sale of arms would depend on Vietnam’s human rights commitments and would be made on a case-by-case basis.
For the first time Vietnam has welcomed the US Peace Corps and US naval forces may visit Cam Ranh Bay by invitation. In 2014 President Obama eased restrictions on the sales of maritime surveillance and security systems to Vietnam, which allowed the sale of US patrol boats with mounted machine guns, search-and-rescue vessels, and naval reconnaissance aircraft.
Regarding the TPP, President Obama said it will promote serious labor reforms in Vietnam but it is not directly tied to the decision around military sales.
He was confident that the TPP would be approved by the US Congress. “I’ve not yet seen a credible argument that once we get the TPP in place we’ll be worse off,” he said. “I’m confident we’ll get it passed.”
President Quang, meanwhile, said the TPP is a significant deal that will contribute to sustaining Vietnam’s dynamism and be a driver of economic growth. Together with the other TPP members, Vietnam will have “to make an effort to narrow the differences” and Vietnam “stands by all the commitments in the TPP.”
President Obama said one of the biggest complaints is that the TPP opens up markets to countries with lower wages and a harsher environment. “We make commitments to raise labor standards, to ensure workers can raise their voice, to address environmental problems,” he said. “The TPP allows us to work with Vietnam on these issues.”
He also met with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, and National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan.
On Tuesday he will meet with businesspeople, young people and leaders of Vietnam’s civil society and will give a speech on US-Vietnam relations in Hanoi before flying to Ho Chi Minh City in the afternoon.
He plans to visit the city’s Jade Pagoda in District 1 and hold events highlighting the importance of business and entrepreneurship as well as a town hall with Southeast Asian youth. President Obama is the third consecutive US president to visit Vietnam, following Bill Clinton in 2000 and George W. Bush in 2006.