Trump has drawn North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s attention to Hanoi’s economic advances as a model Pyongyang could emulate if he gave up his nuclear weapons.
The tycoon turned populist announced a deal to have Vietnamese airlines purchase US aircraft as billions in exports of sports shoes and seafood sail in the other direction. Other deals would bring the total value of trade agreements to US$21 billion, according to the Trump team.
Vietnamese airlines VietJet and Bamboo Airways announced deals with Boeing to buy 110 aeroplanes worth more than US$15 billion as the fast-growing carriers expand their operations.
On the sidelines of the Trump-Kim summit in Hanoi, VietJet formally announced plans to buy 100 737 MAX planes for US$12.7 billion.
The deal was provisionally announced in July last year but formally unveiled during the high-profile summit.
Boeing said the VietJet purchase, which was previously an anonymous agreement, took the airline’s MAX orders to 200 jets and included 80 of the latest 737 MAX 10 models.
Trump called the relationship between the US and Vietnam an “example” for a post-nuclear North Korea. Trump also posed in front of a statue of Vietnam’s founder Ho Chi Minh, who humiliated the US in a war that Trump managed to avoid as a young man.
“You really are an example as to what can happen with good thinking,” Trump told Vietnam’s president, Nguyen Phu Trong.
Trump told a meeting with Vietnamese officials: “We appreciate very much that you’re reducing the trade deficit with the United States, which was very substantial before I got here, and now where we’re bringing it down with great orders like the orders that you made today.”
Vietnam ran a trade surplus of US$34.8 billion with the United States last year, increasing from a surplus of US$32.2 billion in 2017, according to Vietnam’s customs department.
“Vietnam is thriving like few places on earth,” Trump tweeted. “North Korea would be the same, and very quickly, if it would denuclearize. The potential is AWESOME, a great opportunity, like almost none other in history, for my friend Kim Jong Un.”
Trump waved a small Vietnamese flag and praised growing bilateral economic ties while signing trade agreements. The Vietnamese Communist Party adopted a policy of “doi moi” (renovation) in the 1980s, meaning it unleashed a capitalist economy, on a similar model to that pursued in China.
Beijing and Hanoi allowed capitalist activity while keeping tight restraints on political expression.
The country’s official name, the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, “is a vestige term”, said Joshua Kurlantzick of the Council on Foreign Relations. “People in Vietnam are focused on getting rich, making money.”
Vietnam might be the biggest winner from the Trump-Kim summit. Picture credit: YouTube