WASHINGTON • Boeing Co and Vietnam Airlines JSC have agreed to negotiate the sale of eight more 787-10 Dreamliners and eight 777-8X aircraft, a move hailed by the United States and Vietnamese officials as a sign of strengthening trade ties between the two former enemies.
US Deputy Commerce Secretary Bruce Andrews told Reuters the aircraft sales reflected "an important dimension of a growing relationship" and said both US and Vietnamese officials were committed to further expanding trade.
"There is a huge amount of opportunity for American companies in Vietnam," Mr Andrews said on Monday before a ceremony marking the signing of a memorandum on expanding business ties and Boeing's delivery of the first 787 to Vietnam Airlines.
The event - held in the shadow of the airplane - included Mr Nguyen Phu Trong, general secretary of the Vietnamese Communist party, who is also due to meet US President Barack Obama during a landmark visit two decades after normalisation of ties between the US and Vietnam, and 200 other US and Vietnamese officials and industry executives.
Since Vietnam's devastating war with the US that ended 40 years ago, the two countries have come together so quickly over the past several years that even the architects of the reconciliation call it breathtaking.
That would be highlighted yesterday when Mr Trong, the head of Vietnam's Communist Party, the symbol of what America was fighting, visits the White House for the first time.
The geopolitics driving the countries together is China's rising power and a desire by the US and Vietnam to cultivate alliances that counterbalance it, according to officials. There has been a longstanding antipathy in Vietnam towards China, with which it fought a border war in 1979 and has clashed over territorial claims in the South China Sea.
Vietnam is pushing the US to officially recognise it as a market economy and lift its embargo on the sale of lethal weapons to the country. An agreement to lift a ban on non-lethal weapons was approved last year.
The Vietnamese are also urging the US to have a greater military presence in Asia.
Mr Andrews said negotiators for the US, Vietnam and 10 other countries were working to ensure that the high-standard Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) - which does not include China - opened key aerospace, manufacturing and other markets in Vietnam to US firms.
"That's one of the great benefits that will come from TPP," he said, calling Vietnam a key partner in Washington's strong and growing relationships in the Asia region.
US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said the agreement between Boeing and Vietnam Airlines was "a milestone in our efforts to deepen our ties with Vietnam through bilateral trade".
He cited ongoing efforts to facilitate direct flights between Vietnam and the US and continued cooperation on aviation safety.
Mr John Wojick, Boeing senior vice-president for global sales and marketing, said the agreement signed on Monday still needed work, but could include eight more 787 aircraft for Vietnam, adding to the 19 already on order.
Boeing had also offered Vietnam eight 777-8X aircraft, which the company expects to unveil at the end of the decade, he said.
REUTERS, NEW YORK TIMES