Vietnam, looking to allay the Trump administration's wrath over its soaring trade surplus with the U.S., is committing to buy $3 billion in farm products from Nebraska.
The agricultural shopping spree is part of a campaign to address complaints about the trade surplus and difficulties U.S. companies face in accessing Vietnamese markets.
"We see a lot of room to increase purchases from America, and that will significantly help narrow our trade gap with the U.S.," said Nguyen Do Anh Tuan, the agriculture ministry's spokesman, who was part of a recent Vietnamese delegation to meet farm-product producers in the U.S. "Our demand for American farming products is very high."
Vietnamese companies signed 18 agreements with American producers to buy about $3 billion of farm products in the next two to three years, Tuan, director general of the agriculture ministry's international cooperation department, said in an interview. The deals include purchases of 100,000 cows, 3 million tons of wheat and barley worth as much as $800 million, and fruit, corn and soy animal feed, according to Tuan.
"We will have regular meetings with these Vietnamese companies to give them timely support in implementing the signed MOUs," Tuan said. "We also want to buy more high-tech equipment from the U.S. to make more value-added farm products in the future."
Vietnam's leaders are doing all they can to avoid China's fate after U.S. President Donald Trump, asked in June 2019 if he wanted to impose tariffs on Vietnam, described the Southeast Asian nation as "almost the single worst abuser of everybody."
Vietnam's exports to the U.S. reached $61.3 billion in 2019, widening the trade gap to $47 billion from $34.8 billion in 2018, according to Vietnamese customs data. The U.S. Census Bureau reports a $55.8 billion trade deficit with Vietnam for 2019 and $39.5 billion for 2018.
In an interview last year, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc promised that Vietnam would buy more U.S. products, such as Boeing Co. aircraft. In August, state-run Vietnam National Coal-Mineral Industries announced it was negotiating to buy U.S. coal for the first time, from Xcoal Energy & Resources LLC.
Vietnam is cracking down on fake labeling of Chinese goods being routed through its territory to bypass U.S. tariffs. Meanwhile, the central bank and government ministries have vowed to address U.S. concerns about Vietnam's monetary policy and trade surplus with the U.S., after the Treasury added Vietnam to a watchlist of countries being monitored for possible currency manipulation.
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said last year that Vietnam needs to resolve "market access restrictions related to goods, services, agricultural products, and intellectual property."
Vietnam is working to address Lighthizer's concerns, Tuan said.
"We will work on changes in some relevant regulations to make it easier for American companies to sell more in Vietnam," he said. "We are trying to create opportunities for businesses of the two countries to boost trade exchange in a fair manner. This will surely help the bilateral relations between Vietnam and the U.S."