Vietnam – US trade: Overcoming barriers towards sustainable cooperation (12-04-2019)

Vietnam and the United States have 25 years of Normalizing Business Relations, whereby trade relations between the two countries have grown strongly.
Vietnam – US trade: Overcoming barriers towards sustainable cooperation

In the past 25 years, two-way trade turnover between Vietnam and the US increased nearly 120 times, from US$ 450 million in 1994 to over US$ 60 billion in 2018. For many consecutive years, the US has always been the biggest export market of Vietnam and also Vietnam is one of the export markets with highest growth rate of the US.

Two-way trade sharply increased

Information from the Ministry of Industry and Trade shows that, since Vietnam and the US signed the Bilateral Trade Agreement in July 2000 (which came into effect in December 2001), the two-way trade between the two countries has achieved outstanding growth steps. Especially, in 2018, the export turnover of Vietnam to the US market reached US$ 47.5 billion, up 14.2% over the same period, imports from the US in 2018 reached US$ 12.8 billion, up 36.7% and the US market accounted for 19.52% of the total export turnover of Vietnam.

Particularly in January 2019, export turnover to the US market reached US$ 5.151 billion, up 42.1% compared to the same period of 2018. Of which, exports of textiles and garments reached US$ 1.591 billion, up 34.1%, cellphone exports to US market reached US$ 473 million, up 121%. Also in January 2019, Vietnamese enterprises imported US$ 1.076 billion from the US market, so Vietnam has exported surplus to the US market of US$ 4 billion. The US is currently the largest export market of Vietnamese goods.

On the other side, year of 2018 also recorded a rapid increase in the rate of import growth from Vietnam. Specifically, Vietnam imported goods from the US with the value of US$ 12.753 billion, up to 36.4% compared to 2017 (in 2017 reached US$ 9.349 billion). According to Chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce in Hanoi Natasha Ansell, the normalization of relations between Vietnam and the US has opened opportunities for US businesses to develop in the Vietnamese market, notably in investment activities of GE, CocaCola, Microsoft, IBM, Nike, ExxonMobil, etc. that have contributed to building a foothold for Vietnam in the global supply chain.

Removing barriers

Although bilateral economic relations between Vietnam and the US have developed strongly, some commodities such as seafood, agricultural products, have encountered many non-tariff barriers in the face of strict regulations and standards.

Statement from Vietnam Association of Seafood Exporters and Producers (VASEP) impressed that in the past 10 to 15 years, 90% of tra fish products sold in the US have been imported from Vietnam. However, since August, 2018 this items when imported into the United States is subject to inspection by the US Department of Agriculture. This regulation will make it difficult for businesses in the export process because they have to endure a strict inspection round called a non-tariff barrier.

In order to support businesses to remove unnecessary barriers in the process of exporting agricultural products to the US market, the Ministry of Industry and Trade has proposed the US Trade Representative Agency as a focal point in the Trade and Investment Framework Agreements (TIFA) to consult with relevant US agencies to soon announce the final decision on recognition of "Similar Standards" for Vietnamese Tra fish and Basa fish. At the same time, it is necessary to speed up the consideration of the market economy, as well as to make an objective decision in the cases of trade disputes related to Vietnam's export goods.

It is forecasted that by 2020, two-way trade between Vietnam and the US will reach about US$ 57 billion and US export to Vietnam will double now. But in order to achieve this goal, Vietnam and the US must strengthen cooperation in information exchange and dialogue to handle trade barriers in a timely manner.

Cat Tuong (source:

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