Lighthizer warns Vietnam over trade deficit with U.S.
By DOUG PALMER
Vietnam must take steps to reduce its trade deficit with the United States and open its market to more U.S. goods and services, U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in comments released today.
“U.S. businesses face a host of unfair trade barriers in Vietnam,” Lighthizer said in written responses to questions from the Senate Finance Committee. “The United States has been clear with Vietnam that it has to take action to reduce the unsustainable trade deficit, including by expanding its imports of goods from the United States and by resolving market access restrictions related to goods, services, agricultural products, and intellectual property.”
Lighthizer testified before the committee on June 18, but members had additional questions that they asked him to answer in writing.
The question about Vietnam came from Sen. Mark Warner (D-Va.), who noted that President Donald Trump had complained that the Southeast Asia nation’s trade practices were worse than China’s. The comment raised concern in Hanoi that it could be next on Trump’s tariff hit list.
Trump’s frustration with Hanoi also highlights the fact that he hasn’t negotiated new bilateral trade agreements with any of the Asian countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Trump pulled out of TPP shortly after taking office in January 2017, promising to negotiate bilateral deals instead.
Vietnam agreed to make a number of market-opening reforms as part of the TPP. However, those benefits are now going to other countries rather than the United States.
Warner said he was worried the administration “is pursuing an ad hoc trade strategy that has the effect of isolating regional partners,” such as Vietnam and India.