Washington had for years said a lifting of the ban would require concrete steps by Vietnam in allowing freedom of speech, worship and assembly and releasing political prisoners.
But Dan Christman, a senior vice president for worldwide affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, which supports the deal, said products from Vietnam will not likely replace those made in U.S. but rather those made in other countries in the region not part of TPP that will still face high U.S. tariffs, including China.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies’ Greg Poling says that while China is a factor in lifting the embargo, the real issue is deepening ties with Vietnam and the USA commitment to Asia as a whole.
“For 20 years now we have had what we call a normal relationship”, said Kerry, who in 1968 served as a young U.S. naval officer in the Vietnam War.
Obama said during the meeting that “Vietnam has made remarkable strides in many ways…”
The president has argued that the US opted for sanctions, boycotts and other punitive measures for decades, yet failed to bring about the changes sought. “Military and CIA Interventions Since World War II”, documents over 30 military interventions and coups by the USA around the globe.
Obama says Mansour was specifically targeting USA personnel and troops who were sent to Afghanistan to assist and train the country’s military forces.
Now the US has active combat troops in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan.
The lifting of the ban potentially gives Vietnam more opportunity to stand up to China’s ambitions.
An outlawed Vietnamese pro-democracy party is expressing a more enthusiastic reaction to Obama’s comments in Hanoi on human rights, saying he outlined a “forward looking vision for the bilateral relationship and forceful argument for a free Vietnam”.
At the invitation of the President of Vietnam Tran Dai Quang, Obama is touring Vietnam from Monday to Wednesday.
Also on Monday, the visiting United States president met with General Secretary of Vietnamese Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and the National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan.
Obama said arms sales will have to meet certain requirements, including conditions related to human rights. “And they are still following and watching me”, he said.
Obama also used the speech to push for closer ties between Hanoi and Washington.
The decision to lift the arms trade ban suggested such concerns outweighed arguments that Vietnam had not done enough to improve its human rights record and Washington would lose leverage for reforms.
In a sweeping speech, which harked back to the bloody war that defined both nations but also looked to the future, Obama said that “upholding rights is not a threat to stability”. “It’s taken this long for people to say ‘welcome home’”.
The White House “is taking advantage of Vietnam to stir up more troubles in the South China Sea”, it said.
Bill Wise, Associate Director of the Southeast Asia Studies Program at the Johns Hopkins University School of Advanced International Studies, notes that the lifting of the embargo comes at a critical time for Vietnam. “But there are these basic principles that I think we all have to try to work on and improve”, he said. He says the US will not engage in day-to-day combat operations, but will continue to help the Afghan people secure their country.
She added that China hopes similar embargos will also be lifted, a possible reference to the continuing weapons embargo imposed by the US and the European Union following China’s 1989 bloody military crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations centered on Beijing’s Tiananmen Square.