Vietnam plays a “central” and “vitally important” part in the Indo-Pacific strategy of the U.S. while Hanoi’s success is Washington’s national interest, Ambassador Daniel Kritenbrink said at a dialogue in Ho Chi Minh City last week.
“President Trump chose the APEC CEO Summit in Da Nang last year to deliver America’s vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific because Vietnam represents one of the United States’ most important bilateral partnerships,” Ambassador Kritenbrink said on Friday.
“Vietnam's success is America’s national interest.”
Under the Trump administration, Washington favors a free and open Indo-Pacific where the U.S. and its allies will deploy more resources amid China’s growing dominance.
Vietnam plays a “central, vitally important” part in this strategy, Kritenbrink told Tuoi Tre News at the Indo-Pacific Dialogue – Vietnam 2018.
He quoted a World Bank report on Vietnam being the world’s second-fastest growing economy for the last two decades. This institution also forecasts Vietnam to be the world’s fastest-growing economy for the next two decades.
“It shows how important Vietnam is for the U.S. and for many countries in the world,” the diplomat told Tuoi Tre News.
“It is up to Vietnam to chart a path that embraces market-oriented reforms and private-sector solutions [which] we believe will help it integrate into the global economy and contribute to its long-term economic security.”
Both governments are working with each other to open the markets for U.S. products and services, and level the playing field for foreign investments, he said.
Elaborating on the Indo-Pacific strategy amid doubt over its influence vis-à-vis the Belt and Road Initiative, the ambassador said, “We are not going to follow China’s development model. We are not going to force Vietnam and other countries in the region to take on American debt.”
The Belt and Road Initiative is a strategy adopted by the Chinese government to advance infrastructure development and investments in Europe, Asia and Africa.
In his keynote address at the dialogue, Kritenbrink emphasized Washington’s focus on encouraging strategic cooperation with the region.
Total U.S. investment in the Indo-Pacific is now over US$1.4 trillion — more than that of China, Japan, and South Korea combined.
Instead of pouring state-dominated funding into the region, the U.S. prefers to concentrate on high-quality private-sector investment, Kritenbrink said.
The U.S. considers the role of the private sector so pivotal that it will finance the growth and development needs of the rising economies in the Indo-Pacific region.
He explained that countries which rely on state-dominated funding for development will come up short by crowding out the high-quality private-sector investment their economies need most.
“The United States government is not going to force countries in the region to take on huge government bad debt. The United States government is not going to pour trillions of dollars into investment,” he told Tuoi Tre News.
“[Our] private sector investment is already over a trillion dollars, so I wouldn’t compare Chinese government funds with American government funds. I would compare the cumulative effect of American investment and economic engagement well over a trillion dollars.”
He also expressed his pride in the U.S. private sector’s strong track record in the Indo-Pacific.
The U.S. is said to be the largest source of investment in the region, and the cumulative value of its foreign direct investment reached $940 billion last year – more than double that of 2007.