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Answering the White House position on the lifting of the arms embargo against Vietnam in Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest on 4/27/2016


Apr 28, 2016

SOURCE: The White House

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

April 27, 2016
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 4/27/2016

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:08 P.M. EDT

Q The President travels to Vietnam soon. I was wondering if you could give us the White House position on the lifting of the arms embargo against that country. And if you do support them, what would you like to see the Vietnamese do in return for that being lifted?

MR. EARNEST: At this point, Andrew, I’m not aware of a change in our position. Obviously we’ll keep you posted if something like that is being contemplated in advance of the trip. I anticipate that the President, when he travels to Vietnam, will actually spend most of his time talking about the increased focus of the United States on the Asia Pacific region. Vietnam has a dynamic economy and they have a rapidly growing middle class. And it’s a country that is trying to decide exactly how it’s going to orient its economy in the decades ahead. And there’s an opportunity for the United States, through the Trans-Pacific Partnership, to which Vietnam is a party, to raise labor and environmental standards in a way that creates more of a level playing field for American businesses.

That means that Vietnamese businesses that are interested in doing business in the United States need to change the way that they operate on a regular basis. What it also means is it means that U.S. businesses will have more access to that growing middle class in Vietnam. It’s a win-win for the U.S. economy. And the President will certainly highlight that win-win when he travels to Vietnam. He’ll also illustrate the risk that is posed by rejecting this agreement.

What we know is that China would love to strengthen and deepen their economic ties with Vietnam. They recognize the same economic opportunities in Vietnam that we do. But if China is able to establish a foothold in Vietnam, China will surely say, well, we don’t really care anything about your labor standards, we don’t care anything about your environmental standards, we certainly don’t care anything about the human rights standards in your country — we just want to look for ways to do more business. There will be a race to the bottom, and that will only put American businesses at a greater disadvantage in trying to expand opportunities in one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

So it’s a pretty simple strategic calculation. It’s just one that we’re going to continue to explain, and there’s no better way to do that than having the President travel to that country directly.


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