SOURCE: The White House
The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
May 12, 2016
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
1:06 P.M. EDT
Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 5/11/16
James S. Brady Press Briefing Room
MR. EARNEST: Sure, and that’s —
Q So that was a factor here, or no?
MR. EARNEST: Well, we know that Vietnam in particular has some concerns about competing claims in the South China Sea. We know that Vietnam is a signatory to the Trans-Pacific Partnership, and we certainly are looking to broaden our economic relationship with Vietnam. There’s a rapidly growing middle class in Vietnam, and U.S. companies could benefit from the opportunity to do business in that part of the world. That would be good for the U.S. economy, it certainly would be good for U.S. workers, and the President is committed to pursuing that priority as he travels overseas.
And look, we know that China sees the same potential benefit if they can increase their ability to do business inside of Vietnam. That’s actually the essence of the argument that the President has made with regard to the Trans-Pacific Partnership — that if the United States and the rest of the international community doesn’t go in and write the rules of the road for doing business in Vietnam, then China will. And the benefits of the United States being a part of those rules of road, it means we’re going to have high labor standards, we’re going to have higher human rights standards, higher environmental standards.
China hasn’t made those things a priority, and we know that if China is given an opportunity to get a foothold in Vietnam, they certainly are not going to be interested in raising standards. You could even imagine a scenario where they might even allow those standards to be lowered even further.
So there’s no denying that at least when it comes to our relationship with Vietnam, there are significant consequences for our relationship with China. But we never want to create a scenario in which we can’t pursue our common interests with China, and the President has been quite clear about that. And we’ve been effective in implementing that strategy in a way that has had positive benefits for China and the United States. And, in fact, that’s why the other thing that we often say in describing our relationship with China is that we welcome a rising China. In fact, that’s the reason that we’re hopeful that they can be persuaded to abide by the international rules of the road when it comes to resolving competing claims in the South China Sea.
When you’re an economy as large as China, when you’re as influential as China is, particularly in that region of the world, then you benefit from the ability of disputes to be resolved without going to war, and you benefit from disputes being resolved with the expectation that everybody is going to follow the rules. And that’s certainly the case that we make to China, and I think that’s an indication of how we’re able to work with China, how we welcome a rising China. But look, we’re going to have our differences and we’re not going to shy away from expressing those.
Q Will the President be meeting with victims of Agent Orange while he’s in Vietnam?
MR. EARNEST: Well, I can tell you that this afternoon the President’s National Security Advisor, Susan Rice, is meeting with a group of veteran service organizations, leaders of veteran service organizations and other veterans to talk about the President’s trip to Vietnam and Japan. And she will make clear that, in addition to discussing some of the issues that I outlined with Margaret related to TPP and our economic relationship with Asia that she’ll also spend some time talking to them about getting a full accounting of POWs and MIAs in Vietnam. This is obviously a priority for many of these organizations, and it’s certainly a priority for the Commander-in-Chief.
As it relates to the Agent Orange situation, I’m not aware that the President has any specific meetings planned with victims of Agent Orange. But obviously our veterans organizations that advocate for America’s veterans are concerned about this issue, and the President is certainly interested in making sure that our veterans get the benefits that they deserve.