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Questions and Answers about Visiting Vietnam by President Obama in Press Briefing by Press Secretary Josh Earnest, 5/20/16


May 22, 2016

SOURCE: The White House

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release

May 20, 2016
Press Briefing by the Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz, 5/20/16

James S. Brady Press Briefing Room

1:33 P.M. EDT

Q Thanks. One last one on the President’s upcoming trip. Do you know if he plans to, or the White House plans to announce any additional assistance to Vietnam with regard to Agent Orange or exploded mines, landmines?

MR. SCHULTZ: Kathleen, I think as you know, the President is very excited for this trip. We leave tomorrow afternoon. We have a whole lot on the agenda. We’ll be spending three days in Vietnam. This is the first-ever trip of its kind. As you know, President Clinton visited Vietnam to announce normalization of relations. President Bush went to Vietnam for an international forum. But President Obama will be spending three days on the ground to deepen and strengthen our partnership with that country. We’ll be focusing on expanding economic cooperation, security cooperation. We’ll be focused on people-to–people engagement.

As you know, Vietnam has a rapidly expanding middle class, and for us, that’s important for a couple of different reasons. But at the top of the list is that provides a marketplace for U.S. goods and services. So the President is going to use this as an opportunity to advance U.S. interests abroad, including our economic interests. That’s why the President worked so hard to gain agreement for the Trans-Pacific Partnership. That’s why he is pushing that so hard domestically as well.

So I believe we will have a few more announcements along the road over the next week. And those of you who are joining us, we’ll keep you updated.

Q And last question. The President is going to be promoting TPP in Asia. When you think about it, Sanders, Clinton, even Trump have also been opposed to TPP. What’s the calculation over here as far as the likelihood of it getting anywhere, given the fact that all three of the presidential candidates appear to be opposed?

MR. SCHULTZ: Well, only one of them has a vote in Congress right now. And we continue to work with our partners in Congress and the leadership in both the House and the Senate, and we believe that this is something that should pass because it’s good for American workers.

As I mentioned, Vietnam has a rapidly growing middle class. We want to make sure that American goods and services and American companies can service that middle class with the products made in the U.S. of A. So we believe that this is a good deal for America’s workers. We also believe that it — well, we know, because it’s in the text, that it will reduce tariffs for American exports.

It’s important that American exports are able to get into those markets. And above all else, if we don’t set the rules of the road in the economies in this region, China is going to. So we believe that it’s in American interest for TPP to pass. We believe that there’s a reason that Trade Promotion Authority passed the House and the Senate with bipartisan support. And we’re going to continue to push for that.

I’ll just give you a few more statistics in case it’s helpful. In Vietnam, currently U.S. auto exports face a 70 percent tariff. Construction equipment faces tariffs as high as 59 percent. And auto parts face a 32 percent tariff. In Japan, currently U.S. beef exports face tariffs of nearly 40 percent, and leather footwear faces tariffs of up to 189 percent.

So we believe this is a deal that represents not only the future of the interconnected global economy but also a potential for American goods and services to be sold and purchased around the world.

Q Last question. In advance of the President’s trip to Vietnam — Mr. Obama was, if my math is correct, 14 at the time of the United States’ final withdrawal from Saigon. And I just wonder if you could speak, to the extent possible for you, how the Vietnam War and the post-Vietnam period shaped this President’s view of America and the world.

MR. SCHULTZ: James, I think that’s a very good question, and I think you’re going to hear the President talk about that over the next couple of days, so I don’t want to get ahead of him. I will say the President is very much focused on this trip. This is one that has been in the works for a while and it’s a trip that he wanted to make. He felt very strongly about this. And we’re spending three days — we’re spending three days on the ground. That’s a lot for one country, normally, on these trips.
The President is not only looking forward to speaking with the leadership in Vietnam and government leaders, but he’s also going to be speaking with young people. He’s going to have a town hall where he takes questions from young people. He’s going to meet with business leaders and civic leaders. And he’s going to talk about how far we’ve come since those days in the decades since the time you mentioned to now, and how far our relationship has come.

As I mentioned, it was President Clinton who decided to begin the normalization process with Vietnam. Since then, Presidents of both parties have worked to deepen that relationship. But the President sees this as a pivotal opportunity to expand that partnership, expand collaboration on security and economic cooperation.

And I want to be clear that he’s also going to make a push for human rights. Vietnam has made some progress on this front, but they have a long way to go. So I’d expect the President to speak about that not only in his public remarks but also in private when he meets with the leadership.

Q But in your own time around this President, has that been something that you’ve been able to observe, this idea that he was very much shaped by the post-Vietnam experience in some ways?

MR. SCHULTZ: Again, I don’t want to get ahead of how the President is going to talk about this. I believe he wrote some about this in his book, and so I’d refer you that. But I also think this was a consequential time for the President, but it was a consequential time for the United States of America. And this will harken back to a very emotional time for the United States and a time where our leaders were tested and tried and challenged. And I think the President is going to — that will all be included in the President’s reflections over the next few days. And I want to make sure you know that Secretary Kerry, who obviously has his own unique story, will be joining us in Vietnam for those three days. So we look forward to hearing from him as well.

Q Mr. Fareed Zakaria also, CNN, in his show, he said that — why do they hate us? If the President had been ever asked this, why they hate us. It means he was — harming the U.S. but they still hate the U.S. Why?

MR. SCHULTZ: Well, I did not see Mr. Zakaria’s show. I try and catch that when I can, but I must have missed that particular segment. I believe that the President has worked hard to build relationships around the world. That was a priority for him over the past seven, eight years.

And look at this trip. We’re going to go to Vietnam. It’s the first-ever trip of its kind — where the President is going to spend three days on the ground, both meeting with the government, the leaders of that country, but also with young people, with entrepreneurs, with business leaders in order to deepen the ties between the two countries. And then he’s going to travel to Japan.

Both of those countries we have a difficult past with, but if you look at the preceding decades, we’ve built strong relationships. Japan is now one of our closest allies in that region. We do a whole lot of business with them, both in military cooperation, maritime security, economic cooperation.

And so the President is absolutely looking forward to deepening those relationships. Those are the fundamental goals of this trip, alongside advancing U.S. national security interests.

Great. Go as you know, the President will depart Sunday afternoon — I’m sorry, Saturday afternoon, and Monday morning arrive in Hanoi, Vietnam. While in Hanoi, the President will participate in a bilateral meeting with President Quang. Following this meeting, the President will meet with the Chairwoman of the National Assembly. And afterwards, the President will participate in a press conference with the President, and attend the state luncheon.

Later in the afternoon, the President will participate in a bilateral meeting with the Prime Minister of Vietnam. In the evening, the President will participate in a bilateral meeting with General Secretary of the Community Party of Vietnam.

On Tuesday, the President will meet with embassy personnel and families. Later in the morning, the President will meet with members of civil society — that’s something that the President likes to do in these countries. In the afternoon, the President will deliver remarks on U.S.-Vietnam relations, where I think he’ll reflect on a lot of the themes we spoke of here today.

The President will then travel to Ho Chi Minh City. He will tour the Jade Pagoda, and following his visit, he’ll make remarks.

On Wednesday, the President will meet with U.S. consulate staff and family members, and then the President will participate in a town hall with young people in Ho Chi Minh City. In the afternoon, the President will depart Vietnam en route to Japan.

On Thursday, he’ll make a cultural stop, and then in the afternoon, he’ll attend meetings at the G7 Summit.

On Friday, the President will attend G7 meetings on energy, climate — in particular the implementation of the Paris agreement — and the prosperity of Asia and the United States.

In the afternoon, the President will depart en route to Hiroshima. While in Hiroshima, the President, as we discussed, will deliver remarks, and participate in a wreath-laying ceremony at the Hiroshima Peace Memorial. The President will also meet with servicemembers. And in the evening, the President will depart for Washington, D.C.

With that, have a great weekend.

Thank you.

2:25 P.M. EDT


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