U.S. and Vietnam: Once rivals, now partners

A Vietnamese woman sells bananas. Vietnam now exports more goods to the United States than to any other country. (© AP Images)

It has been two decades since the United States and Vietnam normalized diplomatic relations. Since then, the two nations have transformed their legacy of Cold War conflict. Economic and people-to-people ties have blossomed.

Secretary of State John Kerry will visit Hanoi August 7 to mark the anniversary and to promote Vietnam’s participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Secretary Kerry sails past a village on the Mekong River delta before a climate change speech in Vietnam on December 15, 2013. (State Dept.)

Among the highlights of the new relationship:

  • Vietnam now exports more goods to the United States than to any other country. Trade has grown from $451 million in 1995 to $36 billion in 2014, tops among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members. Vietnamese goods fill 1,700 cargo container deliveries to the U.S. daily.
  • Vietnam now sends 17,000 students to U.S. universities, more than all but seven other nations.
  • Since the signing of a 2001 U.S.-Vietnam trade agreement, Vietnam’s poverty rate has dropped from 60 percent to 17 percent. Domestic prices of imported goods have decreased, and the Vietnamese people have more consumer choices.

In a July 1 ceremony to mark the 20th anniversary, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius said: “I have reason to celebrate the successes of the last 20 years and I know that the future of this relationship is limitless. I believe that the American and Vietnamese people will continue to move forward together and to engage in ever greater cooperation across a wider range of activities.”