HANOI -- The leaders of Japan and Vietnam shared a desire to see the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal put into force at an early date at their meeting here Monday.
Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, meeting with his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc, also pledged to provide about 120 billion yen ($1.05 billion) in fresh loans for infrastructure projects and patrol ships. The vessels would serve to boost Vietnam's patrol capabilities in the South China Sea.
Abe has completed legislative procedures necessary for Japan to put the TPP into force. He expressed hope for similar progress on Vietnam's part. Phuc assured Abe that Hanoi regards the trade pact as important and that the country is making preparations to ratify it, according to a Japanese source.
The two leaders said that a better understanding by U.S. President-elect Donald Trump of the importance of the Asian economy was vital, including the TPP. Abe and Phuc also agreed to bolster cooperation toward concluding the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, a proposed trade pact that counts Japan, China, South Korea, India and the countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations among its members.
Uncertainties over Trump's Asia policies have spurred concern for countries that hold overlapping claims with Beijing in the South China Sea. Japan and Vietnam shared the view that it is important to adhere to international law and respect diplomatic and legal means in dealing with the maritime issue, according to Phuc. Abe, for his part, stressed that a U.S. presence is crucial to peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific.
Vietnam's government in November scrapped plans for construction of nuclear power plants over financial and environmental concerns. Japanese companies were to be awarded the projects, and this change forced Tokyo to rethink its strategy for exporting infrastructure. Abe told Phuc that Japan was prepared to cooperate instead on facilities fired by coal and liquefied natural gas.
Abe and Phuc agreed to work closely on plans for a high-speed rail link traversing Vietnam that have stalled due to high expected costs.
Vietnam is the last leg of Abe's tour of four countries including the Philippines, Australia and Indonesia. Speaking to reporters Monday night in Hanoi, Abe said he wants to hold a summit with Trump "as soon as possible after his inauguration."