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Politics

Vietnam's Phuc: Options for TPP tweaks 'still under consideration'

Prime minister seeks to ensure 'mutual benefits' after US withdrawal

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaks during an interview in Tokyo on June 5. (Photo by Masayuki Kozono)

Vietnam is mulling which sections of the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement can be renegotiated after the withdrawal of the U.S., Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc said in an interview on the sidelines of the conference.

"Vietnam has assigned the minister in charge of trade to discuss with other members [of the TPP] the options for the way forward," he said. The goal, he added, is to find "a way to balance and harmonize the interests of the signatories."

Vietnam had expected the trade pact to boost textile and other exports to the U.S. Yet U.S. President Donald Trump kicked off his administration by withdrawing from the deal in January.

The prime minister did not explicitly say the 11 remaining members ought to renegotiate the TPP. But when asked what elements Vietnam might want to change, Phuc said, "That matter is still under consideration."

Phuc said his trade minister will "discuss with the TPP peers the best options for mutual benefits." He said the minister will report back to him about the discussions, suggesting the talks will influence Vietnam's decision on whether to push for renegotiation.

In a keynote address to the conference, Phuc said, "History shows that whether we support or oppose globalization, it remains an inevitable trend." Citing economic development on the old Silk Road, he stressed that globalization "is not merely an economic process but it also reflects the desires of humankind to reach further, pursue well-being and conquer challenges."

Phuc emphasized Asia's rising profile in the global economy. The region boasted the largest nominal gross domestic product among the world's continents in 2016, up from third in 2010.

"We often hear about the American dream or Chinese dream, but it appears that in the mass media, the Myanmar dream, Lao dream, Cambodian dream or Vietnamese dream are barely heard of," Phuc said in his speech. "I believe in the future, Asia will be a place where the dreams of all countries, big and small, developed and developing, will all be heard of and respected."

But stability is crucial for making that possible. In the interview, Phuc touched on territorial disputes in the South China Sea, stressing that it is "the shared responsibility of every country to maintain the peace in this region." Putting it another way, he called on regional players to pursue "peace and friendship," "freedom of navigation" and the "rule of law."

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