Vietnam and the US have signed US$8 billion in deals, including a massive engine contract with a Vietnamese budget carrier famed for its bikini-clad air hostesses, officials said.
The deals were announced during a visit by Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to the White House on Wednesday, a trip aimed at drumming up trade ties after US President Donald Trump earlier this year pulled out of a massive Asia-Pacific trade pact, decrying it as a “job killer.”
Vietnam, which stood to gain from the Trans-Pacific Partnership before the US pullout, has been aggressively courting Washington to bolster business ties, and Phuc is the first Southeast Asian leader to visit Trump’s White House.
The new deals saw Vietjet sign a 12-year engine contract worth US$3.58 billion with CFM International, a joint venture of General Electric Co (GE) and Safran SA.
The airline also signed a separate deal worth US$1 billion with GE Capital Aviation Services in aircraft financing.
“We strongly believe that this agreement will promote economic and trade exchange between the two countries and create millions [of] jobs for the two peoples,” said Vietjet chief executive officer Nguyen Thi Phuong Thao, who is the communist nation’s first and only female billionaire.
Vietjet, the country’s largest low-cost carrier, is best known for air hostesses sporting bikinis on some of its flights.
The company said it raked in US$1.21 billion in revenue last year and its shares have soared since its market debut in February.
The other new deals — signed in the sectors of hospitality, science and technology, academia and energy — come as Washington opts for bilateral agreements over sprawling free-trade pacts.
Trump has singled out Vietnam as one of the countries allegedly stealing US jobs and has vowed to boost exports to the fast-growing nation to narrow the US$32 billion trade deficit tipped in Hanoi’s favor.
“The growth of the middle class and the increasing purchasing power in Vietnam are further incentives to strengthening our long-term trade and investment relationship,” US Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said, according to a statement about the deals, which he said would create 23,000 US jobs.
Vietnam has clocked rapid GDP growth over the past few years, hitting 6.2 percent last year.
US-Vietnam relations blossomed under former US president Barack Obama, who visited the country in May last year, announcing a raft of deals and lifting a Vietnam War-era arms embargo.
The former foes have also condemned Beijing’s buildup in the disputed South China Sea, where Taiwan also has claims, and Trump and Phuc reiterated the “importance of freedom of navigation” in the waterway, according to a White House statement on Wednesday.
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