Vietnam must take steps to cut its trade surplus with the US, Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in comments released on Monday, as US President Donald Trump’s administration ramps up pressure on the Southeast Asian nation.
The US has a growing trade shortfall with Vietnam and the government “has been clear with Vietnam that it has to take action to reduce the unsustainable trade deficit,” Lighthizer said in written responses to the US Senate Committee on Finance.
Measures Vietnam should take include “expanding its imports of goods from the United States and by resolving market access restrictions related to goods, services, agricultural products and intellectual property,” he said.
Vietnam increasingly is being targeted by the Trump administration over a swelling trade surplus with the US, one of its biggest trade markets.
Vietnam’s annual trade surplus with the US has exceeded US$20 billion since 2014 and reached US$40 billion last year, the highest in records going back to 1990, according to US Census Bureau data.
For the first five months of the year, the surplus is already 43 percent higher than a year ago at US$21.6 billion.
In May, the US Treasury added Vietnam to a watchlist of countries being monitored for possible currency manipulation.
Trump described Vietnam as “almost the single-worst abuser of everybody,” when asked last month if he wanted to impose tariffs on the nation.
Lighthizer also criticized Vietnam for a “host of unfair trade barriers” US businesses face in Vietnam.
The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Lighthizer, who was answering a question from US Senator Mark Warner, testified before the committee on June 18.
Answers to additional questions from committee members were submitted in writing on Monday.
Lighthizer and other US delegates — including US Secretary of the Treasury Steven Mnuchin — are set to attend a dinner at the Fairmont Peace Hotel on Tuesday evening ahead of the US-China trade negotiations in Shanghai on Wednesday, according to people familiar with the matter.
However, expectations for a breakthrough in the trade talks remain low. The two sides are further apart than they were three months ago, when negotiations broke down and each side blamed the other for derailing attempts to reach a deal.
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