Trump Aide Tells Vietnam to Curb China Shipments to Avoid Duties

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U.S. National Security Advisor Robert O’Brien told Vietnamese leaders they must curb illegal re-routing of Chinese exports and purchase more U.S. goods such as liquefied natural gas and military equipment in order to avoid American tariffs, the aide to President Donald Trump said in an interview.

The Commerce Department this month imposed preliminary anti-subsidy duties on Vietnamese car and truck tires, citing the nation’s “undervalued currency” among the reasons. Cracking down on Chinese trans-shipments and easing the U.S.’s trade deficit with Vietnam “could be the basis for a reversal” of the tariffs, O’Brien said he told the government’s top leaders during his weekend visit to Hanoi.

O’Brien, who spoke in an interview with Bloomberg News, met with officials including Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Foreign Affairs Minister Pham Binh Minh, and told them the U.S. may be able to provide financing to help with purchases of the American helicopters.

The leaders also talked about the nation’s relationship with its powerful neighbor, China, O’Brien said. China’s “incredibly aggressive” actions in the South China Sea prevents the Vietnamese from tapping resources — fisheries, LNG, oil drilling, he said. “They’re very concerned about that,” O’Brien added.

O’Brien said Vietnam is typically cautious with public statement related to China and wants to maintain good relations with their much larger neighbor country.

Vietnam’s strategy for standing up to Beijing is to work with other regional countries through the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or Asean, though China has some leverage in the organization through its ally Cambodia, O’Brien said.

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