News on 8 September 2016
1) Japan to provide patrol ships to Vietnam amid maritime row with China
The Japanese government said on Wednesday it is ready to provide Vietnam with new patrol ships, in its latest step to boost the maritime law-enforcement capabilities of countries locked in territorial rows with China. On Tuesday, Japan agreed to provide two large patrol ships and lend up to five used surveillance aircraft to the Philippines, another country at odds with China over sovereignty issues in the Eastern Sea. Japan itself has been at loggerheads with China over a group of tiny, uninhabited Eastern Sea islets. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe told his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, of Tokyo's intention in their meeting on the sidelines of ASEAN-related meetings in Vientiane. Japan has already provided six patrol ships to Vietnam, but they were all used ones, a Japanese foreign ministry official said, adding that details such as the timing of the delivery and the number of ships to be provided have yet to be fixed. Japan plans to extend a low-interest loan under its official development assistance program to Vietnam to facilitate the acquisition.
2) India offers $500 million defence credit as Vietnam seeks arms boost
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi offered Vietnam a credit line on Saturday of half a billion dollars for defence cooperation, giving a lift to a country rapidly pursing a military deterrent as discord festers in the South China Sea. The deal was among a dozen cooperation agreements Modi signed in Hanoi alongside his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, on the first visit to the country by an Indian prime minister in 15 years. India and Vietnam share borders and large trade volumes with China and have repeatedly locked horns with Beijing, over the territorial disputes in the Himalayas and the South China Sea, respectively. Both are also beefing-up of their defences and in India's case, its defence industry, promoting heavily its supersonic BrahMos missile. India is keen to sell the missile to Vietnam and four other countries, according to a government note seen by Reuters in June. It was unclear if the latest loan included the $100 million India had previously made available to Vietnam for four yet-to-be-built patrol vessels in a deal agreed in late 2014. In an address to media, Modi said the credit was for "facilitating mutual defence cooperation" and the relationship between the two countries would "contribute to stability, securities and prosperity in this region". Modi, who was en-route to a G20 Summit in China, made no mention of the patrol vessels, nor BrahMos missiles, and did not elaborate on what Vietnam would use the $500 million credit for.
3) U.S. gives Laos extra $90 million to help clear unexploded ordnance
The United States announced on Tuesday it would provide an additional $90 million (67.61 million pounds) over the next three years to help Laos, heavily bombed during the Vietnam War, clear unexploded ordnance that has killed or injured more than 20,000 people. The figure announced during President Barack Obama's first visit to Laos is close to the $100 million the United States has spent in the past 20 years on clearing its UXO in Laos. From 1964 to 1973, U.S. warplanes dropped more than 270 million cluster munitions on the communist country, one-third of which did not explode, the Lao National Regulatory Authority for UXO says. Obama became the first U.S. president to visit Laos when he arrived in the once-isolated country on Monday to attend two regional summits, half a century after America's "secret war" left Laos with the unfortunate distinction of being the most heavily bombed country, per capita, in history. The White House said in a statement U.S. programmes in Laos had helped slash UXO casualties from 300 to less than 50 a year and the additional funding would be used for a "comprehensive UXO survey of Laos and for continued clearing operations". "The United States is helping Laos clear unexploded ordnance, which poses a threat to people and hampers economic development," it said. The package would help support UXO victims needing rehabilitation, including orthotics and prosthetics, it added. Obama, in a speech on Tuesday in the capital, Vientiane, addressed the secret war. "As a result of that conflict many people fled or were driven from their homes," Obama said. "At the time America did not acknowledge its role.”
4) Vietnam agriculture faces stiff competition from imports
In 2015, the massive imports of chicken legs from the US sparked hot debate. Local newspapers then quoted economists who warned that Vietnam’s animal husbandry would ‘die’ after TPP takes effect. Vietnamese farmers complained that their chicken could not compete with the US imports which were sold at the surprisingly low price of VND20,000 per kilo. They called for a dumping investigation into American chicken imports. The increasingly high proportion of imported frozen meat in Vietnam shows a new tendency that Vietnamese consumers would rather eat quarantined frozen meat than fresh products with unclear origin. In the first six months of 2015, Vietnamese consumed 70,000 tons of import chicken. Meanwhile, in 2014, Vietnamese imported 100,000 tons. Truong Dinh Tuyen, former Minister of Trade, now the Ministry of Industry and Trade, said that under the next-generation free trade agreements (FTAs) such as TPP and EVFTA (the EU-Vietnam FTA), the openness of Vietnam’s agriculture will enlarge with tariffs on farm produce falling to zero right after the agreements take effect. He warned that if Vietnamese enterprises cannot take full advantage of the FTAs, they will face big challenges. “Foreign products are cleaner and they will get cheaper thanks to tariff cuts. Vietnamese consumers tend to buy clean products. All these will be great challenges for Vietnamese enterprises,” Tuyen said.