As part of her effort to foster increased trade between Vietnam and the United States, Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao, who is of Hmong-American descent, signed a new trade agreement with Le Tien Chau, Hai Phong City Party Committee Secretary on November 16th.
The agreement will further cooperation between the port city of Oakland and the port city of Hai Phong, Vietnam.
Over the past year, bilateral trade’s commercial value between the Ports of Oakland and Haiphong amounted to U.S. $401 million (November 2022 through October 2023), according to the Port of Oakland.
Mayor Thao led a delegation, including Port of Oakland officials, to Vietnam last August. She met with Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, the mayors of Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, and Da Nang as well as representatives of Long An International Port.
Vietnam Trade Alternative to China
Mayor Thao told AJOT that she sees major growth opportunities by expanding trade between Oakland and Vietnam. In addition, she will be working to expand cooperation between the United States and Vietnam.
Thao said Vietnam might provide an alternative trading partner to China for the United States in some product categories.
The Mayor’s confidence is validated by news that Vietnam attracted $5.3 billion in foreign investment commitments in October 2023, double its annual average.
In her opening remarks at the signing ceremony, Mayor Thao said: “I have been very committed since starting my job January 9th of this year, to enhancing our partnerships with the Port of Oakland and … that's why I definitely jumped … at the chance to lead a trade delegation to Vietnam earlier this year.” Thao noted that “Vietnam is a top trading partner for the Port of Oakland, as seen in our import volume … which has increased by 35% in the last five years. Vietnam is our port's second largest import market and fifth largest export market. Currently, the Port of Oakland has a total of five ocean carriers that regularly service Oakland with corresponding …seaports in Vietnam … While we were in Vietnam, we were able to establish firm relationships with a number of different partners.”
The Mayor added that: “I think that this is a way … we can mark the occasion of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation Summit … currently happening in San Francisco with this greater cooperation that we're bringing to this partnership with Hai Phong, and we are excited to … sign this agreement today.”
Port of Oakland Executive Director Danny Wan and Maritime Director Bryan Brandes both echoed the Mayor’s hope for increased trade with Vietnam.
Michael Colbruno, Port of Oakland Harbor Commissioner, told the Vietnamese delegation; “Your investment and your relationship with us is very important to the economic vitality of this region.”
Vietnam’s Port Expansion May Be Key
In his response to Mayor Thao, Le Tien Chau, Hai Phong City Party Committee Secretary said: “Our port has the capacity to handle 20,000 TEU vessels and so ocean-going container vessels … can go directly to the markets of the USA. “
Chau added that Hai Phong has invested in improving its transportation infrastructure so that it can support new investments from the United States.
Chau told AJOT that Hai Phong has invested in container crane handling capabilities so that it can handle the largest vessels that can “sail directly to the U.S. without the need for transshipment.”
In November 2022, the Tan Cang Hai Phong International Container Terminal in Hai Phong welcomed its 1 millionth twenty-foot container unit.
The largest deep-water container terminal in northern Vietnam stretches 750 meters with two berths, a 14-meter depth of access channel, a 660-meter turning basin, and 16-meter berth depth. The Port handled 1.1 million TEUs in 2022, according to the publication Vietnam.
According to an October 27th Reuters report: “Foreign investment in Vietnam surged in October as the manufacturing hub attracted more than double the financial pledges it has received monthly this year, amid a big boost in spending for new plants, official data showed on Friday (Nov. 10).
So far in October, the Southeast Asian country has received foreign investment commitments worth $5.3 billion, against a monthly average of $2.2 billion in the rest of the year.”
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