VIETNAM Kerry defends pact that Trump pledges to scrap
HO CHI MINH CITY — Secretary of State John Kerry, making his last trip as the top U.S. diplomat, on Friday defended the 12-nation trade pact that the incoming administration said it would scrap and urged countries to refrain from provocative acts in the South China Sea.
“I can’t predict what the new administration is absolutely going to do with the trade, but I can absolutely tell you that the fundamental reasons for the TPP haven’t changed,” Kerry told students of University of Technology and Education in southern Ho Chi Minh City, referring to the Trans Pacific Partnership agreement.
He said the U.S cannot grow unless it’s able to sell goods to the rest of the world.
Kerry admitted that the future of the TPP, the centerpiece of the Obama administration’s pivot to Asia, is in doubt when Donald Trump is sworn in as president next week. He, however, believed that U.S commitments to the region will not change.
“Shift in our administrations in Washington is not going to alter or fundamentally undermine the commitments of the United States to prosperity and stability and security of the Asia-Pacific,” he said, adding that “our friendship doesn’t depend on individuals or personalities.”
Kerry also said that the U.S. and Vietnam have shared support for security and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which Vietnam along with China and four other government claims in whole or in part.
“We believe all countries in the region, whether big or small, that they all refrain from provocative acts that add to tensions or might lead to greater militarization of the area,” he said.
China claims virtually the entire South China Sea. The U.S. has challenged Beijing’s assertiveness and the construction of islands in the disputed waters by sending warships close to the manmade features.
Kerry, a Vietnam War veteran, also praised relations with his former foes, saying twoway trade had jumped from just $451 million 20 years ago, when U.S.-Vietnamese ties were normalized, to more than $45 billion.
John Kerry walks with Ho Chi Minh University of Technology and Education President Do Van Dung before speaking there.