After establishing formal bilateral relations in 1995, the U.S. and Vietnam have become reliable partners with a friendship based on mutual respect. From former enemy into partners, the U.S. and Vietnam have an increasingly active and comprehensive cooperative relationship, and have developed into a solid partnership in the fields of politics, economy, security, and people-to-people exchanges.

1993 – lifting trade embargo

The US had imposed a trade embargo on Vietnam since the communist victory over South Vietnam in 1975, leaving a detrimental impact on trade in Vietnam. Under the trade embargo, all U.S. citizens and businesses were barred from exporting or importing any goods from Vietnam, and financial and commercial dealings were also prohibited.

In 1993, the trade embargo was finally lifted, setting a basis to promote cooperation and familiarity between the U.S. and Vietnam, also allowing further advances in resolving matters in the past. Although the United States has not established full relations with Vietnam, legal restrictions have lessened. Multilateral organizations and most countries other than the United States have re-established full relations with Vietnam. U.S. private sector interests, including businesses, NGOs, and Vietnamese-Americans, had established growing ties with Vietnam. Optimistic changes in Vietnam’s foreign and domestic policies have also led to broader acceptance of Vietnam by the international community. This set up a foundation for ongoing reforms and positive economic trends in Vietnam.

1995 – establishing diplomatic relations with first U.S. Ambassador Pete Peterson and his Vietnamese wife Ms Vy

Additional steps toward normalizing U.S – Vietnam relations have continued through the January 1995 announcement as the U.S. and Vietnam were opening liaison offices in each other’s capitals, which was then upgraded to embassy status. In 1997, Pete Peterson was appointed as the first U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam since 1975.

This set an official normalized diplomatic relations between Vietnam and the U.S. The countries accept the past and open a new chapter in the history of the bilateral relationship, aiming to create favorable conditions to focus on maintaining peace and developing the economy.

Looking from the U.S. perspective, the strategy of normalization of relations and promotion of cooperation with Vietnam both stem from the internal needs of the U.S. and is a part of the adjustment of global strategy after the Cold War in general, with the Asia-Pacific and Southeast Asia region in particular.

2001 – the Bilateral Trade agreement which paved the way to Vietnam’s accession to the WTO

The U.S. and Vietnam signed a bilateral trade agreement (BTA) on July 13, 2000, which went into force on December 10, 2001. The BTA is a major step forward in fully normalizing U.S. – Vietnam commercial relations, as it restores reciprocal MFN treatment between the two countries, and commits Vietnam to undertake a wide range of market-oriented economic reforms.

Under the agreement, the U.S. extends temporary MFN status to Vietnam. In return, Vietnam undertakes a wide range of market-liberalization measures, committed to reform its trade and investment regime to provide a much more level and fair “playing field” for U.S. companies and products in Vietnam.

The BTA is also considered a stepping stone towards Vietnam’s accession to the WTO as the Vietnam-U.S. BTA already contains many fundamental principles of the WTO, which cover MFN treatment, national treatment, transparency, lowering trade barriers through negotiations, promoting fair competition, and encourage development and economic reform. When Vietnam joined the WTO in 2006, the U.S. granted Vietnam permanent MFN status. The US granting MFN status to Vietnam gives Vietnam access to the U.S. market and gains economic benefits from improving Vietnam’s terms of trade and the efficiency of resource allocation in the country.

The BTA encompasses seven comprehensive chapters that address Trade in Goods, Trade in Services, Intellectual Property Rights, Development of Investment Relations, Business Facilitation, Regulations on Publicity and Transparency, and Right to appeal. Throughout the BTA’s implementation, both countries experienced remarkable growth in export turnover. In 2002, upon the BTA’s signing, the US market commenced accepting Vietnamese goods, resulting in an export turnover of US$16.5 billion, indicating an almost 10% surge from 2001. From 2001 to 2008, Vietnam’s exports to the United States consistently increased, peaking at nearly US$12.610 million 2008, despite the interruption caused by the 2007 financial crisis. In the period of 2010 to 2018, trade between the two nations remained stable, sustaining growth momentum at an average rate of 116%. The BTA also played a significant role in attracting investment from the United States to Vietnam, with registered US FDI capital amounting to US$200.1 million when the BTA first took effect in 2002. Overall, the BTA has notably bolstered trade and investment ties between Vietnam and the United States.

September 2023 – elevating U.S – Vietnam relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership

Recently, on September 10, 2023, during the visit of US President Joe Biden to Vietnam, the leaders from two countries have signed the Joint Statement on Elevating U.S – Vietnam Relations to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership. The Joint Statement covers a wide range of cooperation fields, including economic – trade – investment.

Throughout the 10-year period of implementing the Comprehensive Partnership, Vietnam and the United States have reiterated the significance of bolstering bilateral trade, and collaborating to address key concerns, including financial services advertising, information security products, as well as trade matters related to white offal and corn residue powder.

U.S – Vietnam relations – The path ahead

In light of the recent elevation to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership between Vietnam and the US, trade relations between the two nations will witness the opening of a legal corridor. Firstly, more additional dialogue mechanisms will be established, including policy dialogues facilitated through the Vietnam-US Trade and Investment Council (“TIFA”) to reinforce bilateral trade relations. Secondly, both countries are orienting toward a policy focused on energy transition, environmental conservation, and sustainable development, following the trend of cooperative development. This approach requires the careful transfer of modern technology, adhering meticulously to regulations promoting transparency based on the BTA. Within the energy sector, the U.S will assist Vietnam in executing a successful energy transition. Primarily, this entails guidance and policy advice to enable Vietnam in formulating suitable policies for the development of renewable and clean energy for the future. Additionally, support or collaboration with Vietnamese businesses is sought after as part of this initiative. Regarding commerce, both states intend to arrange increased trade promotion initiatives, exhibitions, and establish connections with pertinent agencies in accordance with Article 4 of the BTA. This concerted effort aims to facilitate Vietnamese businesses’ access to the U.S market.


In general, the advancement of Vietnam-US relations has led to the broadening and deepening of the BTA’s implementation, encompassing various new aspects such as environmental conservation, sustainable development, adherence to “green production” standards, the establishment of a “clean and sustainable” supply chain, and bolstering trade promotion efforts. Among the fields highlighted in the Joint Statement, the trade and investment sector holds particular significance, receiving heightened attention.

Please do not hesitate to contact Dr. Oliver Massmann at if you have any questions. Dr. Oliver Massmann is the General Director of Duane Morris Vietnam LLC.

© 2009- Duane Morris LLP. Duane Morris is a registered service mark of Duane Morris LLP.

The opinions expressed on this blog are those of the author and are not to be construed as legal advice.

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