US business group seeks security equipment deal with Vietnam’s police By Reuters

US business group seeks security equipment deal with Vietnam’s police By Reuters

© Reuters.

By Francesco Guarascio

HANOI (Reuters) – A dozen U.S. firms will hold meetings with Vietnam’s public security and defence ministries next week, when a U.S. business group aims to sign a deal to facilitate the supply of gear to the country’s police, the organiser told Reuters.

The meetings, slated for March 18, are part of the dialogue that led to an upgrade of ties in September during a visit to Hanoi by President Joe Biden, as Washington seeks to gain influence in the strategic Southeast Asian nation, which also has ties to China.

The non-binding agreement could be signed on the sidelines of the meetings and would make future deals easier, said Vu Tu Thanh, a representative of the US-ASEAN Business Council (US ABC), the advocacy group that organises the event. He noted that the group has in past years signed similar pacts with other Vietnamese ministries.

US ABC has discussed for months the memorandum of understanding with Vietnam’s Public Security Ministry, Thanh said, noting that the deal would be between the ministry and US ABC, with no direct involvement of the companies.

Thanh said aerospace and defence giant Boeing (NYSE:) would join the meetings, but did not disclose the full list of participants and declined to say whether U.S. companies involved in past defence talks would attend.

“Boeing will highlight the company’s growing partnership with Vietnam and opportunities to strengthen the country’s aerospace capabilities,” Boeing told Reuters in an emailed statement.

ATMO, a U.S.-based provider of AI-powdered meteorological services to governments and militaries, will also join the meetings, Thanh and the company said.

US ABC, whose members include several large U.S. corporations, has sent a draft of the agreement to the public security ministry, covering sectors where “our companies can help”, including for the provision of crime detection and prevention technology, big data analysis, helicopters, aviation services, and cybersecurity, Thanh said.

The details of the talks with the security forces of the Communist-ruled country have not been previously revealed.

It is not clear whether the ministry would sign the agreement, Thanh said. The ministry did not reply to a request for comment.

Vietnam’s parliament approved in June 2022 the establishment of a mobile police unit to tackle crime, terrorism and riots, and the unit needs additional equipment, including helicopters, according to the government and the text of the 2022 legislation.

U.S. officials have publicly said Washington would be willing to boost Vietnam’s defence, especially in the South China Sea, where it is often at odds with China over disputed boundaries.

Support for the police could be more controversial. The latest U.S. State Department’s report on human rights in Vietnam, released last year, warned of significant violations and cited “credible reports that members of the security forces committed numerous abuses”.

Vietnam’s foreign ministry has said the report was biased and was based on inaccurate information.

SpaceX, which joined a large U.S. business delegation to Vietnam last year, will not participate in next week’s meetings, after the company failed to get a licence for its satellite communication and defence service Starlink in Vietnam, Thanh said.

Reuters exclusively reported in February that SpaceX’s talks with Vietnam over Starlink had been put on hold. SpaceX did not reply to a request for comment outside U.S. business hours.

The security workshops will open a week of meetings between Vietnamese government officials and representatives from about 50 U.S. companies, part of a U.S. business mission to the country, Thanh said.

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