The 13 deals were announced as Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc met with U.S. President Donald Trump as part of a three-day, trade-focused trip to the United States.

U.S. Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross, who has pledged to shrink U.S. trade deficits, said the transactions would include $3.4 billion in U.S. produced content that would support 23,000 jobs.

But the Trump administration still wants more work from Vietnam to bring down a rapidly growing $32 billion trade surplus with the United States, said Murray Hiebert, a Southeast Asia expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.

"I heard from U.S. officials ahead of the trip that just signing deals with U.S. companies was nice but not enough," Hiebert said.

GE said on Wednesday it had signed deals in Vietnam worth about $5.58 billion for power generation, aircraft engines and services, its largest single combined sale with the country in GE's history.

GE's agreement with Vietjet Aviation JSC VJC.HM includes 20 jet engines made by CFM International, a joint venture of GE and Safran SA (SAF.PA) of France. It also includes a 12-year engine service contract for 215 LEAP-1B engines on 100 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft that Vietjet has ordered, GE said.

GE's power unit signed a memorandum of understanding to build two 750-megawatt gas fired turbine power plants in conjunction with state energy group PetroVietnam, using the Blue Whale gas field.

GE also signed a joint development agreement to erect an 800-megawatt wind power facility. Partners in the agreement are Phu Cuong Group and International Mainstream Renewable Power, GE said.

Honeywell (HON.N) also signed a $100 million deal to supply VietJet with 98 auxiliary power units for the airline's new fleet of Airbus (AIR.PA) A320 aircraft, including maintenance for 12 years.

Caterpillar and its dealer in Vietnam, Phu Thai Cat, agreed to provide generator management technology for more than 100 generators in Vietnam, the company said. The technology would allow for remote function monitoring including fuel, temperature and pressure. The value of the Caterpillar deal was not disclosed.

Hilton Worldwide (HLT.N) signed a deal worth $650 million to manage a 610-room dual-branded hotel in Vietnam, while port security firm Passport Systems Inc signed a deal worth $1 billion, with $420 million in U.S. content, Commerce said.

By David Lawder & Alwyn Scott - Reuters - June 1st, 2017

Trump hosts Prime Minister Phuc of Vietnam and announces trade deals

President Trump welcomed the prime minister of Vietnam to the Oval Office on Wednesday, cutting business deals and discussing the transfer of a Coast Guard cutter to a onetime enemy that the United States now views as a front-line defender against an expansionist China.

It was Mr. Trump’s first meeting with the prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and the president had warm words for his guest, despite having raised concerns within the Vietnamese government on both economic and security fronts early in his administration.

Mr. Trump withdrew the United States from the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a regional trade pact struck by his predecessor, President Barack Obama, of which Vietnam is a member and would be a major beneficiary.

The president has also relaxed the pressure on China in return for its help in curbing North Korea, which has prompted concerns among Vietnam and its neighbors that the United States might not be as quick to thwart Beijing’s territorial ambitions in the South China Sea.

“Prime Minister Phuc has done a spectacular job in Vietnam, led so many different categories in trade and other things,” Mr. Trump told reporters before their meeting. “We’re going to be discussing trade. We’re going to be discussing North Korea. We have many things to talk about and we look forward to being together, very much so.”

Mr. Trump made no mention of Vietnam’s human rights abuses, which include the detention of dissident bloggers and religious activists, and have become the subject of persistent interest on Capitol Hill.

“The Vietnamese Politburo has drifted in a more conservative direction,” said John Sifton, the Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch. “They’ve become more retrogressive.”

As has been his custom with authoritarian leaders, including Xi Jinping of China and Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Mr. Trump avoided raising those issues publicly. The White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, told reporters that in general, the president preferred to raise such issues in private.

In a statement issued after the meeting, the two leaders said they “welcomed the results of a frank and constructive dialogue on human rights.”

Sitting next to Mr. Trump in the Oval Office, Mr. Phuc said, “The relationship between Vietnam and the United States has undergone significant upheavals in history, but today we have been able to become comprehensive partners.”

As evidence of that, the two countries announced more than $8 billion worth of commercial deals, mostly for high-tech products, with American companies like General Electric. Vietnam runs a nearly $32 billion trade surplus with the United States, a growing gap that the United States trade representative, Robert Lighthizer, lamented on Tuesday.

Vietnam was deeply disappointed by Mr. Trump’s decision to pull the United States out of the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But Mr. Phuc said in an interview with Bloomberg Television that the two countries would find “new mechanisms” to increase trade on a bilateral basis.

In the Oval Office, Mr. Phuc also witnessed Mr. Trump dodging questions about whether he plans to withdraw the United States from the Paris climate accord. Vietnam is a signer of the agreement; with 2,000 miles of coastline and millions of people living in the low-lying Mekong Delta, it is viewed as particularly vulnerable to the effects of rising seas.

Relations between the United States and Vietnam became significantly closer under Mr. Obama. He visited Hanoi last year and announced that the United States would rescind a decades-old ban on sales of lethal military equipment. Vietnam has yet to place an order for such weapons, but the lifting of the embargo was widely seen as an effort to bolster Vietnam in its confrontation with China over maritime claims in the South China Sea.

Mr. Trump came into office with the expectation that he would be as tough, or tougher, than Mr. Obama in pushing back on China’s ambitions. But after his recent summit meeting with Mr. Xi in Palm Beach, Fla., in which Mr. Trump pressed the Chinese president to use his leverage with North Korea, Mr. Trump softened his words toward Beijing.

The recent transfer of a decommissioned American cutter to the Vietnamese Coast Guard was meant to reassure Vietnam. The vessel, formerly known as the Morgenthau, is designed to patrol coastal waters, making it a deterrent against Chinese aggression. The United States has also transferred six 45-foot patrol boats, known as Metal Sharks, to Vietnam.

Mr. Phuc told Mr. Trump that Vietnam would like to acquire more cutters. The two also discussed having an American aircraft carrier make a port call in Vietnam, another symbolic step in the reconciliation of two countries that were once at war.

By Mark Landler - The New York Times - Mai 31, 2017