Under the Obama administration, the US–Vietnam relationship expanded, especially in terms of security cooperation. China’s increasing assertiveness in the South China Sea has helped to warm US–Vietnam bilateral ties. The Trans-Pacific Partnership also offered Vietnam an opportunity to escape China’s economic orbit. But just as the hard-earned security rapprochement was starting to gain momentum, newly elected US President Donald Trump announced the US withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership. Soon after the rebalance to Asia was declared officially dead. Neither was good news for Vietnam.
Despite initial anxiety over Trump’s reluctance to engage with Southeast Asia, there have been some positive signs that the relationship will continue to prosper. High-level meetings have helped to reassure Hanoi that the Trump administration has an interest in deepening bilateral relations. President Trump’s attendance at the APEC Summit in November 2017 in Da Nang and a scheduled side trip to Hanoi will be important signals of how President Trump views what has become one of the United States’ most important emerging relationship in Southeast Asia.