US, Vietnam talk business on Biden visit


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HANOI: Executives at top US and Vietnamese firms in the semiconductor, tech and aviation sectors met on Monday seeking to forge business partnerships during US President Joe Biden’s visit to Hanoi which has seen new deals on planes and AI.

Senior executives from Google, Intel, Amkor, Marvell, GlobalFoundries and Boeing attended the Vietnam-US Innovation and Investment Summit, according to the meeting agenda.

From Vietnam, there were executives from half a dozen companies, including Nasdaq-listed electric car maker VinFast, flag carrier Vietnam Airlines, tech company FPT, MoMo, the country’s biggest e-wallet by users, as well as internet firm VNG, which filed in August for a US IPO.

Biden reiterated at the meeting that the two countries were deepening cooperation in cloud computing, semiconductors and artificial intelligence, and stressed Vietnam was crucial for critical minerals supplies. The country has the world’s second-biggest estimated deposits of rare earths, which are used in electric vehicles and wind turbines.

The meeting, which followed a historic upgrade of diplomatic relations agreed on Sunday, underscored US desire to boost Vietnam’s global role. This is particularly so in chipmaking with Washington seeking to reduce the sector’s exposure to China-linked risks, including trade friction and tensions over Taiwan.

Deals unveiled by the White House during the trip include Vietnam Airlines’ purchase of 50 Boeing 737 Max jets, in an agreement that it said was worth $7.8 billion.

Vietnam was the world’s fifth fastest-growing aviation market in 2022 when it lifted COVID-19 travel restrictions, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), which predicts the country will serve 150 million air transport passengers by 2035.

The White House also announced plans by Microsoft to make a “generative AI-based solution tailored for Vietnam and emerging markets.”

Nvidia will also partner with Vietnam’s FPT, Viettel and Vingroup, VinFast’s parent company, on AI in the country, it said.

The White House also highlighted the number of chip-related investments by US firms in Vietnam, including plans by Marvell and Synopsys to build chip design centres in the country.

These deals confirm US plans to boost Vietnam’s global role in different segments of chipmaking, as part of Washington’s broader strategy to reduce the sector’s exposure to China-linked risks, including trade restrictions and tensions over Taiwan.

Amkor is building near Hanoi “a state-of-the-art mega factory for semiconductor assembly and testing,” Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said on a visit to Hanoi in July. The company has dozens of open positions on its Vietnam web page. The new $1.6 billion Amkor factory that will assemble, package and test chips is due to start operations in October, it added.

The investment value is on par with Intel’s $1.5 billion chip assembling plant in the south of the country – the company’s biggest worldwide. Sources said earlier this year that it may be expanded.

Vietnam has also ambitions to build its own chipmaking factories, or fabs. GlobalFoundries is specialised in making integrated circuits on wafers for smartphones, cars and other applications. Vietnam is a major exporter of smartphones and electronics.

An executive at a major US chips firm said the Vietnamese government had been holding meetings with most major chips companies in the country, including Intel, Samsung and Qualcomm, to ask for advice on setting up the country’s first fab.

US conglomerate Honeywell will cooperate with a Vietnamese partner to launch a pilot project to develop Vietnam’s first battery energy storage system, the White House also said.

US State Secretary Antony Blinken and Vietnam’s investment minister Nguyen Chi Dung chaired the meeting, which was followed by discussions with Biden and Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh.

Dung also told the meeting that he hoped Vietnamese companies could expand in the United States and join the global supply chain, according to a government statement.

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