May 31 (UPI) -- President Donald Trump announced a series of business deals between U.S. companies and Vietnam shortly after meeting Wednesday with the country's prime minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
"They just made a very large order in the United States and we appreciate that for many billions of dollars, which means jobs for the United States and great, great equipment for Vietnam," Trump told a group of reporters.
Phuc visited the White House on Wednesday with hopes of discussing ways the United States and Vietnam can bolster trade relations.
Many economists predicted that Vietnam had much to gain from U.S. participation in the Trans-Pacific Partnership. With the United States having opted out of the TPP, Phuc aimed to engage Trump on the possibility of a bilateral trade deal.
Business leaders in Vietnam hope strengthened economic ties between the two nations can protect the Southeast Asian economy from the growing dominance of China.
Several experts on U.S. trade with Vietnam suggest any deal will to take some time, and is unlikely to gain momentum until other trade deals, such as NAFTA, are renegotiated.
Some officials in the Trump administration have expressed concern about the trade deficit -- most recently estimated at $32 billion -- with Vietnam.
"This concerning growth in our trade deficit presents new challenges," U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said Tuesday.
Prime Minister Phuc believes deals like those recently announced will help ease such concerns. The leader announced plans to purchase power plants from General Electric, a deal worth $2 billion. Phuc also announced a $3.6 billion purchase agreement for jet engines made by a GE affiliate.
"Vietnamese imports from the United States have increased significantly," Phuc said last week in Hanoi. "We will sign billions of dollars worth of deals with American firms and import lots of meaningful high-value products from the United States that will help create American jobs."
While shaking Trump's hand after a brief meeting, Phuc predicted future trade discussions "will be fruitful to set out major direction for our enhanced Vietnam-U.S. cooperation."