HANOI (Reuters) - Vietnam said it was committed to free and fair trade with the United States on Friday, following threats by U.S. President Donald Trump to impose tariffs on products from the Southeast Asian country amid its ongoing trade war with China.
Trump said on Wednesday his government was in discussions with Vietnam on trade, but said that Hanoi treated the United States "even worse" than China in terms of trade.
Responding to the comments, Vietnam's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Le Thi Thu Hang said on Friday that Vietnam wanted a mutually beneficial trading relationship with the United States.
"Vietnam seeks to further economic, trade and investment ties with the United States which promote freedom and fairness, based on mutual benefits," Hang said in an emailed statement.
"Vietnam has made efforts to improve the bilateral trade balance, and promotes the imports of U.S. goods that Vietnam needs," Hang said.
The statement also pointed to recent efforts by Vietnam to crack down on goods of foreign origin illegally relabelled "Made in Vietnam" by exporters seeking to dodge tariffs.
Vietnam's largest export market is the United States, with which it has a rapidly growing trade surplus. The country's economic growth remained strong in the second quarter, backed by robust exports and foreign investment amid the ongoing trade war between Washington and Beijing.
Following a meeting between Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Trump on the sidelines of the two-day Group of 20 (G20) summit in Japan on Friday, Vietnam said it would import more liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the United States.
Vietnam's Ministry of Industry and Trade and the U.S. Department of Energy will soon sign a memorandum of understanding on LNG imports, Vietnam's government said in a statement, also issued on Friday.
The statement did not elaborate as to how much LNG would be imported, but said it was a "long-term and strategic energy cooperation".
Exports to the U.S. from Vietnam, which has been touted as one of the largest beneficiaries of the trade war, rose 29% in the first five months of this year, according to Vietnam's customs data.
Vietnam ran a trade surplus of $17 billion (£13.4 billion) with the U.S. in the first five months of this year, compared to last year's surplus of $12.9 billion in the same period, according to the data.
(Reporting by Khanh Vu; Editing by James Pearson and Raissa Kasolowsky)