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US Terminates Arms Embargo Policy for Vietnam

On May 23, 2016, during President Obama’s visit to Ho Chi Minh City, the United States announced the termination its long-standing arms embargo policy for Vietnam. Exports of defense articles and defense services to Vietnam will still require a license, but the Directorate of Defense Trade Controls (DDTC) will now consider license applications on a case-by-case basis.

DDTC issued an Industry Notice stating that the change is effective immediately, with conforming changes to Section 126.1 of the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) to be published soon. The lifting of the embargo also will apply to items transitioned to control under the Export Administration Regulations, including 600-series (military-related) and 9×515 (spacecraft-related) items.

The arms embargo had been in effect for approximately 50 years. The countries have worked to improve relations, however, with the U.S.-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement in 2001 and more recently with Vietnam becoming a signatory to the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement. Lifting the embargo opens the door to additional trade with Vietnam, which is currently the world’s eighth-largest arms importer per World Bank SIPRI data.

This announcement follows similar changes in policy with respect to the arms embargoes for Sri Lanka and Cote d’Ivoire earlier this month.