Vice Foreign Minister Ha Kim Ngoc shares his thoughts on the bilateral relationship between Vietnam and the US.
How would you assess the relationship between Vietnam and the US over the last 20 years? What have been the highlights of the bilateral relationship?
In the past 20 years the relationship between the two countries has taken significant steps forward, from former enemies to friends, and recently established a comprehensive partnership. I would like to emphasize three striking points.
First, over the last 20 years, bilateral relations have been continuously expanded and strengthened in all areas. In particular, for the first time in the relationship between Vietnam and the US, during a visit to the US on July 2013 by President Truong Tan Sang, the two sides issued a Joint Statement establishing a comprehensive partnership that emphasized nine key areas of bilateral relations, including political and diplomatic; economic and trade; science and technology; education; environment and health; settlement of war legacy issues; defense and security; protection and promotion of human rights; and culture, tourism and sports.
|Mr. Ha Kim Ngoc|
Besides some of the most important principles, relating to a constructive and multi-sided relationship based on equality, mutual respect and mutual benefits for peace, stability and development in the region and the world at large, for the first time the US confirmed that it “respected the political institutions” of Vietnam. It can be said that the establishment of a comprehensive partnership between the two countries was an important milestone, consolidating the inevitable trend of relations between Vietnam and the US, creating a solid foundation for the development of bilateral relations in the next 20 years to come. With the establishment of a comprehensive partnership we have realized the will of Uncle Ho from nearly 70 years ago regarding a relationship of “full cooperation” between Vietnam and the US.
Second, the cooperation between the two countries today is not only limited to bilateral issues but have also expanded into multilateral and regional issues, thus creating the posture of a tripartite relationship. This is consistent with Vietnam’s policy of active international integration, to be a responsible member of the international community; and is also consistent with the common interests of both sides and to adapt to the rapidly changing situation in the world and the region, which continues to evolve rapidly and complicately. The two countries are currently strengthening coordination at international and regional forums such as the UN, the Human Rights Council, ASEAN, the East Asia Summit (EAS), Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and others. The issues the two sides are now coordinating on include non-proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, transnational crime, ensuring water security and the sustainable development of the Mekong River, building new structures in the political, economic, and security fields, and promoting the resolution of disputes on the basis of respect for international law, including the Convention on the Law of the Sea 1982, the Declaration of Conduct (DOC), non-use of force or threaten to use force, ensurance of freedom and safety of navigation, and the right to legal exploitation of natural resources, in order to maintain peace, stability and cooperation in the region.
Third, cooperation between the two countries has increasingly been deeper, more efficient, and substantive. Along with the development of bilateral relations, specific dialogues have also been created, including the Political , Security and Defense dialogue,Defense policy dialogue, Asia-Pacific dialogue, and dialogue on the Law of the Sea…. These dialogues have created opportunities to exchange and consult views on substantive issues in bilateral relations relating to peace, stability and cooperation in the region. The fact that shows growth in the bilateral relationship is party to party cooperation. In some areas the two sides have gradually built confidence in long-term cooperation, creating conditions to further strengthening cooperation between the two countries in all aspects.
The following areas are considered highlights of the bilateral cooperation.
(i) Economic and trade cooperation has become the core, the foundation and the impetus for the relationship. Bilateral trade turnover of about $400 million in 1995 has turned into more than $36 billion in 2014; an increase of nearly 90-fold in 20 years. The US has become Vietnam’s largest export market, (standing at more than $30 billion in 2014), with Vietnam continuously recording a trade surplus. Regarding investment, the US is currently the seventh-largest foreign investor in Vietnam, with approximately 700 projects at a total investment value of nearly $11 billion. Notably, the two sides are negotiating with ten other countries over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), targeting an early conclusion to negotiations, which will create opportunities for strengthened trade relations and bilateral investment. We hope, as US Ambassador Ted Osius shared at the “Vietnam – US relations: for another 20 years of success” Workshop in Hanoi on January 26, that the US could become the number one investor in Vietnam in the near future.
(ii) Cooperation in education and training and science and technology has achieved positive results. There are nearly 17,000 Vietnamese students and interns studying in the US, the highest number among Southeast Asian countries and 8th out of all countries with students studying in the US. The US is also promoting the American model university project with international standards in Vietnam. The Vietnam Education Foundation (VEF) has funded hundreds of students from Vietnam to participate in post-graduate programs and PhD studies in the US. Regarding science and technology, the two sides have strengthened cooperation in the fields of environment and climate change, information technology, biotechnology, oceanography, and space technology. The two sides recently signed a Section 123 agreement on cooperation in civil nuclear programs, which has opened up a new field of cooperation and attracted the attention of leading technology companies in the US to develop civil nuclear programs in Vietnam.
(iii) Cooperation on medical and humanitarian issues has also been a focus. The two parties signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in health and medical science, in June 2013. The US continues to maintain and commit to the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) until 2018, with an average estimated value of nearly $100 million annually over recent years. Vietnam continues to search for US soldiers Missing in Action (MIA). The US has provided information to help us find the remains of over 1,000 troops. It continues to maintain and increase funding for remedial action relating to th