Progress in U.S - Vietnam Relations Is Miracle

2:23:50 PM | 7/10/2020

That is the assessment of the US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink on the US-Vietnam bilateral relationship during the past 25 years. According to the Ambassador, the people and leaders of the two countries have shown their courage and insight, creating the most extraordinary achievements when they become partners and friends. From almost zero trade, today, two countries share over 77 billion dollars in bilateral trade.

An interview of Vietnam Business Forum with the US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink. Thu Huyen reports.

The year 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the normalization of economic relations between the United States and Vietnam. How do you comment on the progress in bilateral relationship during the past years?

First, I think the most extraordinary achievement is that Vietnam and the United States are today partners and friends – who together consider our ties to be among our most important bilateral relationships. Many people look at the U.S.-Vietnam relationship and call our progress a miracle! When I hear this, I often refer to what the first U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Pete Peterson once told me: while our progress is nothing short of amazing, it was not an accident. People and leaders on both sides showed great courage and vision, working hard to build the foundation of trust. That is what has allowed us to become friends and partners.

Every single day, our two countries are working together with a common sense of purpose for our mutual benefit. Today we are partners in every field imaginable, from security and trade, to health, the environment, and people-to-people ties. While we continue to address the legacy of the past, today the United States and Vietnam have a true partnership and friendship grounded in mutual respect and a shared commitment of peace and prosperity for our people. I am immensely proud of that accomplishment.

We should reflect on what we have achieved. Our progress has been nothing short of extraordinary. Connections between our people and institutions have deepened and are the foundation and the strength of our relationship. We travel to each other's lands in increasing numbers. Our universities are connected. Every year, tens of thousands of young Vietnamese are studying in the United States. They will return to Vietnam with a world-class education and contribute to a thriving economy.

Secretary Pompeo (L) with FM Pham Binh Minh (R)

Our growing defense partnership directly contributes to a strong security environment that encourages private investment, promotes energy security, and ensures mutually beneficially economic prosperity.

Twenty-five years ago, our two countries had almost zero trade; today, we share over 77 billion dollars in bilateral trade. More and more U.S. companies are investing in Vietnam, valuing the skills of the Vietnamese people. We support a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam. Our future is linked. Your success is our success. Your prosperity is our prosperity.

In the unprecedented difficulty of the COVID-19 pandemic, the cooperation between the two countries has become deeper and stronger than ever. Coud you please tell us about this bilateral cooperation?

Our bilateral cooperation is stronger than ever and that includes our collaborative work in the health sector. This year, the United States and Vietnam have built upon our long-standing cooperation on health to strengthen Vietnam’s capacity to respond to the COVID-19 pandemic. Over the past 20 years, the United States has invested more than $1.8 billion in total assistance for Vietnam, including more than $706 million for health.

US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink  and VCCI Chairman Vu Tien Loc at Medical Supplies Donation Ceremony from Vietnamese business community to the US people

The U.S. Mission to Vietnam is fortunate to have three different agencies, each with complementary assets and expertise, contributing to the fight. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has leveraged its long history in Vietnam -going back to 1989-to rapidly mobilize non-governmental partners and resources to support the urgent response to the pandemic. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S. CDC), building on its 22-year relationship with the Ministry of Health, has provided direct technical assistance to governmental partners in the context of a rapidly changing scientific landscape. The Embassy’s Health Affairs Attaché, an office of the U.S. Department of Defense, has worked to explore opportunities for exchange of information and materials related to personal protective equipment, ventilators, and other technologies. These three agencies, working together to support Vietnam, are bringing Vietnam and the United States even closer together.

USAID has provided Vietnam with nearly $9.5 million in total assistance to respond to COVID-19, including $5 million to mitigate the impact of COVID-19 on the Vietnamese economy and almost $4.5 million in health assistance. The economic support funds are assisting in private-sector recovery by enhancing access to finance for businesses; improving support organizations’ capacity to respond to enterprises during an expected surge in demand; and working with the Government of Vietnam to bolster its relief interventions. The health assistance funds are being used to help the Government prepare laboratory systems; activate case-finding and event-based surveillance; support technical experts for preparedness and response; conduct community education and engagement; prevent infections in health-care settings; administer public health screenings at points of entry, and more.

In addition, we are so grateful that in the past few months, the Vietnamese people and businesses have donated millions of masks to the people of the United States. This just shows how true partners use our strengths to help our citizens in good times and in times of need. We often say that, “A friend in need is a friend indeed.” The generosity and kindness of the Vietnamese people during our time of need shows the true strength of our friendship. We are deeply moved and grateful to Vietnam for this assistance.

In your opinion, what policies are needed to continue promoting development cooperation, especially overcoming the difficulties caused by the COVID-19 pandemic?

In my opinion, extraordinary efforts are needed to overcome the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Globally, we are seeing the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic, spanning from health to economic issues. Despite a difficult situation, I am confident, and comforted, that our strong bilateral cooperation with Vietnam will enable us to address the many challenges of this pandemic and prosper together.

Our motto for this year, chosen before the pandemic began, is “Trusted Partners Prospering Together.” Given the pandemic, this holds even stronger – together we know we will prosper! As Vietnam’s partner, the U.S. Government policies work to promote Vietnam’s development.

For example, last fiscal year, USAID assistance to Vietnam totaled approximately $139 million in program areas focused on economic governance; higher education; HIV/AIDS, TB, and global health security; the welfare of persons with disabilities; and energy and environment. USAID programs in Vietnam bolster continued development by focusing resources where they are needed most and on programs with the highest impact.

Our policy to support a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam will not waver.

Vietnam takes on the rotating chairmanship of ASEAN this year. Could you please tell us the position of ASEAN in US foreign and economy policy as well as the supports of the US to help Vietnam take on the chairman effectively?

ASEAN is at the heart of the U.S. vision for a free and open Indo-Pacific, and ASEAN and the region remain diplomatically, economically, and strategically central to U.S. and global prosperity in the 21st century. The United States aims to uphold sovereignty, transparency, good governance, ASEAN centrality, and a rules-based order, in conjunction with all our allies and partners. Across the four priority areas of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific – economic, infrastructure, maritime, and connectivity – ties with the United States have grown ever closer.

Engagement with ASEAN and ASEAN-related fora are the principal regional mechanisms to build cooperation within Southeast Asia in the Indo-Pacific. The President, Cabinet secretaries, and other senior leaders throughout the U.S. government view engagement with Vietnam and ASEAN as a way to ensure peace, security, stability, and prosperity for our shared one billion peoples.

The United States believes ASEAN, under Vietnam’s Chairmanship in 2020, will strengthen regional cooperation and collaboration during the unprecedented global challenge of COVID-19. The global pandemic highlights Vietnam’s chair statement of working toward a “Cohesive and Responsive” ASEAN as exceptionally prescient. ASEAN demonstrates its effectiveness when the member states are unified and speak with one voice on regional security and economic challenges. We look forward to working with Vietnam to further the Initiative for ASEAN Integration and broadening U.S. engagement in the Mekong region. We hope that under Vietnam’s Chairmanship, ASEAN will stand together to address pressing regional challenges, such as maritime security, transnational crime, terrorism, humanitarian crises, while also protecting the human rights of the most vulnerable populations in the region.

How do you assess the future development of Vietnam-US relations?

Our future together is very bright. I am exceptionally optimistic. In 2013, our two countries launched the U.S.-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership. Today, our Comprehensive Partnership covers every aspect of the relationship, from defense, to trade, to health, to people-to-people ties. When you consider the magnitude of each of these elements combined, I think that’s truly impressive!

US Ambassador to Vietnam Daniel J. Kritenbrink
at Truong Son Cemetery

This year we celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. I can’t wait to see what we achieve over the next quarter century! We know, more than ever, that as trusted partners we prosper together.

I want to again emphasize that the United States supports the development of a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam. We respect one another’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, as well as our respective political systems. Every day we see a growing bilateral relationship – more business deals, more tourists traveling to each other’s countries, more students on educational exchange programs, and increased security cooperation. In the years ahead, we look forward to strengthening and expanding our partnership even further as we work together to promote peace, cooperation, prosperity, and security in the Indo-Pacific region.

Source: Vietnam Business Forum