Vietnam - U.S.: Extensive and Solid Partnership

10:07:38 AM | 7/20/2020

The year 2020 marks the 25th anniversary of the normalization of relations between Vietnam and the United States, opening a new era for their bilateral relations. To learn about the cooperation over the past 25 years, as well as the orientation for the coming time, Vietnam Business Forum has an interview with Mr. Bui Thanh Son, Standing Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam.

Could you elaborate on the memorable milestones in Vietnam - U.S. bilateral relations?

A quarter century ago, on July 12, 1995, U.S. President Bill Clinton and Vietnamese Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet officially announced the normalization of relations between Vietnam and the United States, opening a new era for bilateral relations. In August 1995, Vietnam and the U.S. announced the upgrading of the Liaison Offices established in January 1995 in the capitals of each country to embassies.

After normalization, the bilateral political and diplomatic relations have become increasingly cooperative and open with frequent high-level official exchanges. Over the past 25 years, senior leaders of both sides have paid 10 visits to each other and adopted eight joint statements. Every visit by high-ranking leaders has been an important milestone in the history of Vietnam-U.S. relations.

In 2013, President Truong Tan Sang's visit to the U.S. marked a hallmark milestone when the two countries adopted the Joint Statement establishing a comprehensive partnership with nine key areas of cooperation, in which the two sides, for the first time, emphasized the principles of respect for the UN Charter and international law, and respect for each other's political institutions, independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity. In 2015, General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong became the highest leader of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) to pay an official visit to the U.S. During the visit, leaders of the two countries issued a joint statement on a shared vision for relations, stressing deepening the long-term partnership and strengthening cooperation on regional and global issues. The U.S.’s respectful reception of General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong showed their full respect for the political institutions and leadership of the Communist Party of Vietnam.

The joint statements by Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and President Donald Trump on their shuttle visits in May and November 2017, respectively, put forth the roadmap to uplift Vietnam-U.S. relations while reaffirming commitments to deepen bilateral relations on the basis of previous joint statements. The U.S. has repeatedly reaffirmed commitments to strengthening the comprehensive partnership with Vietnam, supporting Vietnam to become a “strong, prosperous and independent” nation and appreciated Vietnam's role in U.S. policy in the region.

The current achievements have been attributed to trust and tireless efforts from both sides, starting from their cooperative settlement of war effects. With Vietnam’s active engagement, the two countries have found and repatriated the remains of more than 1,000 U.S. military personnel. For its part, the U.S. has provided information and records about Vietnamese soldiers killed in the war, helping Vietnam find and assemble nearly 1,500 soldier remains in the cemetery. The U.S. government has continuously increased the budget for healing the war effects, completing the detoxification of Danang Airport in 2018 and starting a similar project to clean up Bien Hoa Airport, providing healthcare for about one million people with disabilities in Vietnam and granting US$130 million for clearing unexploded ordnance (UXO). U.S. veterans and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) have also made important contributions to mine-clearing action programs and projects, Agent Orange/dioxin victim support, and school and hospital construction in places heavily damaged by the war. The two countries’ effort to heal the effects of war is the foundation for lifting development relations to comprehensive partnership with real results in all aspects as now.

The twists and turns of history and two-way relations development over a quarter century have shown that the cooperation built on equality, mutual benefit, respect for independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, political regimes, respect for the UN Charter and fundamental principles of international law, has been the right approach for Vietnam and the U.S.. This trend is completely in line with common interests of the two peoples.

The Vietnam - U.S. Comprehensive Partnership, which has developed substantially and effectively in all aspects, has greatly benefitted both countries. Could you please tell us about productive cooperation in economics, culture and education?

Twenty-five years is not a long time in mutual relationship, but the achievements are really impressive. The two countries have moved from hostility to friendship and comprehensive partnership. I would like to highlight some important achievements in economics, culture and education cooperation over the past time:

The two-way trade has strongly grown to become a driving force for the bilateral relationship. The two-way trade value has increased rapidly and continuously, from US$450 million in 1995 to US$76 billion in 2019 (an increase of 170 times). Since 2005, the U.S. has risen to become Vietnam’s largest importer. The latter is among the fastest growing markets of the U.S. In 2019, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on comprehensive energy partnership where Vietnam will spend billions of U.S. dollars to buy liquefied natural gas (LNG) from the U.S. each year. The two countries have established and enforced the Vietnam-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and the Action Plan to promote economic, commercial and investment opportunities. On investment, the U.S. ranks 11th out of 136 foreign investors in Vietnam, is engaged in various investment forms, and has registered business presence in 43 out of 63 provinces and cities in Vietnam. In a meeting with a delegation of 45 U.S. businesses in March 2020, Chairman of the ASEAN-U.S. Business Council Alex Feldman highly appreciated Vietnam as an attractive destination for foreign investors in recent years, including those from the U.S. High-quality investment from the United States has significantly helped Vietnam gradually build and consolidate its foothold in the global supply chain. Although U.S. investment into Vietnam has steadily increased, it is still modest relative to the two countries' cooperation potential. Therefore, Vietnam needs to create an attractive investment environment to draw more giant projects from the U.S. to boost the country's socioeconomic development.

Education and training cooperation has kept expanding, thus enhancing understanding between the two peoples. From only about 500 Vietnamese students studying in the U.S. in 1995, the number now exceeds 30,000, making Vietnam the leading country in ASEAN and the fifth in the world by number of students in the U.S. Vietnamese students have the opportunity to study and do research at leading American universities right in their home country through Fulbright University Vietnam. In 2019, Fulbright University Vietnam hosted the first graduation ceremony for Master of Public Policy, raising the number of officials trained to over 2,000 in two decades. In addition, there are more and more educational exchange programs between Vietnamese and U.S. schools, from elementary to postgraduate levels.

Vietnam - U.S. cultural exchange has made important contributions to bridge the two peoples. Over 25 years of developing relations, Vietnam and the U.S. have made a variety of cultural exchanges such as arts exchanges, photo exhibitions, book publishing, cultural fairs, cultural heritage conservation, film weeks, and sport exchanges. Every year, Vietnam organizes puppet shows, traditional national music shows, cultural fairs and film festivals in the U.S. to introduce the national identity, image and people of a hospitable and friendly Vietnam to American friends. Moreover, Vietnam has introduced special culture, cuisine, fashion, and landscapes on famous U.S. channels and magazines such as CNN, Condé Nast Traveler and Business Insider. Notably, the Tale of Kieu by great poet Nguyen Du was cited three times by the President and the Vice President of the United States during their visits to Vietnam and the reception of Vietnamese high-ranking leaders.

Could you please tell us activities of the two countries to celebrate the 25th anniversary of diplomatic relations in 2020?

2020 is an important year, marking the 25th anniversary of normalizing and establishing Vietnam - U.S. diplomatic relations. This is an opportunity for the two countries to promote strong and substantive relations.

Since late 2019, Vietnam has actively carried out various activities to celebrate the 25th anniversary of establishing Vietnam - U.S. diplomatic relations in all fields from politics - diplomacy and economics - trade to people-to-people exchange, including the announcement of the 25th anniversary of this relationship and the “America in my eyes” contest. Currently, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs is actively working with relevant press agencies to complete documentaries and publish special issues and special topics on Vietnam - U.S. relations in the past 25 years. In the U.S., the Vietnamese Embassy in Washington D.C. started the celebration of the 25th anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations. In addition, Vietnamese Ambassador to the U.S. Ha Kim Ngoc visited Arizona and held a seminar on "25 years of Vietnam - U.S. partnership and opportunity for the future: Perspective from Arizona". The two countries plan to hold the 25th Anniversary Ceremony of establishing diplomatic relations and announcing the ceramic road for Vietnam-U.S. relations.

In the coming time, what is Vietnam’s focus on bilateral diplomatic relations with the U.S.?

To this day, we have been building an extensive, solid partnership of full cooperation with the U.S., in line with Uncle Ho's will. The achievements in bilateral relations have shown our great potential for cooperation. With the effort of the governments, peoples and businesses of the two countries, I am confident that the Vietnam - U.S. comprehensive partnership will be further developed in the coming time, based on the principles agreed on by high-ranking leaders in the joint statements: Commitment to respect political institutions, equal cooperation and mutual benefits, strengthening trust and maintaining momentum for relationship development. Accordingly, the two countries will focus on the following works:

First, further strengthening political-diplomatic relations, promoting high-level visits and exchanges and effectively carrying out dialogues to orient relations, increasing mutual understanding, building trust and seeking new cooperative initiatives. The Vietnam-U.S. cooperation on multilateral fora in region and global issues should also be promoted in a closer and more effective manner to meet the two countries' mutual interests in the face of complicated and emerging global challenges.

Second, further promoting relations of economic-trade, science-technology, education-training and people-to-people exchanges. These are both the focus of relationship and the strong foundation and motivation for expanding and deepening the bilateral relations in the coming years. Accordingly, the two countries need to implement agreements on these areas to meet socioeconomic development and extensive international integration requirements of Vietnam in the 4.0 era.

Third, priority should be given to addressing the aftermath of the war, especially cleaning up hotspots of dioxin contamination in Bien Hoa Airport, increasing the budget to support Agent Orange victims, clearing mines and searching for remains of Vietnamese soldiers in the war.

I believe that, with a solid foundation built for more than two decades, Vietnam-U.S. relations will continue to progress broadly in many fields, bringing practical benefits to the two countries and making more important contributions to the joint effort of the international community to maintain peace, stability, cooperation and prosperity in the region and around the world.

Source: Vietnam Business Forum