Vietnam Proactively Advancing International Integration

9:23:48 AM | 2/14/2021

Vietnam’s foreign policy underscores proactive international integration, including elevating multilateral external relations. This is Vietnam's goal in the integration process with an important focus on economic integration. Vietnam Business Forum has an interview with Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh to learn about Vietnam’s achievements in foreign affairs and integration, as well as its agenda for the coming period. Nguyen Mai reports.


What are Vietnam’s outstanding foreign policy achievements in 2020?

2020 was a special year as world and regional developments changed rapidly. The worldwide Covid-19 pandemic outbreak wreaked havoc on all aspects, from politics, economy and society to public health. Under the leadership of the Party and the political system, Vietnam successfully performed the dual task of containing the Covid-19 pandemic and maintaining a stable environment for the socio-economic development of the country. These were very great achievements of the country and laid a favorable foundation for Party and State foreign policy. Extremely important diplomatic affairs, including bilateral and multilateral diplomacies, were still on the right track.

First of all, we shifted from regular physical visits to telegraph and online exchanges with more than 33 calls of our senior leaders to leaders of most important countries in the world and in the region as well. This was very special, as 10-20 visits of senior Vietnamese officials to other countries and foreign senior official visits to Vietnam were organized in each previous year. But in 2020 alone, we still had 33 calls of high-ranking leaders including the General Secretary and President, the Prime Minister, and the Chair of the National Assembly.

Second, Vietnam successfully accomplished the 2020 ASEAN Chairmanship, the AIPA Chairmanship (ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly) and the first year of the term as Non-Permanent Member of the United Nations Security Council with very specific results. We continued to uphold ASEAN's solidarity, cohesion and centrality in adapting to global and regional changes and to specific conditions of each country. At the same time, we contributed to solving issues in the UN Security Council as a country with a considerable voice and role and as a representative of developing countries and other small and medium countries in the UN Security Council.

In 2020, Vietnam and the European Union (EU) promoted and adopted the EU - Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). We and other ASEAN countries signed the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) Agreement. These are important contributions to external economic activities of the Party and State.

A very important task was protecting our citizens in the new situation as the Covid-19 pandemic raged across the world, resulting in the need for unprecedented protection of Vietnamese citizens in foreign countries. Phone calls about overseas citizen protection increased by nearly 200% in 2020. Vietnam is one of few countries that conducted flights to bring home citizens, both studying or visiting abroad. In 2020 alone, Vietnam deployed over 260 flights to safely return 73,000 Vietnamese citizens from 59 countries and territories around the world back to Vietnam. That was a very important task of protecting our citizens.

Besides, Vietnam’s image continued to be promoted overseas. Vietnamese press and external media promoted the land and people of Vietnam on a new digital platform. Through this digital platform, Vietnam’s image reached much farther than before.

The 2020 ASEAN Chairmanship wrapped up successfully. Would you please tell us about the accomplishments of Vietnam as Chair this year?

“Vietnam excellently accomplished the ASEAN Chairmanship in all aspects” is the general compliment of the international community, ASEAN countries and our public to our 2020 ASEAN Chairmanship.

To have this impressive accomplishment, we, first of all, proposed a very appropriate theme “A Cohesive and Responsive ASEAN”, which expressed the goal of ASEAN in Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship Year, and also the message of ASEAN to the world. In the light of this theme, we chose to achieve the goal of strengthening ASEAN's central solidarity, sharp responsiveness of each country and the entire ASEAN to the outside world and the region and to each country’s characteristics.

Second, we assured the complete fulfillment of all contents in Vietnam’s ASEAN Chairmanship Year. We passed over 80 documents, which focused on building the ASEAN Community, reviewed the ASEAN Charter and built the ASEAN Vision beyond 2025. In 2020, we proposed 32 initiatives and 28 of them were put into ASEAN documents. This was also the success of an ASEAN Chair: Making its initiatives common interests of ASEAN countries and at the same time upholding responsiveness to the context.

Third, ASEAN had to be responsive to the new normal. Without a doubt, ASEAN is by far one of few that responded very quickly to the Covid-19 pandemic outbreak. We organized ASEAN special conferences and ASEAN-partners meetings in response to Covid-19 and came up with four contents in response to Covid-19: (1) Building a response fund; (2) building a backup warehouse; (3) developing a plan to adapt to each Covid-19 scenario; and (4) making a plan for post-Covid 19 economic recovery. As the Chair, we responded very quickly to Covid-19 evolutions, within ASEAN and between ASEAN and partner countries.

Fourth, we changed how ASEAN meetings took place, completely different from previous years. Due to the Covid-19 pandemic contagion, we were not able to meet physically. We held more than 550 virtual meetings, including 20 high-level meetings like the ASEAN Summit 36, the ASEAN Summit 37 and ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meetings with partners in response to the Covid-19, and 70 ministerial meetings. All meetings on the three pillars of politics-security-defense, economy and society-culture took place as planned, with all the documents approved at the ASEAN Summit.

Fifth, we put forth new contents to ASEAN meetings, for example fostering women’s role. For the first time, we held the ASEAN Women Leaders’ Summit. This was also a cross-cutting issue for us to actively participate in multilateral diplomacy, not only within ASEAN but also at the UN Security Council. Another new topic we put forth was strengthening connectivity and exchange between ASEAN and the sub-regions like the cooperation of Greater Mekong Subregion countries.

What has Vietnam done in the first year of its term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council?

This is the second time Vietnam is a member of the UN Security Council. In the 2020-2021 term, we have gained a very steady position as we won the largest votes in the history of the Security Council, at 192/193. This showed that countries have put their faith in Vietnam as a member of the UN Security Council.

And in the first year of our tenure at the UN Security Council, we made a very positive contribution to the spirit and principles of ensuring independence, autonomy and respect for international law and national interests. Because of that principle, we have actively and effectively gathered the consensus of the UN Security Council to address emerging regional and international issues.

Second, in our first month as a member of the UN Security Council, we chaired the UN Security Council - the only month in the year we had all physical meetings. As the Chair of the UN Security Council and the Chair of ASEAN, we included two very important issues: Hosting an open meeting of the UN Security Council on strengthening the implementation of the United Nations Charter. This open meeting had the largest participation at the UN Security Council in recent years. This meant that we are in line with the common voice and aspirations of all countries, with the first desire that the UN Security Council and UN member countries respect the UN Charter and uphold international laws in dealing with any matter. Also in our chairmanship month at the UN Security Council, we brought up the UNSC - ASEAN cooperation. For the first time, we enhanced the cooperation between the UN Security Council with a regional organization, ASEAN. As we were the Chair of ASEAN, we integrated and brought that issue to the UN Security Council, highlighting the role and the image of ASEAN in the UN Security Council.

Third, we pushed Vietnam's priorities and we basically fulfilled them. The biggest priority was promoting women’s role in peace and security. We hosted the Global Conference on Women and Peace and Security. This offline and online conference was a great success, attended by many countries and speakers. In particular, the Hanoi Plan of Action, co-authored by 30 countries, was added to the document.

Fourth, Vietnam drafted and adopted a resolution of the United Nations, which took December 27 as the International Day of Epidemic Preparedness. This is the first time since its entry to the United Nations Vietnam drafted a resolution, co-sponsored by 112 nations, a record number of co-sponsors for a resolution. The resolution was passed, marking a milestone of Vietnam's diplomacy on international forums, especially at the United Nations.

How will these impressive achievements help enhance the role and position of Vietnam in the region and in the international arena?

Our Party and State policy is to actively integrate into the world. We are also executing the Party Secretariat's Directive on multilateral external relations. This is our goal as we are actively advancing the international integration process where economic integration is important.

Driven by integration, our goal is to maintain a peaceful and stable external environment and defend and protect the country from an early point of time and from a distance. With that motto, we pursued integration and joined international organizations to shape and build laws to ensure the interests of countries, including ours. That means we are not only a responsible member, but an actively responsible member. The second meaning that we expressed very clearly in the recent and upcoming process is to uphold independence and self-reliance of our multilateral foreign approaches and policies aimed to diversify relations with other countries. The third significance is to enhance Vietnam's role in the international arena as General Secretary and President Nguyen Phu Trong said, “Never has Vietnam's position in the international arena been as high as nowadays”. That also shows our country's achievements in 35 years of doi moi (renovation), which has powered up Vietnam and its socio-economic development. At the same time, the role and position of Vietnam have also been elevated.

Could you tell us what Vietnam's foreign affairs prospects are in 2021?

In 2021, world and regional developments are forecast to be volatile, including the challenge by the Covid-19 pandemic. These challenges are lingering in all countries in general and Vietnam in particular. But we also realize that there are many opportunities coming from the desire for peace, stability and continued development.

With such situations, our external relations in 2021 will continue to strengthen and deepen Vietnam's relations with other countries, partners, especially strategic partners and comprehensive partners, and neighboring countries in new effective manners.

Second, we continue to actively advance our international integration through our activities at the United Nations Security Council. At the same time, in ASEAN, we must promote our outcomes in the year we held the presidency, continue to maintain growth momentum for ASEAN and develop the initiatives and agenda of ASEAN in 2020 and in 2021.

Third, we have entered into and signed free trade agreements and will continue to have new ones ratified. We must enforce them effectively and take advantage of opportunities generated by free trade agreements. This is a common task for all ministries and agencies, not just the foreign affairs sector.

Fourth and foremost, we must maintain a peaceful and stable environment, and protect our sovereignty over the sea and islands. That is a very ultimate and thorough goal.

As for citizen protection, we understand the high needs of Vietnamese citizens abroad for protection, and citizen protection is one of the focuses of foreign affairs.

Source: Vietnam Business Forum