Next Chapter in Vietnam-U.S. Relationship Expected

10:21:50 AM | 9/9/2021

The United States Vice President Kamala Harris believed that her visit to Vietnam during August 24-26 signaled the beginning of the next chapter in the relationship between the U.S and Vietnam. The first Vice Presidential visit to Vietnam since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1995 signifies the United States’ deep commitment not only to the Vietnam relationship, but also to the region.

In bilateral meetings with Vietnamese leaders, the two sides discussed a series of issues to deepen the Vietnam-U.S Comprehensive Partnership, strengthen economic, investment, security, health and education relationships, uphold rule-based international orders such as freedom of navigation and the East sea issue, and jointly address war legacy issues, and global challenges such as the pandemic and the climate crisis. 

Vice President Harris reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam, as well a free, open, healthy and resilient Indo-Pacific region.

At the welcoming ceremony, State President of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc remarked: “Vietnam always views the U.S as one of our most important partners. Looking back on the past 25 years, we are delighted to note that, thanks to the tireless efforts of both sides, the Vietnam-U.S. Comprehensive Partnership has been flourishing, creating greater substance and effectiveness across all areas of bilateral, regional, and global cooperation. Vietnam desires to work jointly with the United States to further deepen the Comprehensive Partnership to promote more substantive, fruitful, long-lasting and sustainable bilateral ties; build and strengthen mutual trust; and create the foundation for both sides to enhance, exchange and cooperate for mutual benefits based on mutual respect for independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and the political regime of each country.”

“I'm convinced that the visit to Vietnam by Madam Vice President Kamala Harris will lay an important foundation for the two countries to engage in more productive cooperation for the robust growth of the Comprehensive Partnership,” said the State President.

He also extended his sincere thanks to President Joe Biden and the U.S. Government and people for the support in supplying COVID-19 vaccines through the COVAX facility, and a large amount of medical equipment and medical supplies to Vietnam.

In talks with the State President, Vice President Kamala Harris said: “Our partnership has produced tangible results. During my visit, we will open a Peace Corps office. We will sign a new lease for the United States Embassy. And we will formally launch our Center for Disease Control -- CDC’s -- Southeast Asia regional office. All of these are symbols of our enduring relationship with Vietnam and Southeast Asia as a member of the Indo-Pacific region."

In the talk with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, the Vice President affirmed the Biden-Harris administration’s commitments to its partnerships in the Indo- Pacific region, in Southeast Asia, and in Vietnam. 

“These partnerships are of critical importance to us, as they directly affect the prosperity and the security of the American people. Over the past decades, we have made significant progress and now cooperate on many areas that affect people's lives,” she said.

“This is on top of what has been and will continue to be an enduring relationship of cooperation, as evidenced by our economic ties that have grown to US$90 billion in two-way trade; our people-to-people ties, which have deepened with nearly 30,000 Vietnamese students having studied in the United States; and being partners on pandemic preparedness, the climate crisis, and addressing shared legacies of war, and more. Now, Vietnam is one of our top 10 trading partners in the world, and its economy is critical to the supply chains that we rely on. That is a big area of focus for us here in Southeast Asia and, in particular, in Vietnam,” she added.

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh believed that the visit was truly a boon to peace, stability, cooperation and greater trust between the two countries. He said: “We attach great importance to our relations with the U.S., one of our most important partners. Vietnam wishes to continue developing the Comprehensive Partnership, and add substance and effectiveness with a long-term view towards stability to this relationship on the basis of respecting each other's independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and political system in the interest of mutual benefit.”

When talking about opening up the next chapter, Kamala Harris mentioned to the lease signing for 99 years to establish the United States Embassy in Hanoi. The new Embassy complex will be built in an area of 3.2 hectares with the estimated budget of US$1.2 billion. The 99-year lease is considered an evidence of the enduring U.S. commitment to the partnership with Vietnam. She said that the commitment was in full appreciation and pride of the role of the U.S as a member of the Indo-Pacific region, understanding that Southeast Asia is at the seat of this region and that the country of Vietnam holds a particular importance and significance to the U.S.

At the press conference held before ending the trip, the Vice President showed her strong belief in the bright prospects of the two countries’ partnership. “Throughout this trip and in many meetings with government officials, business leaders, or civil society, I was reminded about just how much potential there is in this region and, dare I say, the potential that we all have when we have the ability to see what is possible, and then have the ambition to achieve what is possible around common interests and common goals."

"We know it matters deeply to the wellbeing of the American people that we maintain and strengthen these partnerships. And that’s why, in the years ahead, we will be coming back, time and time again, as we follow through and chart this next chapter in the partnership and the relationship we have with the spirit of understanding that it is mutually beneficial and that there is much that we can do together.”

Announcements of Vietnam-U.S relationship highlights during Vice President Kamala Harris’s visit

COVID-19 and Health Security

The Vice President reinforced the United States’ commitment to leading the world in ending the COVID-19 pandemic. The U.S. donated an additional one million doses of Pfizer vaccine to Vietnam, bringing the total donation to Vietnam to 6 million doses. Through the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) and other emergency assistance funding to date, USAID and CDC are supporting Vietnam’s response to COVID-19 with an additional US$23 million in technical assistance and programmatic support, bringing the total assistance provided since the start of the pandemic to nearly US$44 million. USAID also provided the Vietnam Red Cross US$1 million to reduce the impacts and prevent the spread of COVID-19 in vulnerable communities.

The Department of Defense provided 77 ultra-low temperature vaccine freezers to assist vaccination distribution efforts in all 63 provinces. These freezers are specially designed to accommodate the most extreme vaccine storage requirements, significantly enhancing Vietnam's national vaccine distribution network. Through the Defense Threat Reduction agency, the U.S. provided two Regional Public Health Emergency Operations Centers, which are now operating 24/7 to collect and share COVID-19 surveillance information through the Ministry of Health. 

The Vice President launched the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Southeast Asia Regional Office in Hanoi. The CDC office will advance global health security by maintaining a sustainable presence in the region, enabling a rapid and effective response to health threats—wherever they occur—and reinforcing the CDC’s core mission of protecting Americans.

Development Assistance and Market Access

The Vice President emphasized the Biden-Harris Administration’s efforts to promote economic growth and opportunity. The U.S. government announced the Improving Private Sector Competitiveness (IPSC) project, a US$36 million USAID flagship effort to grow women and ethnic minority-owned businesses and promote job growth in rural areas through the adoption of new U.S. technology.

The U.S. government also announced the Workforce for an Innovation and Startup Ecosystem (WISE), a USAID project providing up to US$2 million to support Vietnam’s effort to transition from an economy dominated by labor intensive, low-skilled industry to a workforce better equipped to participate in the global digital economy. Building Vietnam’s digital skills will increase opportunities for trade between the United States and Vietnam and will promote U.S. technologies.

U.S. farmers and pork producers will have greater access to markets in Vietnam -- the United States' seventh largest agricultural export market -- as a result of Vietnam's positive consideration of the U.S. proposal to eliminate or reduce MFN import duties on corn, wheat, and pork products. These tariff cuts allow U.S. farmers to provide Vietnam with quality and competitively-priced products while also helping reduce the U.S. trade deficit with Vietnam.

Combatting Climate Change

The Vice President and Vietnamese government and civil society leaders agreed on the importance of combatting the climate crisis, increasing resilience, and collaborating towards a clean energy future.

USAID and the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to boost Vietnam's competitiveness, expand market opportunities for U.S. companies, and strengthen Vietnam’s environmental policy. This MOU with VCCI will improve VCCI’s focus on sustainability, green technology and climate change. USAID also intends to support VCCI in developing a Green Index to help U.S. businesses select provinces that are investing in green operations.

The U.S. government announced the Vietnam Low Emission Energy Program II (V-LEEP II), a five-year, US$36 million USAID project which aims to accelerate Vietnam’s transition to a clean, secure and market-driven energy system.

Through USAID, the U.S. government launched the Mekong Coastal Habitat Conservation project, a new three-year, US$2.9 million project with the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), aiming to protect key coastal habitats in the Mekong Delta region for sustainable fisheries, climate change adaptation and biodiversity conservation.

The United States welcomed Vietnam joining the Agricultural Innovation Mission for Climate (AIM4C), an initiative announced at President Biden’s Leaders’ Summit on Climate, that will be launched at COP-26 in November 2021. AIM4C participants will work together to accelerate global agricultural innovation and the adoption of climate smart technologies.

Addressing Legacy of War Issues

The United States and Vietnam have overcome a difficult past to become trusted partners. Vice President Harris committed to Vietnamese government leaders to continue addressing shared war legacy issues.

The United States commits to provide an additional US$17.5 million for surveying and clearing unexploded ordnance (UXO), demonstrating their continued pledge to addressing war legacy issues.

The U.S. government, through USAID, announced two new awards to local Vietnamese organizations, in support of persons with disabilities: Raising Voices, Creating Opportunities II and Hold My Hand II. These projects, with a total budget of approximately US$4 million, will support persons with disabilities by improving their quality of life and promoting their social inclusion.

Security Cooperation:

The United States supports Vietnam’s enhancement of its maritime security and law enforcement capabilities.

The United States and Vietnam affirmed the commitment to continuing the high-level security cooperation in support of a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam, including humanitarian engagements like Pacific Partnership and visits by U.S. ships, including aircraft carriers. 

The Vice President discussed the deep ties between the Vietnam and U.S. Coast Guards, including the possible provision of a third U.S. Coast Guard high-endurance cutter, subject to the will of Congress. This cutter would complement two other U.S.-provided cutters, a fleet of 24 patrol boats, base facilities, piers, law enforcement training, and other joint activities that bolster Vietnam’s capacity to contribute to maritime security in the East Sea.

The U.S. and Vietnam committed to establish a medical trauma exchange between the Vietnam Military and the Department of Defense to expand humanitarian and disaster response capacity, while cooperatively advancing critical patient care for soldiers, veterans, and the people of Vietnam.

Support for Higher Education

Vice President Harris underscored the United States’ commitment to the future of Vietnam and the enduring nature of the U.S.-Vietnam partnership.

USAID announced the Partnership for Higher Education Reform, a five-year project providing up to US$14.2 million to strengthen teaching, research, innovation, and governance within the three largest national universities in Vietnam. With U.S. university and private sector partners, the project will support inclusive economic opportunities for nearly 150,000 Vietnamese students, in support of a strong, prosperous, and independent Vietnam as a vital U.S. partner. 

Source: Vietnam Business Forum