The Vietnam-US Comprehensive Partnership has seen remarkable progress over the past few years with important achievements obtained in all areas, but huge potential remains unleashed for the cooperation between the two countries, according to Vietnamese Ambassador to the US Ha Kim Ngoc.
Ngoc wrote this in a recent article entitled “Maintaining the Growth Momentum of the Vietnam-US Comprehensive Partnership”, ahead of the 30th Diplomatic Conference to be held in Hanoi from August 12-17.
Vietnam-US relations have developed significantly since the two countries set up diplomatic ties in 1995, Ngoc said. From enemies at war, the two nations improved their relations to become comprehensive partners in 2013, opening the way for expanded cooperation in multiple fields – from politics, diplomacy, economics, trade, and investment, to security and defence, culture, education, science and technology, to the settlement of war aftermaths, and people-to-people exchange.
Since 2015, the two sides have accelerated the exchange of high-level visits, including those to the US by General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam’s Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong in 2015 and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in 2017, as well as visits to Vietnam by President Barack Obama in 2016 and President Donald Trump last year. The visits have deepened the bilateral Comprehensive Partnership and fostered the development of ties on the basis of equality and mutual benefit, and with respect for each other’s independence and political regime, the diplomat said.
He moved on to mention economics, trade, and investment as a priority in and key driver of Vietnam-US ties. Two-way trade between the countries soared from US$500 million in 1995 to US$50 billion in 2017. Last year, earnings from the US market made up more than 20% of Vietnam’s total export revenue. Vietnam is the US’ biggest export market in Southeast Asia, meanwhile the US remains in the top 10 investors in Vietnam.
Concrete steps have also been achieved in security and defence, particularly in the areas of search and rescue, humanitarian relief, natural disaster mitigation, peacekeeping, personnel training, and maritime, the ambassador noted. The US delivered a Hamilton-class cutter (one of the largest US Coast Guard vessels) last year and six patrol boats earlier this year to the Vietnamese Coast Guard. More recently, the US aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson made a goodwill visit to the central city of Da Nang, demonstrating the two sides’ efforts to maintain peace, stability, and cooperation in the region, as well as their respect for international law.
Coordination in addressing the aftermaths of war is of special concern to the two sides, contributing to trust-building in their Comprehensive Partnership. Vietnam has worked effectively with the US in searching for missing US soldiers in the country while the US has also taken steps to assist in the clearance of unexploded ordinances (UXOs) and Agent Orange/dioxin detoxification. In 2017, the US completed a massive dioxin cleanup campaign at Vietnam’s Da Nang International Airport and is committed to another cleanup at Bien Hoa Airport, searching for missing Vietnamese soldiers and helping war victims.
Vietnam and the US have also expanded cooperation in the fields of culture, education, science and technology, and people-to-people exchange. It was estimated that about 30,000 Vietnamese are currently pursuing degrees in universities and colleges in the US. Last year, the two nations worked together to open the Fulbright University in Ho Chi Minh City, providing young Vietnamese people with access to high-quality education and modern knowledge.
Ngoc stressed that the two sides have not only focused on their bilateral ties but also worked closely at multilateral forums – such as the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, ASEAN, and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) – towards regional peace, cooperation, and development. They both back the need to protect freedom and security of navigation and maritime with respect for international regulations, in particular the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as well as the resolution of disputes through diplomatic and legal processes without using or threatening to use force that may accelerate tension in the region.
According to the ambassador, the two sides have resumed talks under the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) to discuss outstanding trade and investment issues and seek new opportunities for cooperation in the field.
The ambassador affirmed that Vietnam would continue to improve the local business climate for American investors, while also facilitating the import of US goods to the country. At the same time, Vietnam wants the US to remove trade barriers for Vietnamese products and provide more support to Vietnamese investors in the US.
He said the tasks for the diplomatic service in general and the Vietnamese Embassy in the US in particular are to further boost the bilateral comprehensive partnership, maintain high-level contacts and visits, increase bilateral connections through different channels and timely and effectively address outstanding as well as emerging problems.