Diplomatic integration pays off for Vietnam

February 22, 2016 | 08:44
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Vietnam’s multilateral diplomacy has spurred on the country’s international integration and socio-economic development over past decades. Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son shares his insights into this ongoing process.

International economic integration has been considered a centre in Vietnam’s international integration globally over the years. In boosting the country’s bilateral relationship with its partners, particularly the world’s economic hubs, economic development in Vietnam has always been a prime concern. 

Visit exchanges between top leaders from Vietnam and other nations are mostly focused on co-operative ties in investment, trade, labour and tourism. Although the world’s economy is still reeling somewhat from the financial turbulence of recent years, Vietnam’s trade turnover with major partners like China, the US, Japan, South Korea, and the EU continues to rise year after year. Notably, Vietnam has become the US’ biggest ASEAN importer.

We have actively and effectively participated in economic and trade organisations and forums at the sub-regional, regional, inter-regional and global levels. Vietnam’s contributions at these organisations and forums in terms of sustainable development, water resources security, food security, natural disaster resilience, and green growth have not only benefitted the country, but also the whole world.

In collaboration with ministries and sectors in charge of external economic relations, the diplomatic sector has provided consultancy for the government in negotiating and signing regional and inter-regional free trade agreements (FTAs). In 2015 alone, Vietnam concluded negotiations of two new-generation FTAs, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and an FTA with the EU. Vietnam also signed two FTAs with South Korea and the Eurasian Economic Union. This has turned Vietnam into a regional economic link between 58 partners, including 15 from the G20 Group and holding almost 90 per cent of global GDP as well as over 80 per cent of the world’s total trade.

Vietnam’s early participation in the TPP, Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, and Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank, as well as its leading role in building up the ASEAN Economic Community, has been strategically important to the country’s socio-economic development. This has also helped to construct a stable regional structure which protects the legitimate benefits of Vietnam and small- and medium-sized nations.

Over the past five years, we have succeeded in gaining recognition of Vietnam’s market status by another 38 nations, raising the total nations that have recognised such a status for Vietnam to 59.

Vietnam’s international integration in the political, defense/security, cultural, and social sectors has also seen great strides forward, thus raising the country’s status to new heights globally. For the first time in its history, Vietnam has joined the United Nations peacekeeping operations. Vietnam’s high-ranking leaders are frequently invited to make opening speeches at high-profile forums throughout the world, such as at the Shangri-La Dialogue, the Asia Future Conference, the Centre for Strategic and International Studies, and at the World Economic Forum. This is not something we could have expected a few years ago. Vietnam has also led by example in Southeast Asia through its participation in the United Nations’ Millenium Development Goals, adopting seven out of nine key conventions on human rights.

Vietnam’s strong moves in this regard have demonstrated the proactive approach of its diplomatic sector, which have done sterling work for the sake of the country and her people in the context of comprehensive international integration.

As Vietnam has pursued its diplomatic expansion policy, its economic integration has advanced commensurately-
Photo: Le Toan

Effective integration with visible benefits

Tireless efforts by the diplomatic sector in the global integration process have greatly benefitted the country’s security and development, enhancing the country’s international prestige. Economically, Vietnam’s achievements in international economic integration have positively changed its external economic relations. In 1986, goods made in Vietnam were found in 33 markets. Today, the number has risen to more than 220.

Last year, Vietnam’s economy grew 6.68 per cent, representing the highest rise in five years, and exceeding the National Assembly’s target of 6.2 per cent. Reports by reputable international organisations show that since 2014, Vietnam has climbed three positions in the business climate rankings, 12 places in global competitiveness, and up 19 in the global renovation leaderboard.

Currently, Vietnam has attracted about 18,000 foreign invested projects, registered at almost $270 billion, generating nearly three million stable jobs with income higher than the country’s average. Also, local firms have invested about $20 billion into nearly 1,000 projects overseas. Vietnam has also received about $90 billion worth of official development assistance (ODA) from international donors and partners, of which the disbursed sum has reached almost $54 billion, equal to 73.2 per cent of total committed ODA.

Furthermore, Vietnam has forged a strategic partnership with 15 nations, and a comprehensive partnership with 10 nations. These nations include the five permanent member states of the United Nations Security Council.

Notably, over the past five years, Vietnam has been deploying a comprehensive international integration strategy, establishing strategic partnerships with eight nations. This has helped elevate the country’s strategic value in the external policies of Vietnam’s important partners and major economies throughout the world.

Vietnam has also been elected to important bodies of the United Nations, such as the Security Council (tenure 2008-2009), the Human Rights Council (2014-2016), the Economic and Social Council (2016-2018), and the UNESCO Executive Council (2015-2019). This indicates the international community’s acknowledgement and commendation of Vietnam’s role and status within the international arena.

Preparations for the road ahead

The 12th National Party Congress has outlined important policies and strategies for national development. In tandem with the party and state’s external policy of independence, self-reliance, and the multilateralisation and diversification of external relations, taking the initiative in international integration is also a keystone strategy. Based on important achievements attained over the past five years, Vietnam’s comprehensive international integration will continue to be boosted, with the following focuses.

Firstly, we will continue to step up international integration by attaching greater importance to the “culture of enforcement”. To this end, preparations must be made to take advantage of opportunities as well as weather challenges. From now until 2018, it is crucial for Vietnam to realise its commitments to the World Trade Organization and new-generation FTAs, whose negotiations have recently been concluded, especially the TPP.

Secondly, we will take the initiative in staying united with member states to implement the ASEAN Community and its vision towards 2025. Vietnam will attach great importance to advancing concrete initiatives and proposals in the sectors that it has strong interests in or benefits directly from. The country will also closely co-operate with member states to outline and deploy the community’s post-2015 strategy, and maintain ASEAN’s central role in the region’s evolving structure.

Thirdly, we will continue to enhance our multilateral diplomatic policy, which will be considered one of the key tools to further the country’s comprehensive international integration. We have shifted our strategy from “participate in” to “take the initiative in the construction and shaping of the common rules”, not only by changing our mindset, but also by taking effective action. We will maintain a diplomatic priority on ASEAN, and through organisations and forums in the Asia-Pacific region. Also, Vietnam’s diplomatic sector will make greater contributions towards the settlement of the world’s issues at the United Nations’ forums, the Non-Alignment Movement, the Asia-Europe Meeting, and sub-regional co-operation mechanisms.

Based on the country’s new advantages and strength spurred by 30 years of Doi moi, and fuelled by the country’s international integration achievements, I believe that the local diplomatic sector will continue to make significant contributions to the party’s international integration policy for the road ahead.

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