Senior diplomat expects US and Vietnam to elevate ties to strategic partnership

August 24, 2021 | 08:00
The establishment of a strategic partnership between Vietnam and the US will better reflect the strength of mutual ties between the two countries and their strong common interests in the region, David B. Shear, former US Ambassador to Vietnam (2011-2014), told VIR’s Hong Quang in an exclusive interview on the occasion of the Vietnam visit by US Vice President Kamala Harris slated for August 24-26.
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David B. Shear, former US Ambassador to Vietnam

Vietnam and the US have made great strides in bilateral relations. Do you have any thoughts of the upgrading of the current Vietnam-US comprehensive partnership to a strategic partnership?

Vietnam and the US do indeed have a very strong bilateral relationship. Vietnam is important to the US and to the region. The Vietnamese economy grew by almost 3 per cent in 2020, even during the COVID-19 crisis. The US and Vietnam did nearly $80 billion in two-way trade in 2020, there were 26,000 Vietnamese students studying in the US, and we have strong family ties, too. I even have Vietnamese relatives.

Of course, as a diplomat, I also have to say that we share strong common interests throughout the region. That is why we are sending our Vice President Kamala Harris, the first sitting Vice President to visit Vietnam since we established relations.

I look forward to the establishment of a strategic partnership because it will better reflect the strength of our mutual ties and our strong common interests in the region.

The US has been promoting the vision of a free and open Indo-Pacific region. Which fields do you think President Joe Biden and his administration would aim to boost cooperation with Vietnam in order to enhance its influence in Southeast Asia as well as create a free and open Indo-Pacific?

I think that public health will be a strong theme during this trip. Both our countries are now suffering from a spike in COVID-19 cases, and the US wants to do all it can to assist our Vietnamese friends.

In this connection, I understand that Vice President Harris will announce the establishment in Vietnam of a regional office of the American Centers for Disease Control. Our cooperation in public health has always been very strong, and this will further cement close ties in the field including but not limited to COVID-19.

Clearly, public health has become a key element in our promotion of a free and open Indo-Pacific region, but economic growth and national security are also key elements.

The US has long encouraged Vietnamese economic growth through our strong trade and investment ties and through our support for economic reform. Of course, recognising our common security interests, the two sides will also have something to say about regional security affairs and the East Sea.

Both Vietnam and the US have been suffering from supply chain disruptions due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Do you think Vice President Kamala Harris would mention support for Vietnam to enhance the resilience of supply chains and its economic recovery?

I have already mentioned our interest in fighting COVID-19 together. I expect that enhanced supply chain security will also be on the agenda, including the supply of electronic parts. Vietnam, which hosts one of the world’s largest Intel facilities, is a major supplier and I am sure that the Vice President will want to discuss this.

As promised, President Biden and his administration have promoted a plan on climate change and environmental justice right after his inauguration. What actions would the Biden administration and US corporations take to help Vietnam cope with climate change and foster its sustainable development?

Vietnam, especially the Mekong Delta, is one of the countries that will be most seriously affected by climate change. The US and Vietnam have worked closely together in this area for many years, and I expect that the vice president will encourage even closer cooperation.

We have already seen Vietnam take strong measures to promote climate change mitigation and alternative energy production. In this connection, I am proud that GE has established a wind turbine plant near Haiphong and has also built a large wind farm in the southern province of Bac Lieu.

By Hong Quang

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