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|Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and US Ambassador to Vietnam Marc E. Knapper in a meeting in Hanoi. (File photo: VNA)|
Hanoi – The US is a solid, and committed partner to helping Vietnam realise its ambitious COP26 goals, US Ambassador to Vietnam Marc E. Knapper said in an exclusive interview granted to Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reporters ahead of Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s trip to the US.
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and other ASEAN leaders will attend a special ASEAN-US summit marking the 45th founding anniversary of the relations between the two sides in Washington D.C. on May 12-13, at the invitation of US President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. On this occasion, a delegation of Vietnam led by Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh will visit the US and the United Nations from May 11 to 17, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Following is the full text of the interview.
Q: The relationship between Vietnam and the US has made great strides forward in the 27 years since diplomatic relations were established. In that context, what is the significance of Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s visit to the US on May 11-17? What opportunities will the visit bring?
A: Our partnership is strong, and the breadth and depth of cooperation between our two great countries is making our partnership even stronger. In areas as diverse as trade, development, education, health care, energy, and security, the United States and a strong and independent Vietnam are working together with a shared commitment to peace and prosperity. And, we are a solid, and committed partner to helping Vietnam realise its ambitious COP26 goals.
We are pleased Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh is coming to the United States for the US-ASEAN Special Summit and welcome him and his delegation for meetings across the US government, business, and academia. The momentum of our bilateral relationship has been furthered by the frequent exchange of several leader-level visits which include: General Secretary of the Communist Party Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit to the White House in 2015; President Obama’s visit to Vietnam in 2016; Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s visit to Washington, D.C. in 2017; President Trump’s visits to Hanoi in 2017 and 2019; and Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Hanoi last year.
His delegation’s busy schedule for this visit represents the importance to both countries of the US-Vietnam relationship, including in the health, education, security and defense, trade, and development sectors. We are very excited that he will meet not only with leadership of our government, but also private sector partners who are leading the way in innovation, digital transformation, and to create greener products.
Q: During his visit, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh will attend the ASEAN-US Special Summit on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the establishment of relations between the two sides. How do you evaluate the ASEAN-US partnership over that time and what are the prospects for cooperation in the future? How do you view Vietnam’s role in ASEAN-US relations?
A: Through the historic US-ASEAN Special Summit - the first ever to be hosted in Washington - we are also showing the importance of ASEAN to the United States. We seek a strong and independent ASEAN that leads in Southeast Asia. We endorse ASEAN centrality and support ASEAN in its efforts to deliver sustainable solutions to the region’s most pressing challenges.
To that end, we will deepen our long-standing cooperation with ASEAN while launching new high-level engagements on health, climate and environment, energy, transportation, and gender equity and equality. The United States remains the number-one investment partner in ASEAN member countries - investing more than Southeast Asia’s next three investment partners combined.
Vietnam is a major player on the world stage, as evidenced by its successful two-year term on the UN Security Council that just ended. We work with Vietnam on a host of issues related to our shared goals of regional and global peace and prosperity. Our support for Vietnam’s deployments to UN peacekeeping missions is one area that especially comes to mind. We are proud of our work with the Vietnam Peacekeeping Center to help provide equipment, training, and exchange expertise with Vietnamese peacekeepers.
We are also a proud partner of Vietnam within ASEAN. The United States welcomes a strong and independent ASEAN that leads in Southeast Asia. We endorse ASEAN centrality and support ASEAN in its efforts to deliver sustainable solutions to the region’s most pressing challenges. To that end, we will deepen long-standing cooperation with ASEAN while launching new high-level engagements on health, climate and environment, energy, transportation, and gender equity and equality. We will work with ASEAN to build its resilience as a leading regional institution.
The United States is working closely with Vietnam as we develop our vision of the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework, which seeks to advance resilience, inclusiveness, and competitiveness for our economies. Through this initiative, we aim to contribute to cooperation, peace, stability, prosperity, and sustainable development of the region. We also hope to learn from Vietnam’s previous experience as the United States hosts APEC in 2023.
Q: With a special relationship that has overcome the differences of the past, the two countries have been endeavoring to boost relations for further development. What are your expectations of future relations?
A: The US Vietnam-partnership has never been better and, as the Prime Minister has said, Vietnam has never enjoyed higher international prestige. Our two countries have moved from a history of conflict and division to a Comprehensive Partnership that spans political, security, economic, and people-to-people ties, as well as efforts to address the legacies of war. It is a partnership that is strengthening each day, and we sincerely hope to upgrade it to a Strategic Partnership. We believe that “strategic” more accurately describes the work we are already doing together. Our Indo-Pacific Strategy and Indo-Pacific Economic Framework make clear that this partnership and Vietnam are central to our engagement in this vital region.
With respect to economic and business relations, this is an important moment for the United States and Vietnam, and the trade relationship between our two countries is one of our most consequential ones. Despite COVID-19, US-Vietnam bilateral trade hit nearly 113 billion USD in 2021, a 26 percent increase over 2020. US and Vietnamese companies have invested, and continue to invest, billions of dollars with each other in critical sectors that impact people’s lives, such as healthcare, energy, technology, and infrastructure.
We have been a strong partner for Vietnam throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, and we will continue to work together to lay the foundations for Vietnam’s economic recovery. We have provided nearly 40 million doses of vaccine, and our companies have facilitated procurements of thousands of new ventilators. We are very proud of these efforts to save lives not just in cities, but in far-reaching rural towns and provinces. And while we have witnessed the pandemic disrupt global supply chains and shipping, causing difficulties for many of our companies and both our economies, our partnership helps to guide us through pandemic recovery efforts to better days ahead.
As we heard from Special Presidential Envoy John Kerry during his February visit to Vietnam, the 2020s will be the decade for climate action, and no region of the world has a more pivotal role in realising the global goal of net-zero emissions by 2050 than the economies of the East Asia Pacific region. We see tremendous opportunities for the role of the private sector – both US and Vietnamese businesses – to support climate action through innovation and investments. The United States is your steadfast partner in these efforts, which will continue for not years, but for decades to come.
Another promising area for bilateral cooperation is the digital economy, which is increasingly a key area for economic growth. Over the past two years e-commerce, virtual meetings, and digital payments have kept our economies afloat during an unprecedented global pandemic. The digital economy accounted for an estimated 5 percent of Vietnam’s GDP in 2020, and the “National Digital Transformation Program” has set a goal to increase this share to 30 percent of GDP by 2030. The United States wants to see Vietnam take its place as a leader in the digital economy, but it’s important to get the underlying structures right. We have had many productive conversations on this topic and are happy to continue to share our experiences with balancing the opportunity for growth and innovation with the need for privacy and security.
As we look to the year ahead, I see tremendous opportunities for us to deepen and expand collaboration between the US Mission, the Government of Vietnam, and our respective private sectors to support our mutual goals in Vietnam: rebuilding global supply chains; accelerating the country’s clean energy transition and sustainable growth; developing the digital economy in line with global best practices, and bringing world-class US products and services to Vietnam to support its economic development.