10 years of Vietnam - US Comprehensive Partnership: Major strides in brief journey

WVR - “I have seen the word 'miracle' time and time again, used to describe the Vietnam - US relationship. Two countries’ cooperation have resulted in many achievements that few could have imagined 28 years ago", Vietnamese Ambassador to the US Nguyen Quoc Dung stated.
ổng Bí thư Nguyễn Phú Trọng hội đàm với Tổng thống Obama tại Nhà Trắng tháng 7/2015
Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and US President B. Obama in July, 2015. (Source: VNA)

Dear Ambassador, what are the most notable achievements after 10 years of Vietnam - US Comprehensive Partnership?

Overall, during the last 10 years, the most comprehensive achievement is how the relationship has strongly developed and deepened in every aspect, from politics, diplomacy, economic-trade to culture, education, science-technology, healthcare, security-defense, people-to-people ties. After all, it is a Comprehensive Partnership over every aspect.

Each cooperative area would have its own, different highlights. First and foremost, in politics and diplomacy, the most important highlights would be the significantly increased understanding and mutual respects. Both countries have always demonstrated their respects for each other’s independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and political system. Viet Nam and the US have maintained high-level visits and delegation exchanges. Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and other Vietnamese leaders have visited the US. Meanwhile, since the normalization of the relationship in 1995, all US Presidents have visited Viet Nam. I sincerely hope that President Joe Biden would continue this good “tradition”. High-level visits and delegation exchanges play a crucial role in maintaining the impetus and further creating more impulse for the relationship.

The economic-trade cooperation is the strongest, most developed pillar as it is an important driving force for the relationship. After 10 years, the bilateral trade turnovers have increased by five times, from 25 billion USD (2012) to approximately 139 billion USD (2022). Viet Nam has become the 7th largest trading partners of the US. Meanwhile, US investments have continued to increase and specifically, there have been several Viet Nam’s investments coming into the US.

Regarding people-to-people exchanges, pre COVID-19 pandemic, we have maintained the number of Vietnamese students in US around 23,000-25,000 people, reaching 31,000 people during one year. The number of Vietnamese students in the US have topped Southeast Asia and ranked 5th among the largest body of international students in the US. Meanwhile, the US remains steadily among top 5 countries with tourists coming to Viet Nam, averaging of 800,000 turns per year prior to the pandemic. As the pandemic is behind us, we are aiming toward receiving 1 million turns of US tourists coming to Viet Nam in the near future.

Cooperation in addressing war legacies has continued to remain a high priority, with substantial results. Both sides have spent considerable resources and efforts in accelerating in searching and identifying Vietnamese soldiers’ remains after the War, dioxin remediation (the process is completed at Da Nang airport and another project is currently in operation in Bien Hoa airport), clearing unexploded ordinances, supporting people with disabilities or those exposed to Agent Orange. Both countries have joined hand in searching, identifying and returning the remains of 733 American soldiers to the US.

Each area of bilateral cooperation has made its own stride, contributed its part to the comprehensive achievement of 10-year Viet Nam - US Comprehensive Partnership.

Thủ tướng Phạm Minh Chính chụp hình với đoàn doanh nghiệp Mỹ thăm Việt Nam tháng 3-2023
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh took a photo with the US business delegation visiting Vietnam in March 2023. (Source: VGP)

What are the leading factors behind the miraculous development of Vietnam - US relationship? Beside favorable conditions, what challenges both countries must overcome to promote the bilateral relations in the upcoming time?

I have seen the word “miracle” used, time and time again, to describe the Vietnam - US relationship. Two countries’ cooperation have resulted in achievements that few could have imagined 28 years ago. However, such “sweet fruits” are not bore by luck or by chance. They results from a process of cultivation with persistent efforts from generations of both countries’ leaders and people.

In my opinion, the overarching factor for such development is that the development of this cooperative partnership has brought substantial, mutual interests for peace and development of both countries and the world. In addition, another important factor is the way the two countries behaved. First and foremost, it is the mutual respect, specifically the respect for each other’s political system. Moreover, it is how both sides have managed to overcome differences through goodwill, accounting for legitimate interests and specific conditions of each other, as well as mutual understanding in keeping the relationship stable, positive and mutually beneficial.

Even in specific areas, we will still be able to find such driving force. For example, in economic-trade cooperation, it is the complementary nature of both countries’ demands and strengths. Vietnam has its strength in exporting consumer goods, with lesser competition, to the US. Meanwhile, the US can provide hi-tech products and raw materials that Vietnam needs.

In people-to-people exchanges, the US is well-known for its world-class education and training system. Meanwhile, Viet Nam is a developing country with a relatively young population that desire to learn and have a grasp of the latest knowledge, technology. Americans like to travel. And Vietnam, with its breathtaking landscapes as well as unique history, has become a favorite place for tourists from the US, etc.

Of course, in every international relationship, aside from favorable conditions, there exists obstacles and difficulties, subjectively and objectively. This fact rings true to Vietnam - US relationship as well. Both countries have differences regarding historical conditions, cultures, traditions, as well as level of development. Despite persistent efforts of both sides, a major portion of war wounds remain unhealed. Time and tide wait for no man. At last, in a rapidly changing, complex international and regional landscapes with rising global issues, while both countries share many mutual interests and concerns, their approaches and opinions do not always coincide.

However, for me, it is of utmost important that both sides remain sincere and open to listening to each other’s opinion through dialogue mechanisms, therefore further increasing shared interests and minimizing differences. I believe that both Vietnam and the US are acting with this principle in minds.

10 years of Vietnam - US Comprehensive Partnership:  Major strides in brief journey
Senator Patrick Leahy, President pro tempore of the US Senate, and his spouse Marcelle visited the Vietnamese Embassy in the US October, 2022. (Photo: PA)

In the upcoming time, what are Vietnam’s top priorities to be promoted, in order to deepen Vietnam - US relationship?

Looking back at what we have achieved together, considering the new standing of Vietnam and the development of this relationship, I am confident that the Vietnam - US ties will continue to reach a higher level. It serves the practical interests of the two peoples, contributes to the maintenance of peace, stability, security, cooperation, development in Asia-Pacific and the world.

After spending more than a year as Ambassador, I have been impressed and delighted by Americans’ understanding and interests in Vietnam, as well as their openness, straightforwardness and support for a closer US - Vietnam relationship. Indeed, there is more than ample room for our cooperation.

I believe that in the upcoming time, bilateral cooperation will continue to develop comprehensively in all areas, with many specific areas having its own priorities.

First, in politics and diplomacy, I would like to further reinforce, strengthen mutual understanding and visits, exchanges at all levels, specifically high-level exchanges and visits. In addition, it is important to continue the implementation, with substantial progresses, on the already existing dialogue mechanism.

Second, I would like to see progress in economic, trade, investment, science and technology cooperation in a stable, sustainable direction, with minimization of trade protection. In addition, we will focus on cooperation in emerging hi-tech areas such as digital economy, green economy, circular economy as well as the maintenance of supply chains’ sustainability.

Third, we would strive to focus more in cultural and arts exchanges, as well as further emphasize education and training towards meeting Viet Nam’s demands of increasing number of skilled workers. In addition, we would like to attract more American visitors to Viet Nam, as well as providing supports for Vietnamese and Vietnamese-descent American to attain their successful, further contributing to the relationship.

Fourth, I would like to see the acceleration in the process of addressing war legacies, with more resources and efforts. As time goes by, it would become harder for us to repair the damages.

Fifth, I hope that both sides will further their effective cooperation on multilateral forums, specifically in the framework of ASEAN - US Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, Asia - Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC), as well as in addressing global issues, namely emerging issues such as environment, combating climate changes and clean energy transitions.

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(Source: WVR)