Teleconference briefings on the local external relations in 2014 and orientations for implementation of tasks in 2015. Image: VOV
In recent years, local external relations have been deployed in an active, proactive, synchronous, and comprehensive manner, becoming one of the important integral components of Viet Nam’s foreign affairs, contributing significantly to socio-economic development and international integration of the country.
Local external relations achieve practical results
First, local external relations have been implemented synchronously and comprehensively on the basis of the guidelines and policies of the Party and the State, creating harmonious coordination among external relation channels and specialized agencies with local authorities, contributing significantly to the achievement of external relations in lifting the position and strength of the country. Local authorities have strictly directed specialized agencies to study and implement the Party's policies on international integration, and the State’s regulations on the management of foreign affairs, issuing documents, in accordance with the actual situation of localities, while reviewing the previous regulations to supplement, revise and complete in alignment with regulations of the central government and ensuring that external activities are implemented in a coordinated, effective and comprehensive manner.
Provincial Party Committees, Provincial Party Standing Committees, and Provincial People's Committees have provided guidance to local agencies and units in the provinces to comply with procedures on the organization of business trips abroad and management of foreign delegations’ visits in the spirit of thrift and efficiency. Many localities have developed programs and plans to mobilizing fund from international non-governmental organizations, set up Departments and Working Groups on international non-governmental organizations to guide and coordinate activities to mobilize, reception and use of non-governmental organizations’ assistance in their areas.
Second, foreign economic activities, taking advantage of resources for local socio-economic development, have achieved positive results. Local cooperative relations have become more practical and efficient, enhancing friendship, and the bond between localities of Viet Nam and other countries, opening up new a cooperative space.
In addition, localities have proactively implemented many diversified and flexible external activities, expanding cooperation with partners around the world, contributing to promoting the image of localities in particular and Viet Nam in general in the world. In 2015, Viet Nam's localities continued signing cooperation agreements, and minutes with local partners in neighboring countries as well as in other countries in all continents; some localities signed memorandums of understanding with foreign enterprises and organizations in many fields. By the end of 2015, out of 114 international agreements signed, 41 were between local authorities of Viet Nam and other countries. Basically, the signed agreements focus on the fields of economy, trade promotion, investment, urban management, human resource training, programs and projects on environmental cooperation , green economy, response to climate change, and biodiversity conservation.
Localities have proactively and closely cooperated with central agencies, and diplomatic missions of Viet Nam in foreign countries to implement promotion of investment, tourism, trade in and out the country. Vietnamese diplomatic missions in foreign countries have supported localities to export litchis and dragon fruit to the US and Australian markets, participate in large-scale operations in foreign countries, such as Viet Nam event in Kanagawa, Japan, Economic Cooperation Forums in Israel, Slovakia, investment and talks between the representatives of foreign business associations with local businesses.
Along with signing international agreements, localities have exerted efforts to attract foreign capital. In 2015, foreign investors invested in 51 provinces and cities. Some typical cases having total newly registered and additional capital included Bac Ninh with US$ 3.46 billion (16% of the total registered investment capital), Ho Chi Minh City with US$ 3.32 billion (14.6%); Binh Duong with US$ 2.95 billion (13%); Tra Vinh with US$ 2.52 billion, and Dong Nai with US$ 1.94 billion. Throughout the country in 2015, the total newly registered capital and additional capital stood at US$ 22.757 billion, up by 12.5% compared to 2014 (1).
In terms of official development assistance (ODA) and foreign preferential loans, the total ODA approved by the Prime Minister for the period of 2010-2015 was 96,519 billion dong, of which 44,978 billion dong were for localities and the foreign disbursement for the period of 2010-2015 was estimated at 88,171 billion dong (2). It can be seen that the high ODA commitments manifested the support and trust of donors to the reception and effective use of ODA capital of Viet Nam in general and Viet Nam's localities in particular.
Besides, many localities have mobilized substantial aid from international non-governmental organizations, contributing to local socio-economic projects. By the end of 2015, total commitments for programs, projects and non-project were estimated at USD 268,88 million though 12% lower than that of 2014. Most of the projects of international non-governmental organizations focus on areas such as environment, education, hunger eradication and poverty alleviation, health, rural and community issues, among others. Basically, international non-governmental organizations have operated efficiently, complying with registered purposes, and meeting external political and security requirements.
Third, external relations information dissemination and communication have been proactively, comprehensively and continuously carried out with focus, closely combining external and internal relation information, external information with political activities, economic, cultural and foreign affairs of localities, diversifying external relation information in implementation of the Government’s and localities’ Programs of Action on external relation information for the period of 2013-2020, attaching importance to information on investment promotion, development cooperation potential, projects calling for local investment through the mass media, websites, conferences investment and commerce promotion, international conferences, publications, and local news bulletins on external relations in foreign languages.
Besides, leaders of provinces and cities in the country have given guidance on information and communication on the protection of national sovereignty, territory, sea and islands. In addition, localities have closely coordinated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in issuing approval, guiding and managing the activities of foreign correspondents in localities. According to statistics, 1,700 foreign correspondents of more than 370 foreign groups came and reported about Viet Nam.
Cultural activities in external relations diversified in content, rich in forms, and well focused have been stepped up by localities. It can be seen that in 2015, localities organized many big activities and cultural festivals with the participation of foreign partners, attracting a large number of Vietnamese and foreigners (3). Many localities, through the National Committee on UNESCO of Viet Nam, have continued preserving and promoting the values of the heritage inscribed by UNESCO as well as actively participated in the preparation of the dossier to be submitted for inscription. These activities have contributed significantly to the promotion of national cultural identity and effectively supported economic, political, social development.
Fourth, people-to-people diplomacy and overseas Vietnamese have been given special attention. Localities have set great store by setting up and developing relationships of solidarity, friendship and cooperation with peoples of other countries, especially neighboring countries and expanding friendships, international partners, thereby promoting the image of the country, investment promotion, and resources mobilization.
Besides, local authorities have effectively implemented Directive 45-CT/TW on continuing to promote the implementation of Resolution No. 36-NQ/ TW of the Politburo, 9th Tenure on the work of overseas Vietnamese in the new situation, connecting and organizing programs and activities with communities, and fellow associations. In 2015, provinces and cities in the country met with overseas Vietnamese on the occasion of the Lunar New Year, organized summer camp for young overseas Vietnamese, kept close contact with fellow associations in foreign countries, and presented certificates of merit for overseas making great contribution to localities.
By the end of 2015, another 266 enterprises of overseas Vietnamese invested in provinces, with a total registered capital of 8,646 billion dong and registered capital contribution of 4,530 billion dong, concentrating primarily on the service sector, industry, pharmaceutical, chemical, health, education, information technology, banking and finance, high technology, and software technology.
Fifth, border cooperation has been strengthened. Provinces and cities having borders with neighboring countries have continued to strengthen coordination with border provinces of Laos and Cambodia to ensure good management and protection of border regions. Many localities have actively implemented cooperation activities with localities of Laos and Cambodia such as exchange of delegations, signing of cooperation agreements, implementation of cooperation agreements in some concrete fields, signing of sisterhood between hamlets, villages, border stations of the two sides, support for Lao and Cambodian localities in building infrastructure, training of students, and provision of free health service.
Positive changes were made in relations between border areas of Viet Nam and China in 2015. Local authorities of the two sides frequently exchanged visits. Friendly and cooperative relations and exchanges were increased. Many friendship and cooperative agreements were signed. Border trade and investment were stepped up. Cooperation mechanisms were favorably put into operation.
Parties have continued coordinating on land border management, as well as effective implementation of programs and projects in infrastructure, socio-economic development in the border areas, thus law and order in the border areas with Laos, Cambodia, and China have been basically stable. Competent authorities and local administrations in border provinces have communicated and urged people in the border areas to abide by laws, maintained periodic briefings on security and order, closely coordinated in border patrols, fought against and prevented crimes; continued implementing the policy on establishing friendship between hamlets, villages border stations and residential areas.
Provinces and cities throughout the country have enhanced legal education for fishermen not to conduct illegal fishing in foreign waters, disseminated preferential policies to encourage investment in building offshore fishing boats, increased patrols, control, prevention, prompt settlement of violations, thus maintaining security and order and marine ecological environment.
Sixth, organizational apparatus, personnel training in localities have been consolidated and completed. Provincial and city Party leaders have increasingly attached importance to and given more concern about organizational apparatus and staff working in foreign affairs. Foreign affair offices of local administrations have realized their role as advisors to the Provincial Party Committees, and People's Committees on Party external relations, and people-to-people diplomacy. Currently, local specialized offices of foreign affairs were consolidated as unified coordinators providing advice and implementing external affairs for local leadership (4). In June 2015, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Home Affairs issued Joint Circular No. 02/2015 / TTLT BNG-BNV guiding the functions, tasks, powers and organizational structure of the Foreign Affair Office, supplementing the function to advise the provincial and city party committees on foreign affairs.
Progress has been made in professional and foreign language training and retraining of foreign affair officials. In 2015, 1,600 cadres, and public employees participated in 24 training courses, updating external relations knowledge; nearly 2,000 delegates from all levels attended 11 conferences, seminars, training courses organized by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Many localities have proactively cooperated with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Central Commission for External Relations to develop plans and organize training workshops on external relation knowledge and skills for their staff.
Besides prominent achievements and results above, local foreign affair sector has also shown some constraints and shortcomings, such as: 1. The study and realization of the Party Central Committee’s lines and policies are not conducted in time and are nominal. 2. Due attention has not been paid to research, forecast and projection of situation. 3. There are constraints in implementation of international cooperation agreements at the local level. The signing of cooperation agreements is sometimes more nominal, ineffective, and impractical. 4. Foreign affair activities such as promotion of trade, investment, tourism, FDI, ODA, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) mobilization have not brought about high efficiency. Awareness of agencies, units, local businesses on international integration is still limited. They have remained largely passive and had no plans to take advantage of opportunities and address challenges. 5. The organizational structures and staff of foreign affairs have been incomplete and fallen short of requirements. There have been overlapping and fragmentation in assignment of work. Some provinces have not established the Foreign Affair Offices; the management of external relation activities has been incomprehensive, resulting in fragmentation and overlapping; some foreign affair tasks have been assigned to specialized units of the various agencies. Local human resources working in foreign affairs have been thin with limited professional and foreign language levels. 6. The budget for local external relation activities, especially fund for trade promotion and investment, has been small.
Effective enhancement of local foreign affairs
In the coming years, it is forecast that the world and regional situation will witness more complicated, and unpredictable, developments, even escalating tensions in many places; the recovery of the world economy will be more difficult. 2016 is the first year when Viet Nam implements the Resolution of the 12th Congress of the Party and the Socio-Economic Development Plan for the period of 2016-2020. For localities, this is also the first year to implement resolutions of local Party Congresses for the period of 2015-2020.
For better and effective implementation of external relation activities, localities must focus on some key tasks:
First, thoroughly and effectively implement the Resolution of the 12th Party Congress and the documents of the Party Central Committee on external relations, especially the Regulation on unified management of foreign affairs issued under Decision No. 272-QD/TW dated 21 January, 2015 and Resolution No. 22-NQ/TW dated 10 April, 2013 of the Politburo on international integration while stepping up research, providing advice and improving the efficiency of external relations.
Second, continue to strengthen comprehensive and extensive international integration, establish and expand friendly relations and cooperation, sign more cooperation agreements with localities in countries in the region and the world, with international organizations and foreign missions in Viet Nam and representative agencies of Viet Nam in a practical and effective manner.
Third, strengthen economic diplomacy, enhance the effectiveness of trade and investment promotion, and mobilization of FDI, ODA and capital from NGOs. Develop plans to raise awareness on the free trade agreements that Viet Nam newly signed or is going to sign for agencies, units and local businesses. Besides, local authorities need to push forward administrative reform through the "one stop shop" mechanism, provide investment support and timely remove difficulties and obstacles for businesses, and ensure safety for foreign investors working in the area.
Fourth, set great store by disseminating information and external relation communication, implement the Strategy on Cultural Diplomacy by 2020, and local Plans of Action, develop data and information resources about countries, and territories with economic, cultural, industrial advantages, and strengthen local potential promotion.
Fifth, protect territorial border, and ensure national security and socio-economic development in the border areas.
Sixth, continue to complete organization and staff working in external relations, boost human resource development, turn out foreign affair personnel with high professional expertise, foreign language proficiency and firm political acumen to meet the increasing requirements of foreign affairs in the new situation.
(1) Source: Department of Foreign Investment, Ministry of Planning and Investment, www.fia.mpi.gov.vn
(2) Source: Ministry of Finance, www.mof.gov.vn
(3) Coffee Festival in Buon Ma Thuot (Dak Lak province), International Fireworks Festival (Da Nang), Southern Fruit Festival and Asia-Pacific Bonsai Tree Festival; 11th International Tourism Fair ITE; the 3rd Thai Nguyen Tea Festival;
(4) By the end of 2015, 46 out of 63 provinces and centrally-run cities set up Foreign Affairs Departments; 17 provinces have foreign affair offices under the Provincial People's Committees; 44 out of 63 provinces and centrally-run cities have Provincial Unions of Friendship Associations or Friendship Associations with other countries
This article was published on the Communist No 882 (April 2016)