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External relations in 2018: Proactive, creative and effective
25/3/2019 9:21' Send Print
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh. Photo: VNA

Overcoming difficulties and challenges

For the entire Party, people and army, 2018 was crucial as it was the middle year of the 12th Party Congress, and of important significance, creating a momentum for the successful implementation of the Resolution of the 12th Party Congress and the Socio-Economic Development Plan for the period 2016-2020.

The situation of the world and the Asia-Pacific region last year developed rapidly with many unpredictability and uncertainty. Strategic competition between major countries in the world and in the region became increasingly fiercer, relations between many countries were difficult, even fell into crisis. In addition, there were changes, conversion, collision between protectionism with globalization, between political power and law observance, between unilateralism with multilateralism.

The good thing is that amid this push-pull situation, with the efforts of the member countries, ASEAN still maintained unanimity, advancing forward in the process of building the Community and affirming its central role in the regional structure. In the face of turmoil caused by protectionism and trade war, international economic integration, especially in the Asia-Pacific region, has been still being promoted.

In the midst of numerous challenges and opportunities, the Party and State’s foreign affairs were basically and fundamentally implemented, demonstrating diplomatic stuff and strategic vision. Addressing the 30th Diplomatic Conference in August 2018, Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong highlighted important successes in foreign affairs, bright spots in the country’s achievements. With the motto of being proactive, creative and effective in the way of doing things and actions, foreign affairs made more new imprints, contributing to improving the country's power and strength.

First, new qualitative development was made in the multilateral diplomacy with the issuance of the Secretariat’s Directive No. 25-CT/TW dated 8 August 2016, on promoting multilateral diplomacy until 2030. For the first time the Party issued a separate directive on multilateral diplomacy. It was an important milestone on the external relation thinking and realization of the 12th Party National Congress’s guidelines on proactive, active international integration. Vietnam aims to play a core, guiding and reconciliatory role at multilateral forums and organizations of strategic importance to Vietnam in accordance with specific capabilities and conditions.

Building on the success of the APEC Year 2017, Vietnam recorded great achievements in multilateral foreign relations, which were highlights of Vietnam diplomacy in 2018. Vietnam successfully hosted many important international conference, such as the 26th Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF), the 6th Greater Mekong Subregion Summit (GMS), the 10th Cambodia-Laos-Vietnam Development Triangle Area Summit (CLV). Especially, the World Economic Forum on ASEAN (WEF ASEAN) in September 2016 in Hanoi is evaluated to be the most successful in the Forum’s 27-year-history. The above multilateral events attracted the attention of thousands of foreign partners and investors. The success of these events shows that the role, position and prestige of the country have increased significantly, and also ushered in many opportunities for cooperation and business for Vietnamese enterprises.

In addition to proposals and contributions at regional and international organizations and forums from ASEAN to ASEM, APEC, and the United Nations which were supported and appreciated, Vietnam was entrusted by the international community with important multilateral responsibilities. In May 2018, the Asia-Pacific Group officially nominated Vietnam as the sole representative of the Non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2020-2021 term. In December 2016, for the first time Vietnam was elected to the United Nations Commission on International Trade Law (UNCITRAL), creating conditions for Vietnam to take part in shaping International Trade Law right from the beginning towards conforming to the interests of the country.

Second, amid complex and unpredictable international relations, Vietnam not only reinforced but also expanded relations with key partners. Friendship relations and cooperation with partners, especially neighboring countries like Laos, Cambodia, China, ASEAN countries and big countries, such as Russia, India, Japan, France were deepened; political trust and substantive cooperation in many areas were strengthened. In 2018, Party and State leaders made 28 foreign visits and welcomed 33 foreign high-ranking delegations to visit and attend important activities in Vietnam and hundreds of high-level contacts on the sidelines of important multilateral conferences. These high-level visits and contacts created new impetus in relations with partners across all sectors, serving the country's security and development. Vietnam upgraded its relations with Australia to a strategic partnership, this is Vietnam’s 11th strategic partner in G20 countries. We also established a comprehensive partnership with Hungary, a very important partner of Vietnam in Central-Eastern Europe region in the field of development aid.

Third, international integration, especially international economic integration clearly showed the proactive, positive and creative status of Vietnam. Vietnam braved the headwinds of protectionism to further deepen its international economic integration. Vietnam signed the Comprehensive and Progressive Treaty for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) with 10 other economies and was on of the 7 countries ratified the world's first new generation free trade agreement in the world, thereby asserting the role of a "link" in important regional economic linkage. Vietnam and the European Union (EU) was working towards signing and ratifying the Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). It is forecasted that when going into effect, CPTPP will help Vietnam's GDP increase by 4.7% by 2035 and bring 600,000 people out of poverty by 2030 at a poverty line of US$5.5 per day, thereby contributing to realizing Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Strictly implementing the direction of the Prime Minister at the 30th Diplomatic Conference to take businesses and people as a center, accompany businesses in their outreach, economic diplomacy made a worthy contribution to boosting Vietnam's trade turnover with major trading partners, such as China, the US, South Korea, Japan and the EU. In 2018, Vietnam's total import-export turnover reached a record of $475 billion, of which trade surplus reached $7.7 billion, bringing the GDP growth to 7.08%, the highest in 10 years.

International integration in the field of politics and defense - security also developed. Vietnam also made contributions to peace-keeping mission and international security by, for the first time, sending a level-II field hospital instead of some officials and soldiers for UN peacekeeping operations in South Sudan. Joint exercises, search and rescue, friendly exchanges between Vietnam and China, the US, Japan, India and South Korea in both in bilateral channels and within ASEAN framework contributed to strengthening mutual understanding and political trust.

Fourth, the diplomatic sector also worked closely with defense and security forces to firmly safeguard the sovereignty and territorial integrity in 2018. National defense in all circumstances, even when the country is in peace, is the order of the heart of every soldier on the foreign relation front. The land border line with neighboring countries of China, Laos and Cambodia was well managed, truly becoming a border line of peace, friendship and development. Vietnam and Cambodia were working to legalize 84% of the border demarcation reached by both sides. In the East Sea, we continued to firmly protect the nation's maritime and island sovereignty and legitimate rights and interests in accordance with the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The first official round of negotiations on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (COC) held in Nha Trang in March 2018 provided the initial basis for building an effective, substantive and binding COC. The Party Central Committee also issued Resolution 36-NQ/TW, dated 22 October 2018, on the Strategy for the Sustainable Development of Viet Nam's Marine Economy by 2030, with a vision to 2045, which aims to turn Vietnam must into a strong nation on the sea; sustainable development of marine economy must associated with safeguarding independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, contributing to maintaining a peaceful and stable environment for development. This is also the aspiration of the Vietnamese people.

In addition to the aforementioned bright spots, a remarkable achievement of foreign affairs was the timely and effective protection of Vietnamese citizens living and working abroad. In 2018, Vietnam protected a total of over 11,000 citizens (22% higher compared to 2017), 1,589 fishermen and 189 fishing vessels. Vietnam took advantage of friendly relations with many countries, such as Indonesia, the Philippines to seek humanitarian treatment of Vietnamese citizens and fishermen. Overseas Vietnamese participated in diversified and meaningful activities, turning their hearts and minds to the homeland, strengthening the great national solidarity, contributing to building and protecting the country.

Amid the country’s deep international integration, cultural diplomacy and external information service played a very important role in promoting the image of Vietnam in renovation, stability, hospitality and rich identity. In particular, the inclusion of Non Nuoc Cao Bang Global GeoPark and Documentary Heritage Hoang hoa su trinh do (The Envoy’s Journey to China) by UNESCO enriched the world cultural heritage of Vietnam. These contributed to increasing the number of international visitors to Vietnam in 2018 to a record number of over 15 million.

In general, the important achievements in the Party and State’s external affairs in 2018 contributed significantly to the cause of national construction and defense and at the same time firmly positioned Vietnam in the region and the world.

Showing confidence in the way forward

Given important achievements in 2018 and great determination, the diplomatic sector is entering 2019 with creativity to make breakthroughs and surpass itself, successfully implement the Resolution of the 12th Party Congress and the direction of Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc at the 30th Diplomatic Conference. The important tasks of Vietnam's foreign affairs in 2019 are continue to maintain an environment of peace and stability for development; firmly protect national independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity; deepen effective and sustainable relations with partners; realize Directive No. 25-CT/TW of the Secretariat on promoting multilateral diplomacy to 2030, especially be well prepared to assume responsibility at important multilateral forums, like ASEAN and the United Nations; maintain the momentum of international integration, especially effectively roll out CPTPP and other new generation free trade agreements; deepen international economic integration. In order to fulfill these tasks, the whole sector strives to build a professional, modernized diplomacy on a par with new situation.

With the new stature and strength of the more than 30-year-innovation, the wise leadership of the Party and State, the Vietnamese diplomacy, with wisdom and stuff, will reap bigger achievements, making worthy contributions to national construction and development.


This article was published in the Communist Review, No. 915 (January 2016)

Pham Binh MinhMember of the Politburo, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs