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Vietnam’s options during international integration trend
13/11/2013 21:36' Send Print

1- Internationalization and globalization is an objective development trend of the era and, after all, is decided by the constant development of production forces. International integration is a subjective behavior of countries and nations towards this objective trend. Almost all countries, small and large, rich and poor alike, have to integrate themselves to seize development opportunities, while staying aware of the numerous challenges to be overcome during the international integration process. Vietnam is not an exception.

Globally, there are the United Nations (UN) and specialized organizations inside and outside the UN framework, such as the World Bank (WB), the International Monetary Fund (IMF), and the General Agreement on Tariff and Trade (GATT), which later became the World Trade Organization (WTO). Regionally, there are the Organization of American States (OAS) and the African Union (AU). The European integration process, in particular, has developed to a high degree and turned the European Union (EU) into a supernational entity. ASEAN is on its way to the formation of a regional community by 2015. Economically, there have been 500 Free Trade Agreements (FTA) or Regional Trade Agreements (RTA), and many other deals are currently being negotiated. Bilaterally, international integration is regulated by bilateral agreements on politics, economics, trade, military, science, technology, culture, and education and deals to form strategic partnerships, comprehensive cooperative partnerships, etc.

Through international integration practice and theory in the world, major characteristics can be seen: international integration originates from the needs for development of the international community and requires joint efforts and policies to address the global challenges posed to each country and to all humankind. This process is overwhelming and widespread; bilateral and multilateral; regional, inter-regional, and global. International integration began from economics and has spread to other areas of social life. International integration is an actual process of building and applying common laws and standards in international relations. International integration is an uninterrupted development of relations between countries from a lower to a higher level, with diversified forms, which suits the interests and specific conditions of each country and region.

2- Vietnam is a part of the world and connected with the world’s evolution. In-depth understanding of the world situation is an indispensable condition for defining national tasks. Throughout the renewal period from the 6th to the 11th National Party Congress, despite rapid and complicated global and regional developments and tumults, the Communist Party of Vietnam closely followed the situation, grasped arising issues, and developed its own point of view on major trends in the global political arena and in international integration.

The 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam for the first time confirmed that “the scientific-technological revolution is a prominent characteristic of the era” and predicted the “increasingly important” role of the struggle in economics and global politics. Thus, the expansion of economic relations beyond the socialist countries was based on the guideline: “We need to make full use of new advantages in economic and scientific-technological cooperation to assume a wider role in the assignment and cooperation in the Council for Mutual Economic Assistance, while expanding relations with other countries”. The 7th National Party Congress set the guideline of “diversification and multilateralization of relations with all countries and economic organizations based on the principle of respecting independence, sovereignty, equality, and mutual benefit” and “creating a favorable environment and conditions for foreigners to enter Vietnam for investment and business cooperation”. At the 8th National Party Congress, the term “integration” was mentioned for the first time in Party documents: “Building an open economy which integrates into the region and the world”. At its 9th Congress, the Party set the guideline of “proactive international and regional integration in line with maximizing inner strength, improving the effectiveness of international cooperation, and ensuring independence, self-reliance and a socialist orientation”. The 10th National Party Congress for the first time raised the issue of international cooperation (integration) in other areas: “Proactively and actively integrating into the global economy, while expanding international cooperation in other areas” and the 11th National Party Congress developed and confirmed this view: “Proactive and active international integration”.

The Communist Party of Vietnam realizes that international integration is a process which Vietnam has participated in to attain a certain position and role in the international community. It is a process of both cooperation and struggle to attain its national interests in multifaceted, diversified, multilateral, and bilateral relations with various actors in the international community. This process includes: economic integration - joining the regional and global economies based on competitive advantages, and the utilization of internal and external resources for fast and sustainable development; political integration - joining regional and global political life and establishing a position and voice in regional and global matters; socio-cultural integration - upholding the nation’s cultural and spiritual values, absorbing advanced cultural values, and contributing to the socio-cultural development of the region and the world. Integration follows a comprehensive strategy in which the roadmap and degree of integration for each area matches the capacity of the country in that area.

3- Integrating into the world, Vietnam will continue to address the core issue of making full use of external resources to serve national industrialization and modernization, while guaranteeing independence and self-reliance and contributing to the shared issues of the region and the world.

Over the past two decades Vietnam, with its potential and wisdom, has entered the playing field of economic globalization, gained experience, gotten more familiar with the rules of the game, and identified opportunities and challenges. It’s now time to seize the opportunities and overcome the challenges of proactive international integration. Persisting in a foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation, and development under the motto “Vietnam is a reliable friend and a responsible member of the international community”, we have recorded major achievements while realizing certain limitations and weaknesses that need to be addressed.

Vietnam has escaped its political and economic isolation, expanded its relations with other countries, including the superpowers and other major world politico-economic centers, basically broadening its international integration and deepening its relations bilaterally and multilaterally. Vietnam has created and maintained an environment favorable for national construction and defense, and transformed its thinking about economic development in both public and private sectors. Meanwhile, the socialist-oriented market economy has been refined and large investment sources from outside have been utilized. International cooperative economic relations have been significantly expanded, contributing to economic restructuring and opening up long-term prospects for the country. International relations have been promoted in security-defense, science-technology, culture, society, and education-training. Security-defense cooperation has been implemented in accordance with detailed roadmaps with appropriate partners, agenda and steps to make practical contributions to the task of national defense. In the area of culture-society and education-training, the expanded cooperation has helped in hunger eradication, poverty reduction, settlement of social security issues, and improvement of people’s cultural and spiritual lives, while promoting cultural understanding through exchanges between Vietnam and other nations. There is an increasingly active participation of economic sectors and social strata from central to local levels in the international integration process. Large cities and important economic centers have made substantial leaps forward in integration and are providing strong growth momentum for the national economy. Vietnam’s position has been enhanced regionally and globally, creating a new image of the country as economically successful and an active and responsible partner in international integration.

Along with these achievements, however, Vietnam needs to overcome a number of limitations and difficulties. Some policies overlap or are inconsistent with international practices, thus failing to maximize advantages or to predict scenarios completely and accurately in order to effectively deal with arising problems. Vietnam’s integration in the international economy remains based on a horizontal growth model of quantity and scale, while quality of growth is not yet given due attention. As a result, the development gap between Vietnam and other countries in the region is widening. The economy’s competitiveness has improved but not dramatically. Failing to anticipate and prevent the negative impacts of international integration, Vietnam has not yet effectively dealt with arising socio-economic and environmental problems. Remote localities with poor infrastructure, untrained human resources, and unfavorable geographical conditions have reduced the benefits of international integration and left Vietnam at a disadvantage. This has led to widening wealth and development gaps between regions. There have been insufficient measures to minimize the drawbacks of international integration, particularly negative impacts in the areas of labor, employment, culture-society, environmental protection, and the protection of domestic production and products. Many resolutions of the Politburo and the Party Central Committee related to international economic integration have not been thoroughly grasped and implemented. The awareness of localities and sectors remains limited while shortcomings in leadership and management mechanisms have resulted in scattered and low-efficient implementation.

These achievements and problems have helped Vietnam learn valuable lessons about the timely transformation of its thinking about many things: the country’s development strategy in the context of international integration; proactively following situations, thinking independently, predicting, and making timely strategic decisions; maximizing internal resources while attracting and effectively utilizing external resources; harmoniously dealing with the relationship between independence and self-reliance and international integration to realize the fundamental goals of the revolution while pursuing security and development goals; dealing wisely and flexibly with the two-sided issue of cooperation and struggle during international integration, adhering to President Ho Chi Minh’s motto “unchanged principle, flexible actions”; constantly consolidating and enhancing the Party’s leadership and the State’s management effectiveness with the Party’s leadership being the decisive factor in overcoming all these challenges.

4- We are witnessing rapid and complicated changes across continents, particularly a shifting of the world’s strategic and economic focus to the Asia-Pacific region together with a trade liberalization trend and a process of economic alignment and cooperation on various levels: greater region, region, sub-region, and development triangle or quadrangle. Countries and territories which integrated into the world early have become “dragons” or “emerging economies”. Southeast Asia is looking to build a common house by 2015 – the ASEAN Community – with economic and trade barriers reduced or removed and alignment increasing. ASEAN is playing a more central role in regional issues and assuming a growing importance in the strategies of world powers. Vietnam is a component of that process. A new politico-geographical and economic-geographical structure has been formed in Southeast Asia and Asia-Pacific. The foundation of that structure is a dynamic, vibrant regional connectivity, benefitting all the countries in the region. Nevertheless, the region has potential risks that might cause instability or make it vulnerable to influence from the major world powers.

In this context, it’s imperative for Vietnam to identify its optimal position. The achievements of the renewal process, an open foreign policy, and international economic integration have created the internal and external strength for Vietnam to enter a new development period. Advantages and disadvantages, opportunities and challenges, intertwine and impact security and development. The correct policy now is to proactively seize opportunities to develop rapidly and sustainably, creating even greater strength. At the same time, it‘s necessary to wisely and resolutely eliminate and overcome all risks, including newly-arising risks, making sure that national development stays on the right track.

5- The adoption by the 11th Politburo of Resolution 22-NQ/TW on international integration, dated April 10, 2013, was timely and necessary. It meets the requirements of today’s vibrant reality and the roadmaps for Vietnam’s regional and global integration in the spirit of being “proactive and active”. During its international integration process, Vietnam’s unswerving policy is to ensure the united leadership of the Party and the concentrated management of the State, and to uphold the people’s spirit of mastery and creativity. The external activities of the Party, State diplomacy, and people-to-people diplomacy are closely connected. Political, economic and cultural diplomacy, together with defense and security, safeguard independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity, and national interests for peace, friendship, cooperation, and development.

Implementing the Politburo resolution on international integration, Vietnam underlines its common guidelines: asserting a foreign policy of independence and self-reliance for peace, cooperation and development; openness and diversification and multilateralization of international relations; creatively applying the lessons learned from experience and the successful settlement of major relational issues, which were summarized in the Platform for national construction during the transitional period to socialism (supplemented and developed in 2011). At the same time, the following perspectives need to be focused on:

First, proactive and active international integration is the strategic direction of the Party in order to fulfill the task of building and defending the socialist fatherland of Vietnam.

International integration is the cause of all the people and the whole political system under the Party’s leadership and the State’s management. All mechanisms and policies should uphold the proactiveness, activeness, and creativity of all organizations and individuals, and effectively utilize the potential of the whole society and people of all social strata, including Overseas Vietnamese, to contribute to national construction and defense. International integration should be based on maximizing inner strength, close connectivity and acceleration of the institutional fine-tuning process, enhancing the quality of human resources, modernizing infrastructure, increasing the nation’s general strength and competitiveness; and strengthening the connectivity of regions and areas across the country.

Second, economic integration is the focus, so integration in other areas should facilitate economic integration and make an active contribution to economic development, consolidate defense, ensure national security, preserve and uphold national identity and boost socio-cultural development. Integration in all areas should be implemented within a comprehensive strategy of international integration, with roadmaps and steps appropriate to the country’s real situation and capacity.

Third, international integration is a process of both cooperation and struggle; pursuant to national interests, proactively predicting and addressing all situations to avoid being left in a passive and confrontational position will preclude mobilizing forces and coalitions to fight others.

Fourth, strictly abiding by international commitments to which Vietnam has been a signatory; proactively and actively building and adhering to international laws when engaged in regional or global activities; proactively proposing initiatives and mechanisms for cooperation based on the principle of mutual benefit; consolidating and enhancing the role of the community regionally and globally; making an active contribution to the struggle for peace, national independence, democracy, and social progress in the world./.

Nguyen Duc HungAmbassador, former Governor for Vietnam in the Asia-Europe Foundation (ASEF)