Viet Nam-ASEAN: 10 years of companionship and development
(VNA) - Viet Nam officially became a full member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) on July 28, 1995. Ten years is not a long period for such an important political event, but what has been achieved in relations between Viet Nam and the association over the decade is creating splendid prospects for the future.
As an ASEAN member, Viet Nam has actively participated in the group's existing cooperative programmes and has also created new initiatives and cooperation mechanisms. It has committed to executing a series of cooperative programmes and mechanism, including the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), the Framework Agreement on Services (AFSA), the Framwork Agreement on ASEAN Investment Area (AIA), the Framework Agreement on ASEAN Industrial Cooperation (AICO), and the Initiative on ASEAN Integration (IAI).
It is more important to recognise that Viet Nam has worked together with other ASEAN member counries to introduce new initiatives to reinforce regional cooperation. At the sixth ASEAN Summit held in Ha Noi in December 1998, Viet Nam introduced the Ha Noi Plan of Action (HPA) to provide both plans and solutions to translate the Vision 2000 - an ideological groundwork to establish an ASEAN Community - into deeds.
Also contained in the HPA were Viet Nam's ideas and proposals to narrow the development gap in the sub-region and increase coordination in the group itself. The country has joined other member countries in proposing an idea to build an ASEAN community based on the three pillars, in which an ASEAN Culture-Society Community was Viet Nam's initiative.
Over the past decade, Viet Nam-ASEAN relations have been growing fast in all areas, particularly in politics and the economy.
In the field of politics, Viet Nam has closely coordinated with other member countries at important forums, such as the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the Post AMM Conference, and in dialogues with other developing countries around the world.
Before joining ASEAN, Viet Nam signed the group's Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in 1992. When becoming a full member of the association, Viet Nam made important contributions to turn the treaty from a code of conduct used among regional countries, into a code of conduct that ASEAN countries use with non-member countries. Additionally, Viet Nam signed the Treaty on the Southeast Asian Nuclear Weapon Free Zone. It has worked hard to strengthen ASEAN's leading role in ARF, the only forum in which ASEAN member countries and outside countries can discuss political and security issues to maintain peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
Viet Nam has also made outstanding contributions to maintaining peace, stability and reconciliation in the region, thus reinforcing ASEAN's position in international arena.
By joining ASEAN, Viet Nam has helped build ASEAN into a bloc of unity comprising all 10 member countries as envisioned in the 1967 Bangkok Declaration.
The Declaration was an act of reconciliation in the region, putting an end to the confrontation between ASEAN and the Indochinese bloc, which had originated from the Cold War, and ushering in a new era of cooperation, friendliness and integration for the region, which has strengthened ASEAN's standing in the world arena greatly.
In particular, the admission of Viet Nam opened a new page in the ASEAN's history, paving the way for Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar to join the association. As a grouping of all countries in the region, ASEAN has grown not only in terms of membership but also in its determination to integrate with all its members, including Viet Nam.
Viet Nam's effective participation in the ASEAN has contributed greatly to expanding the organisation's cooperation with outside partners, especially those which are Viet Nam's partners and neighbours, such as China, Russia, India, and the EU. Together with the rapid improvement in Viet Nam-China relations over the past decade, Viet Nam's strategic geographical location and dynamic development have helped bring the ASEAN and China closer to each other, increasing their mutual understanding and cooperation.
In addition, as the ASEAN grows stronger, Viet Nam has played an important role in the strategic balance of power between major countries in the world, especially between China and the United States. This is an important factor in maintaining peace, stability and cooperation in Southeast Asia. Under the theme of "Further Revitalising and Substantiating the Asia--Europe Partnership", the fifth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM-5) in Ha Noi in October 2004 greatly helped enhance the ASEAN's image and solidarity.
After joining the ASEAN, Viet Nam became a founder of the ASEM in 1996, then an official member of the Asian-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in 1998, and helped expand the Southeast Asian countries' cooperation atmosphere through the ASEAN+1 and ASEAN+3 mechanisms.
In its 10 years in the ASEAN, Viet Nam has reaped many successes in all social and economic fields. The country has gradually restructured its administrative apparatus to suit a market economy, and utilised its resources through cooperation and competition. These are the most significant achievements Viet Nam has made in its efforts to integrate into the international community in general and the ASEAN in particular.
Regarding security, Viet Nam is among the 18 first members of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF). As Chairman of the forum in the 2000-01 term, Viet Nam closely coordinated with other ASEAN members to uphold the ASEAN's principles. In addition to its role in compiling the Ha Noi Plan of Actions in 1998, Viet Nam joined other ASEAN members in putting forward an initiative to pursue negotiations with China which resulted in the Declaration of Conducts of Parties in the East Sea in 2002.
Recently, Viet Nam also actively contributed to compiling the Bali Declaration II and a vision for an ASEAN Community, with the aim of issuing a Declaration and an action plan for the ASEAN Security Community. This is one of the strongest ever ASEAN declarations regarding politics and security.
Over the past decade, Viet Nam has made a good impression on ASEAN countries with its achievements in economic development, especially in hunger eradication and poverty alleviation, and also in the implementation of its commitments for integration into the regional and international economy.
Right after joining the ASEAN, Viet Nam began implementing the roadmap of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and participated in all ASEAN economic cooperation programmes. In February 2001, the Vietnamese government announced an overall plan on tax reduction under the Common Effective Preferential Tariffs (CEPT) agreement until January 1, 2006, when Viet Nam fully joins the AFTA.
Only months after its admission into the ASEAN, Viet Nam signed the Framework Agreement on ASEAN Investment Area on October 7, 1998, which aims to create an internal free investment zone within the ASEAN bloc by 2010 and to include non-ASEAN members by 2020.
Viet Nam has also signed and implemented effectively the ASEAN Framework Agreement on Services (AFAS) and the ASEAN Industrial Cooperation Scheme. It has actively participated in the development cooperation programme for the Greater Mekong Sub-region (GMS), which includes the building of an East-West economic corridor and another connecting China's Kunming with Viet Nam's Ha Noi and Hai Phong.
Trade ties between Viet Nam and ASEAN countries saw an average annual growth rate of more than 20 percent since the 1990s. Trade with the ASEAN rose from 21 percent of the country's total international trade in 1994 to more than 25 percent in the early 2000s.
ASEAN countries' investment into Viet Nam has also increased sharply, from nearly 200 projects worth a combined 2 billion USD in June 1995 to more than 600 projects worth more than 10 billion USD in 2004. Singapore has been the biggest investor in Viet Nam for many years, with nearly 400 projects worth a combined 8 billion USD by the end of 2004. Malaysia and Thailand rank 11th and 12th, respectively, with more than one billion USD of investment each.
Viet Nam has also joined hands with ASEAN countries to expand economic cooperation with East Asian countries under the ASEAN+3 mechanism, with European Union countries under the ASEM framework, and with Asian-Pacific countries within the framework of APEC.
With a high economic growth rate averaging seven percent each year for the past decade, Viet Nam has been able to decrease its economic gap slightly with the six original ASEAN members - Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Philippines and Brunei.
As an ASEAN member, Viet Nam actively works to integrate culturally and socially with the Southeast Asian region and the world by learning from their cultural quintessence and promoting exchange among ASEAN countries while preserving its own cultural identity.
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