FM Nguyen Dy Nien: Vietnam has established firm position in ASEAN
Q: What is your evaluation of Vietnam-ASEAN relations, especially in trade and the economy, since the country joined the ASEAN in 1995?
A: Ten years have passed since the red-and-yellow star flag was hoisted in Brunei at a ceremony to officially recognise Vietnam as a member of the ASEAN. It is not a long time, but Vietnam-ASEAN relations have seen many important successes.
Ties between Vietnam and the regional association have enjoyed rapid development in all areas, from politics, economics to small, specific fields. Regarding the political sphere, Vietnam has actively participated in and closely co-ordinated with other ASEAN members at major forums, such as the ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM), the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), and the dialogues between the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conferences and industrialised countries. We have also made positive contributions to turning the regional conduct code - the Treaty of Amity and Co-operation (TAC) - into the code for relations between ASEAN members and countries outside of the region, as well as to the Southeast Asia Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ) Treaty. We have played an active role in maintaining the ASEAN's leading role in the ARF, the only forum for regional countries to conduct dialogues with major countries on political-security issues in order to ensure peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region, facilitating co-operation and development in the area.
Vietnam has actively participated in co-operation activities in specialised fields such as sciences, technology and environment, culture and information, social development, and drug fighting. We have hosted many conferences and put forward many initiatives that have helped diversify co-operation in these fields. Hundreds of Vietnamese officials have been sent abroad to study and exchange experience under ASEAN co-operation schemes.
In the economic field, Vietnam has overcome difficulties caused by the development gap to take part in ASEAN's economic co-operation programmes, including the ASEAN Investment Agreement (AIA) and the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA). We were the author of an initiative on economic development for poor areas in countries along the West-East Corridor, resulting in an important advance in the integration process into the regional and world economy. Trade between Vietnam and the ASEAN is growing at an average nearly 20% a year. Compared to the first year after joining the ASEAN, Vietnam's exports to other ASEAN countries in 2004 increased by 1.8 times. The growth of trade is in line with the progress made by the Common Effective Preferential Tariffs (CEPT) agreement towards the realisation of an ASEAN Free Trade Area. By March 2005, Vietnam had applied tax reductions to 10,277 tariff lines, or 96.15% of its total tariff lines subjected to tax reduction under the CEPT/AFTA. Regarding investment, by the end of June this year, ASEAN countries had more than 600 projects in Vietnam. These projects had a total registered capital of US $11.385 billion, representing 23.38% of all foreign investment in Vietnam, of which US $5.019 billion had been disbursed, or 19.08% of the total FDI disbursement in the country.
Strengthening Vietnam-ASEAN economic co-operation has also helped make the domestic business environment healthier, and prepared Vietnam for its accession to larger economic groupings such as the Asian-Pacific Economic Co-operation (APEC) forum and the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
Q: Could you speak on the contributions Vietnam has made to the ASEAN and its role in the organisation over the past 10 years?
A: Despite being a new member, Vietnam has done its best to fulfil the responsibilities of an ASEAN member nation and to contribute to the organisation's development.
We actively pushed for the admission of Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia to the ASEAN, forming an organisation of all 10 Southeast Asian countries, which was a very important turning point in the ASEAN's history. For the first time after many decades of division and confrontation, Southeast Asian countries have overcome invisible obstacles to work for solidarity and co-operation in an extensive organisation for a common goal of building a peaceful, stable and prosperous region.
While the region was still suffering from impacts of the 1997 economic-financial crisis and as Vietnam itself was experiencing many difficulties, we successfully organised the sixth ASEAN Summit in 1998, and contributed greatly to compiling the Hanoi Plan of Actions (HPA), as well as put forward concrete measures to implement the Vision 2020.
Vietnam also hosted many important conferences as Chairman of the ASEAN Standing Committee between July 2000-July 2001. In particular, the Hanoi Declaration on Narrowing Development Gaps, adopted at the 34th ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM-34) in Hanoi in 2001, bore a deep Vietnamese imprint, meeting the region's needs to strengthen the group's internal integrity as well as the needs of the four new members - Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam - to catch up with other members. The declaration also defined the orientation for ASEAN's co-operation activities in many years to come.
As a founder of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Vietnam has contributed to building the forum into an important dialogue venue on regional security, and has persistenly worked to maintain its characteristics and principles as well as the leading role the ASEAN has at the forum. We have also worked hard to guard the ASEAN's basic principles such as "consensus" and "non-interference into each other's internal affairs".
Vietnam has fulfilled its role as a co-ordinator for dialogues between the ASEAN and powerful countries such as Japan, Russia, the United States, and currently Australia. It has played an active part in the ASEAN+3 (China, Japan and the Republic of Korea) co-operation, helping increase the co-operation between the ASEAN and these countries.
Through its active participation and practical and concrete contributions, Vietnam has gained a firm position and role in the ASEAN.
Q: What do you think about the future prospects for Vietnam-ASEAN co-operation?
A: The co-operation with the ASEAN is an important part of Vietnam's foreign relations policy of openness, multi-lateralisation and diversification. To help strengthen the ASEAN, promote its development, and enhance Vietnam's role in the organisation are the important directions in the country's foreign policy. Vietnam will always be an active and constructive member and strives to have an important role in the association. We will build on our successes over the past 10 years to contribute even more greatly to defining the ASEAN's development direction for peace, co-operation and development in the region. We will work hard to accelerate hunger elimination and poverty reduction and narrow the development gap through programmes to develop the Mekong sub-region and the West-East Corridor; taking the lead in areas we are strong in such as principal scientific research, cultural and information co-operation, environment, and fighting HIV/AIDS and drugs.
In the time to come, Vietnam's relevant ministries and agencies should take a greater initiative in working out suitable measures to accelerate the implementation of agreements reached at the 10th ASEAN Summit, including the Vientiane Action Programme, the ASEAN Security Community Plan of Action, the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Plan of Action, and the ASEAN Framework Agreement for the Integration of 11 Priority Sectors. Based on the fine results of the past 10 years, the Vietnam-ASEAN relations are expected to develop even stronger, for the common interest of the organisation and for peace, stability and prosperity in Southeast Asia.
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