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Imprints in Vietnam’s diplomacy in 2014: active contributions to safeguarding national sovereignty

The World & Viet Nam Report would like to publish the full text of the interview of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh with VTV in the Program: “People ask - Minister responds” on 4th January 2015 under the theme: Review of Vietnam’s diplomacy in 2014.

The World & Viet Nam Report:  2014 was a year full of turmoil, which posed numerous challenges to Viet Nam in general and Vietnam’s diplomacy in particular. In your view, what were the achievements of Vietnam’s diplomacy in 2014?

Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh: In 2014, the world and our region experienced complex developments, which exerted strong impacts on Viet Nam’s security and development. There were times when our country was faced with the most serious challenges of the past few years. Against that context, the Party-to-Party, State-to-State and people-to-people diplomacy of Viet Nam was carried out in a vibrant, wide-spread and effective manner, making significant contributions to securing an environment of peace and stability while enlisting favorable international conditions for development and continuously heightening Vietnam’s international position.

In the political field, the year 2014 witnessed the active realization of the frameworks for bilateral relations that had been established in 2013 and the years before, including the strategic partnership with 13 countries and comprehensive partnership with 11 countries.  The relations as such were deepened and became more and more effective, contributing to maintaining a peaceful and stable environment for our country and the region.

Particularly, Vietnam’s diplomacy played an active role in the safeguard of Vietnam’s sovereignty and sovereign rights in the East Sea while helping maintain and develop relations with other countries including China.

In the economic field, we proactively expanded the external market. As a result, Viet Nam registered an export turnover of more than US$150 billion in 2014. We were also engaged in the negotiations for a number of free trade agreements (FTAs) and concluded some, thereby creating favorable conditions to expand the market and promote external economic activities. We managed to obtain commitments for continued assistance from major economic partners, including the EU which pledged 400 million Euro of ODA for Viet Nam in the 2014-2020 period and Japan which pleaded 150 billion Yen of ODA for Viet Nam in 2015. These figures are really significant for the economic development of our country.

Also in 2014, Vietnam’s cultural diplomacy, information and communication on external affairs and multilateral diplomacy made important contributions to further heightening Vietnam’s stature as an active and responsible member of the international community. Important progress was also observed in the work on overseas Vietnamese.

The World & Viet Nam Report: A matter of great public interest and perhaps the most profound imprint of Vietnam’s diplomacy in 2014 was its contribution to dealing with the “turbulences” in the East Sea. How could Vietnam’s diplomacy both safeguard national independence, sovereignty, territorial integrity and maintain relations with other countries as well as peace and stability for development?

Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh: Our foreign policy is to develop relations with other countries to create a peaceful and stable environment for national development and safeguarding national sovereignty. These two goals, rather than being exclusive, are mutually reinforcing. The attainment of both goals ensures that we are on the right track in pursuit of our foreign policy.

Given that, in 2014 when the situation in the East Sea became complicated, we actively carried out diplomatic activities with a view to resolving the issue through peaceful means. We were engaged in the direct discussion, exchange of views and struggle through direct contact with China and conducted 40 communications with China on the East Sea issue.

The just position of Viet Nam, which seeks peaceful settlement of disputes on the basis of international law, has won the broad support of the international community. While seeking solutions to maritime disputes, we actively worked to maintain the relations with China through the exchange of delegations at ministerial and local levels and continued to maintain economic and trade ties with China. Hence, we managed to continue developing the relations with China while safeguarding our sovereignty and sovereign rights in the East Sea.

The World & Viet Nam Report: A number of Vietnamese workers in Saudi Arabia, who are from Tuyen Quang, Thai Binh, Nghe An and other provinces, sent letters to the Program stating that while many female workers coming to Saudi Arabia to work as housemaids signed working contracts with foreign companies under which they should earn a salary of approximately VND 7.5 million for maximum 12 working hours per day, many others indeed were forced to work continuously up to 20 hours per day, their IDs were held by the owners, some were not paid, and were even treated badly and abused. Could you please tell us what assistance would those workers receive from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs under such circumstances?

Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh: Vietnam’s Constitution stipulates that all Vietnamese citizens who travel abroad are protected by the State. The Law on Vietnamese diplomatic missions also clearly stipulates that Vietnamese diplomatic missions shall have the responsibility to protect Vietnamese citizens who travel overseas. As for the cases you mention, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has timely instructed the Vietnamese Embassy in Saudi Arabia to get involved to protect our legitimate workers in Saudi Arabia. Our diplomatic mission has contacted the local authorities to raise the concern and met the workers. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs have requested the Vietnamese companies that dispatched workers to Saudi Arabia to fulfill their responsibility in protecting the rights of those workers. On 29th December, we assisted 7 out of 20 workers from Bac Kan province working for Bader Company to return to Viet Nam. On 31st December, other 13 workers were assisted to return home.

The important thing is that the labor exporting companies of Viet Nam must ensure that all labor contracts are well termed to best guarantee the rights of Vietnamese workers overseas. To that end, these companies must consult the competent authorities to ensure that the labor contracts are legal and in conformity with the law of the host countries as well as international law, and more importantly, the contracts must provide conditions to protect the rights and interests of workers in case of unjust treatment. Female workers should review carefully the terms of the labor contracts before departure to well understand their rights and obligations. When something happens, it is necessary to see what legal actions or measures we can take to protect the workers if the employers violate the labor contracts. The stakeholders should also consult the labor management division of the Vietnamese Embassy in the host country in handling such cases.

The World & Viet Nam Report: A large number of Vietnamese people live in the hot spots of conflict in 2014 such as Libya and Ukraine, what measures were taken by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to ensure safety for our compatriots?

Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh: In 2014, the Vietnamese Embassy in Libya helped repatriate over 1,700 Vietnamese workers when conflicts broke out in Libya. There are 10 thousand Vietnamese people in Ukraine among whom about 300 live in conflict areas in Eastern Ukraine. When the conflict happened, the Vietnamese Embassy in Ukraine contacted the Vietnamese community in those areas to advise on what must be done and provide assistance. The Embassy also took measures to bring these Vietnamese to safer areas. We also met with the Foreign Minister of Ukraine during the session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2014 and requested the Government of Ukraine to create favorable conditions for Vietnamese people living in conflict areas and ensure their safety, security and interests. The Ukrainian Foreign Minister promised that the Ukrainian Government would ensure the interests and safety of Vietnamese people living in those areas.

Thank you Mr. Deputy Prime Minister.

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