Vietnam-US Comprehensive Partnership Taking Off

Vietnamese Party top leader Nguyen Phu Trong is making an official visit to the United States from July 6 to 10, at the invitation of the U.S. administration. The Vietnam-U.S. comprehensive partnership of substance, efficiency, and of strategic importance is forming a long and wide runway for the bilateral ties to take off and fly into the next decades.

This year, the 20th anniversary of forming diplomatic ties between Vietnam and the U.S. is a great opportunity to further deepen their comprehensive partnership.

Historic visit

This year, the 20th anniversary of forming diplomatic ties between Vietnam and the U.S., especially the first visit by a general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam to the US in the next few days is a great opportunity to further deepen their comprehensive partnership, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius said recently.

At a roundtable meeting with few reporters in Vietnam on June 26, Osius said: “It (the trip by Nguyen Phu Trong to the U.S. in early July) will be an historic visit and will be treated as such by the leaders of the United States.” The ambassador added that “U.S. leaders see the visit an important opportunity” to discuss review cooperation the two countries have reached in the last 20 years, and what to do together in the next 20 years.

Osius said he guessed that during the historic visit by Trong, the two sides will touch upon issues in the nine cooperation pillars. The Comprehensive Partnership was jointly declared by Vietnamese State President Truong Tan Sang and U.S. President Barack Obama in July 2013, creating a new framework for bilateral cooperation in the nine areas of politics-diplomacy, economy-trade, science-technology, education-training, the environment-health care, humanitarian cooperation-overcoming war aftermath, defence-security, protection and promotion of human rights, and culture-sport-tourism.

Political and diplomatic cooperation

Vietnam and the U.S. have in recent years speeded up exchanges of high-level visits, including those in both directions in 2015, with party-to-party relations broadening and deepening. Notably, U.S. leaders are looking forward to the first trip to the U.S. by a Party General Secretary of Vietnam, and during this historic visit, the two nations will put forth a common vision. On June 8, U.S. Ambassador to Vietnam Ted Osius told reporters in the southern city of Can Tho that he expected to the visit by Vietnamese Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong to happen in July.

Vietnam and the U.S. have worked together more effectively in regional forums, including the East Asia Summit, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum, the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting, the Lower Mekong Initiative, and United Nations forums. The two countries share a common strategic interest in successful development of the ASEAN Community and promotion of the association’s central role in shaping regional structures.

Ambassador Ted Osius said both Vietnam and the US view challenges to the status quo in the South China Sea through a similar lens, wishing to use diplomacy, international legal mechanisms, and capacity building in the maritime realm to deter aggression and unilateral action in waters through which half of the world’s seaborne cargo passes. At the Shangri-La Dialogue in late May, U.S. Defence Secretary Ashton Carter told top defense officials from Asian countries that the U.S. opposes any further militarization of islands in the South China Sea, and that surfacing new land and building airfields did not create sovereignty.

Economic and trade relations

Vietnam and the U.S. are proactively accelerating negotiations over the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), manifesting a strong desire for a more mature and stable relationship. According to Osius, the negotiations over TPP will conclude soon. He said the U.S. Senate had passed the Trade Promotion Authority bill which now goes to the House. The legislation will give the U.S. Congress the ability to vote for or against, but not amend or filibuster, international trade agreements negotiated by the White House, including the TPP. If the U.S. Congress passes it, the TPP could be signed this summer, said the U.S. ambassador. After the TPP is signed, Vietnamese exports, especially farm products, to the U.S. will surge, Osius said. The two-way trade between Vietnam and the U.S. skyrocketed from less than $500 million in 1995 to $35 billion in 2014.

Besides, Vietnam and the U.S. are making progress toward achieving Category One status, a necessary condition for direct flights between the two countries. According to Osius, major opportunities exist for trade and investment expansion of Vietnam’s infrastructure, in its rapidly growing aviation sector, and in clean energy.

Defence and security cooperation

Vietnam and the US are making steady progress in all five priority areas of cooperation specified in the 2011 Defence Cooperation Memorandum of Understanding: maritime security, high-level dialogues, search and rescue, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, and peacekeeping operations. Bilateral defence and security cooperation has also been bolstered with the U.S. loosening its weapon trade embargo with Vietnam.

On June 1 in Hanoi, U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter held talks with Vietnamese counterpart Phung Quang Thanh, and met with Vietnamese Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong, and State President Truong Tan Sang. “As the general and I reaffirmed in our meeting today, we are both committed to deepening our defense relationship and laying the groundwork for the next 20 years of our partnership,” Carter said at a news conference with Thanh, adding that a joint vision statement signed on June 1 will help the nations do that.

“Following last year’s decision by the U.S. to partially lift the ban of arms sales to Vietnam, our countries are now committed for the first time to operate together, step up our defense trade and work toward co-production,” Carter said. This action, and Carter’s stop in the northern city of Hai Phong, where he was the first U.S. defense secretary to visit a Vietnamese military base and tour a Vietnamese coast guard vessel, underscores the “continued positive trajectory of the U.S.-Vietnam defense relationship,” he said.

On January 23, addressing at the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam in Hanoi, U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for the Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, Puneet Talwar, said: “I’d like to focus in on three areas of cooperation, all of which support our bilateral ties and underpin America’s overall rebalance to the Asia-Pacific. First, humanitarian cooperation; second, trade and economic cooperation; and third, defence and security cooperation.”


Categories: Foreign Government

Tags: Nguyen Phu Trong, partnership, party leader, relations, US, Vietnam

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