The Vietnamese observe the 2nd of September every year as the National Day that Great President Ho Chi Minh read the Declaration of Independence of Vietnam at Ba Dinh Square in Hanoi, in a ceremony that formally gave the birth to the Democratic Republic of Vietnam and now is the Socialist Republic of Vietnam. This year, Vietnam also marks 75th anniversary of August Revolution that was a significant event in its national history, which broke the chains of French colonialists and Japanese fascists, and overthrew the absolute monarchy which had existed for a thousand years. Continuing the success of the August Revolution, the Vietnamese people then recorded significant victories in the resistance wars against the French and Americas as well as in the Doi Moi economic reform.
Today, Vietnam is in pursuit of the foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, openess, diversification and multilateralization of external relations and active international integration. The diplomacy has become an important front in time of peace and made important contribution to maintaining and securing the peaceful environment and creating a favorable international environment conducive to national construction and defence, thus enhancing the position and prestige of the country in the international arena. Vietnam also implements the policy of “three nos”: No formal military alliances, no hosting of foreign military bases and no explicit alignment with any single outside actor. To continues to raise the banner of peace, cooperation and development, Vietnam is a friend, a reliable partner of all countries and an active and constructive member in the international community, striving for peace, cooperation and sustainable development, actively participating in regional and international cooperation.
To date, Vietnam has established a network of 30 strategic partners and comprehensive partners. The country effectively implemented the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTTP). The first new generation FTA in the world has helped Vietnam’s export turnover to members such as Japan, Canada and Mexico increase significantly compared to 2018. In 2019, Vietnam signed the Vietnam-European Union Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) with the European Union and the Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA) and completed negotiations of Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnersip Agreement (RCEP). By June 8, 2020, Vietnam’ National Assembly approved the EVFTA and EVIPA. The EVFTA, officially signed last June after six years of negotiations, has been dubbed “the most ambitious” FTA the EU has ever reached with a developing country, accodrding to the European Commission. The EU is one of Vietnam’largest trade partners with turnover of US$56.45 billion in 2019, of which Vietnam exported goods worth US$41.54 billion and imported goods worth US$14.9 billion.
Vietnam and the United States managed to overcome their past animosity to normalize relations in 1995. In 2000, Bill Clinton became the first US president to visit Vietnam after the end of Vietnam War. In June 2005, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai met with President George W.Bush at the White House, marking the first Vietnamese leader’s visit to the US after the war. Vietnam and the United States are now comprehensive partners, with biletaral trade increasing from US$450 million in 1994 to US$77 billion in 2019. For several years, the US has been Vietnam’s biggest export market, while Vietnam has been one of the U.S’s quickest growing export markets. Despite the strong adverse impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic, biletaral trade value rose nearly 10% in the first half of this year. Recently, in a message commemorating the 25th anniversary of Vietnam-US relations, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said “Over the last quarter century, our two countries have built a partnership and friendship founded on shared interests, mutual respect, and people-to-people ties”.
The year of 2020 is a very important for Vietnam’ foreign Affairs, especially in implementation of the multilateral diplomacy. Vietnam takes on Chair of ASEAN and non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2020-2021 term, holding the two responsibilities together for the first time. With the theme “Cohesive and Responsive” for the ASEAN Chairmanship 2020, and “Vietnam: Trusted Partnership for Peace and Sustainability” as non-permanent member of UNSC, Vietnam is working with international friends and partners to foster multilateralism, the ruler of law and enhance ASEAN’ centrality role in the regional structure, and further enhance cooperation between ASEAN and the UN.
Related to the South China Sea, in the recent years, Vietnam has properly assessed the situation in the South China Sea, given prompt reactions and dealt with the situation strongly to defend the country’s legitimate rights and interests. Vietnam is also working with ASEAN members and partners to build the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea (COC) in accordance with the international law. Vietnam’s Misnistry of Foreign Affairs has repeatedly declared its consistent policy that all international disputes, including those in the South China Sea, must be resolved by peaceful means as regulated in UN Charter and United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982).
China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea, but, on July 12, 2016, an arbitral tribunal at the Permanent Court Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague issued its ruling in Phillippines’case against China’s claims in the South China Sea. The Tribunal ruled that “there is no legal basis for China to claim historic rights to resources within the sea areas falling the “nine-dash-line”.
Most recently, a press statement of the US Department of State on “US Positions on Maritime Claims in the South China Sea” published on July 13, 2020, Mr.Pompeo clearly declared “Beijing’s claim to offshore resources across most of the South China Sea are completely unlawful, as is its campaign of bullying to control them”. This statement also emphasized China has no legal grounds to unilaterally impose its will on the region. Beijing has offered no coherent legal basis for its “Nine-Dashed Line” claim in the South China Sea since it formally announcing it in 2009. The US has long opposed China’s expansive territorial claims on the South China Sea, sending warships regularly through strategic waterway to demonstrate freedom of navigation, according to the Reuters.
Vietnam’economy shows positive signs
Vietnam has garnered international praise for its swift and effective response to the Covid-19 outbreak. Although the country is not immune to the global economic downturn, its prospects for recovery remain positive and are brightest among Asian countries.
In July, data released by Vietnam’s General Statistics Office (GSO) estimated a 1.81 percent growth to Vietnam’s GDP in the first half of 2020. This figure appears to be low compared with the 6.76 percent economic growth rate in the first half of 2019, but it is a very positive growth rate during the pandemic. Some economic analysts estimated that the economic growth this year will slow down to 3 to 4 percent compared to 7.02 percent last year. IMF has cut its economic growth projections for the Vietnamese economy to 2.7 percent this year and the World Bank estimates a growth of 4.9 percent, but Vietnam’ government sets the target of more than 5 percent. This growth rates are impressive when we look at the economic picture of Asian economies. Political leaders in Vietnam in May asked the government to use all domestic resources to maintain the pace of economic growth amid the pandemic. If it achieves this goal, Vietnam will be able to defend its status as Southeast Asia’ fastest-growing economy, just as the country becomes the first in the region to emerge from the Covid-19.
Although disruptions to global supply chains caused by Covid-19 are weighing on Vietnam’exports, the country stands to benefit from companies looking to diversify their manufacturing base away from China. Vietnam’s strong economic fundamentals should enable the country to rebound in 2021 if the pandemic is relatively under control in the nation and globally, according to the World Bank. Vietnam was already well positioned to capture more the global supply chain as companies accelerate shifts away from China due to rising costs and the trade war. Global giants such as SamSung Electronics Co., LA Electronics Inc. and Intel Corp. have already set up large operations in the country, according to Bloomberg.
The pandemic is posing a big threat to all the developing economies in the world in general, especially in terms of attracting the foreign direct investment (FDI). Vietnam is not exceptional, as of June 2020, the country disbursed US$8.65 billion of foreign investment projects, which is equivalent to 95.1% over the same period last year. However, FDI attraction saw a 3.1 percent increase from the last year. The total FDI into Vietnam between the beginning of this year and June reached US$15.67 billion, equivalent to 84.9% of the figure for the same period of last year, according to Vietnam’s Ministry of Planning and Investment. There were 1,418 newly licenced projects during Jan-June, with registered capital of US$8.44 billion. FDI has been a key driver of Vietnam’economic growth. Companies with FDI account for around 70% of the Southeast Asian country’s export. Among the 98 countries and territories registering new projects in Vietnam in the first six months, Singapore was the largest investor, with US$5.44 billion, accounting for 34.7% of the total, followed by Thailand with US$1.58 billion (10.1%), and then China, Japan, the Republic of Korea.
Vietnam had trade surplus of US$4 billion in the first half of 2020. As of the first six months of this year, the total import and export turnover of goods reached US$238.4 billion, in which the export value is estimated at US$121.21 billion. Within the first six months, there were 22 commodities with the export turnover of over US$1 billion, accounting for 86.2% of the total export turnover.
Vietnam and Israel: Many years of a good relationship
This year, Vietnam and Israel marked 27 years since the two countries officially established the diplomatic relations in July 1993. However, looking back on the history, the relationship between the two countries was built between Vietnam’ Great President Ho Chi Minh and Israel’s first Prime Minister David Ben Gurion in 1946 when the two leaders stayed at the same hotel in Paris and became very friendly. The President of Israel, Mr. Reuven Rivlin, visited Vietnam in late March 2017 further strengthened relations between the two countries.
Today, the two countries are promoting cooperation in a variety of fields such as economy, trade, education, agrotechnology, innovation, start-up knowledge sharing and so on. In 2019, the two-way trade between Vietnam and Israel reached nearly US$ 1.156 billion, of which Vietnam’s exports were US$ 774 million and imports reached US$ 382 million. Israel becomes Vietnam’s third largest export market in the Western Asia, just after UAE and Turkey. In the first half of this year, trade between the two countries was valued at US$791 million. The two sides have started to negotiate a free trade agreement from the end of 2015. Up to now, after many rounds of negotiations, the two countries are in the final stage. One can hope that the agreement will be soon approved.
As written by the BESA Center Perspective Paper published on May 17, 2017, Israel is increasingly looking for partnership in economic, political, cultural, and military sectors with countries in the Southeast Asia, and relations with Vietnam in particular are on the upswing. There is a visible bonhomie between the nations, and Israel-Vietnam ties are likely to deepen. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s “Pivoting to Asia” is taking shape, and Vietnam is emerging as a crucial partner.
The article is reproduced from The Jerusalem Post.