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Vietnam-US: Historic new phase of cooperation
Linh Pham 15:04, 2023/09/12
Both Hanoi and Washington believed that their collaboration would reach new heights with the start of this new chapter.

The elevation of Vietnam-US relationship to Comprehensive Strategic Partnership marks “a historic new phase of bilateral cooperation and friendship.”

 Children wave Vietnamese, US flags at the ceremony to host US President Joe Biden in Hanoi on Sept. 10. Photos: VNA/VGP/Baoquocte

It’s stated in the Joint Statement released during  US President Joe Biden's state visit, which concluded on September 11.

The Comprehensive Strategic Partnership was declared by General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong and President of the United States Joe Biden “for the purposes of peace, cooperation, and sustainable development,” and “the United States supports a strong, independent, prosperous, and resilient Vietnam.”

Vietnam’s President Vo Van Thuong said that the upgrading of the relations demonstrates the aspirations of the people of both countries and suggested that the two sides fortify their political-diplomatic ties, particularly through high-ranking meetings.

 Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong (R) and US President Joe Biden meet in Hanoi on Sept. 11.  

Focus of cooperation

US President Joe Biden's visit made headlines as Vietnam's relationship with the United States was upgraded to its highest diplomatic designation, along with China, India, Russia, and South Korea.   

The new comprehensive strategic partnership will build on the 10 areas of cooperation namely political and diplomatic relations; economic, trade, and investment; science-technology, innovation, and digital transformation; education and training; climate, energy, environment, and health; addressing war legacies; culture, people-to-people ties, sports, and tourism; defense and security; promotion and protection of human rights; coordination on regional and global issues.

Economic relations need to be upgraded because the US is Vietnam’s largest export market. In 2022, the two-way trade reached US$127.5 billion with Vietnam’s trade surplus widened to $116 billion, the highest level on record, according to the US Department of Commerce.

In this regard, Chairman of the National Assembly Vuong Dinh Hue in the meeting with President Joe Biden in Hanoi on September 11 requested the US to review Vietnam’s market economy status.

Hue said the National Assembly will cooperate with the Government to put the Joint Statement into action.

 Chairman of Vietnam's National Assembly Vuong Dinh Hue and US President Joe Biden on Sept 11. 

In terms of trade and investment, the US pledged further support for Vietnam in manufacturing, high-quality digital and physical infrastructure development, just energy transition, sustainable and smart agriculture, with a particular emphasis on the Mekong Delta.

To that end, the US International Development Finance Corporation (DFC) intends to continue to finance private sector projects in Vietnam’s infrastructure, climate and energy efficiency, healthcare, and small business sectors, including climate-focused and women-owned enterprises.

A new breakthrough in the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) is science-technology, innovation and digital transformation. The two sides will secure 5G, and the adoption of emerging technologies to provide new digital upskilling opportunities for Vietnamese innovators.

Education and training is a field of tightened cooperation over the years and would be promoted through CSP. Indeed, the community of nearly 30,000 Vietnamese students studying in the US demonstrates the close ties in this field.

To boost the partnership, both countries will encourage their universities and laboratories to share best practices with a focus on supporting the increasing number of Vietnamese students, teachers, scholars, and researchers participating in training programs in the US. Meanwhile, Vietnam also encourages US universities to build partnerships with Vietnamese higher education institutions, including opening campuses in Vietnam.

Vietnamese Ambassador to the US Nguyen Quoc Dung said the Vietnamese Embassy in the US has been lobbying the US administration and Congress to increase the number of scholarships available for Vietnamese students and facilitate their studying in the US. “That provides a solid foundation for the future of the two nations’ relations,” he told local media.

As Vietnam set 2050 net zero emissions target, the US committed to assisting Vietnam with both finance and advanced climate technology and under the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). At the same time, Vietnam welcomed the US contribution to mobilizing public and private financing for Vietnam’s JETP and cooperation with the international community to ensure its successful implementation.

With the operation of the US Center for Disease Control and Prevention (US CDC) in Vietnam for 25 years and the 2021 establishment of the US CDC’s Regional Office in Hanoi, health becomes one of the main sectors in the time to come. The US supports Vietnam’s efforts to expand its domestic pharmaceutical industry and increase compatibility of regulatory frameworks for Vietnam’s active role in regional and international medical supply chains.

In this field, a year after the US Government launched the US President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) in 2003, Vietnam became the first and only country in Asia to receive focused PEPFAR funding. Between 2004 and 2022, PEPFAR funded Vietnam with nearly US$900 million for the fight against HIV/AIDS.

Over the years, the two countries have witnessed the robust growth in people-to-people exchanges and will work together to promote two-way tourism, business cooperation, professional and academic exchanges, and study opportunities.

Notably, both sides intend to increase cooperation between American states and Vietnamese provinces through specific projects and programs. They also strengthen ties among different communities, sectors, businesses, youth, and people’s organizations of the two countries via exchanges of delegations, joint conferences, and cultural exchanges.

The two countries agreed to utilize dialogue and consultation mechanisms between the defense agencies to tighten the collaboration in military medicine, UN peacekeeping operations, and maritime law enforcement. They welcome further cooperation in defense industry and defense trade.

 Senator Patrick Leahy advocates reconciliation and solving the consequences of war. 

Addressing war legacies

During the meeting with President Biden, Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue suggested that the US continue to invest resources in cooperation on overcoming the consequences of war, regarding this as a priority in bilateral relations that contributes to the building of mutual trust and understanding.

Both countries reaffirmed their commitment to complete dioxin remediation at Bien Hoa Airport. The US government has committed a total estimated contribution of $300 million to the project.

Meanwhile, they will expand efforts to clear unexploded ordnance, support for persons with disabilities regardless of cause, while supporting  Vietnam’s national mine action and accounting for Vietnamese soldiers missing and fallen during the war, including DNA analysis capabilities. Vietnam reiterated that it would continue to cooperate fully in the search for  American missing personnel. 

In this regard, James Borton, a senior fellow at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies (SAIS) Foreign Policy Institute, said the US Congress helped to build trust between Washington and Hanoi. He named late Senator John McCain, a former Navy pilot and POW, and Senator John Kerry, a fellow combat veteran, for the efforts of reconciliation over the past decades.

He said Democratic Senator from Vermont Patrick Leahy was “largely instrumental in persuading Congress to grant funding for Vietnamese residents hurt by explosive ordnance and landmines.” Others include Senator Jeff Merkley, Senator Mike Crapo, Rep. Jason Smith, and Rep. Trent Kelly.

Meanwhile, Dr. Andrew Wells-Dang who leads the Vietnam War Legacies and Reconciliation Initiative at the United States Institute of Peace (USIP) underlined that dealing with the consequences of war no longer divides the two countries but rather has brought them closer together. This is what distinguishes the US-Vietnam relationship from other ties and makes it stronger, he emphasized.

Vietnam and the US have enjoyed a fruitful and vigorous relationship since the normalization of bilateral relations in 1995, which has increased in both depth and substance.

“Together, we will realize the aspirations of the people of our countries for a bright and dynamic future that contributes to the maintenance of peace, stability, cooperation and development across a crucial region and the world at large,” read the Joint Statement.

 Planting trees in the dioxin-free park at Bien Hoa Airbase.
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