Creating a driving force for ASEAN-US strategic partnership

Monday, 2016-02-15 11:52:00
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Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (third from left) among leaders at the 2014 ASEAN-US Summit in Myanmar.
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NDO – Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung is leading Vietnam’s high-ranking delegation to attend the Special ASEAN-US Summit taking place in California on February 15-16, at the invitation of US President Barack Obama.

>>> Prime Minister leaves for ASEAN – US Summit

This is the first significant international conference to be held between ASEAN and a partner country after the official formation of the ASEAN Community on December 31, 2015, and hosted for the first time in the US, which reflects both sides’ appreciation to boosting the ASEAN-US Strategic Partnership and shows the importance of the US-ASEAN relationship to both sides in particular and to the region as a whole.

While the world has seen unprecedented profound transformations over the past decade, the ASEAN-US relations in the 21st century have been constantly growing in an intensive, extensive and practical fashion, serving the goals and interests of both sides. ASEAN and the US established an enhanced partnership in 2005; in July of 2009 the US signed ASEAN’s Treaty of Amity and Co-operation (TAC) as well as proposed and organised the first-ever foreign ministerial meeting between the US and the four lower Mekong basin countries (CLTV). The US was one of the first dialogue partners to name a resident ambassador and establish a dedicated mission to ASEAN in 2010. The ASEAN-US relations have been promoted through several mechanisms, including the institutionalised annual ASEAN-US Summit framework since 2013.

At the third ASEAN-US Summit in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in November 2015, the two sides elevated the bilateral relationship to a Strategic Partnership and approved a Plan of Action to implement the ASEAN-US Strategic Partnership (2016-2020). Both sides signed numerous important co-operative agreements and frameworks and promoted co-operation in a number of specific areas. The US has given high priority to supporting ASEAN to strengthen the bloc’s capacity to ensure security, especially the maritime security on the bilateral foundation as well as via regional forums. Both sides have been actively working together on cyber security and in the fight against terrorism, nuclear proliferation and transnational crime. The US has also actively participated in forums and mechanisms chaired by ASEAN such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), East Asia Summit (EAS), the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM+) and the Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF).

Bilateral economic and trade ties have also registered increasing positive outcomes. The US is currently among ASEAN’s leading trade and investment partners. Two-way trade value reached US$216 billion in 2014 while the US invested US$226 billion in ASEAN. The US has also provided support to ASEAN in connecting and promoting collaboration in other areas including socio-culture, science-technology, education, dealing with epidemics, co-operation in the Mekong region and energy security. People-to-people exchanges and biodiversity co-operation have been accelerated as well. Adaptation to climate change is one of the current priorities for co-operation between the US and ASEAN. The administration of President Barack Obama is vowing to enhance relations with the Asian Pacific region for peace, stability and co-operation in the region, considering ASEAN a key pillar in this policy; back ASEAN’s central role in the regional structure and favour maintaining peace, stability and maritime safety and security in the East Sea.

Relations between Vietnam and the US have seen dynamic and constant growth to both intensive and extensive dimensions and registered many significant development milestones since the two sides established diplomatic ties in 1995. The bilateral political and foreign relations have been constantly fostered over the past years and marked with both sides’ maintenance of high-profile meetings and meetings at all levels. Particularly, the two sides signed the Vietnam-US Joint Vision Statement during the historic US visit made by General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong last July, thereby expanding the bilateral comprehensive partnership and directing a more stable and practical relationship in the coming time. Economic co-operation has seen strong growth, making the US a leading trade partner of Vietnam. Two-way trade value has constantly grown in recent years, with total import and export turnover between Vietnam and the US reaching over US$37.34 billion as of October 2015, up 23.3% compared to the same period of 2014. Co-operation in the field of science-technology and education-training has also made positive advances, with about 17,000 Vietnamese students currently studying in the US. The two countries have also obtained significant achievements in security and defence relations. Co-operation on humanity issues, including addressing post-war aftermaths, have been implemented actively, while people-to-people exchanges between the two nations have also been increasing both intensively and extensively.

Vietnam and the US have also co-ordinated on international and regional issues, such as the APEC, ARF, ADMM+ and EAS, including issues relating to maritime security and the East Sea as well as how to consolidate ASEAN solidarity, promote the central role of ASEAN and elevate the US – ASEAN relations. The development of stable, long-standing and practical relations between Vietnam and the US has significant value not only to each country but also to peace, stability, co-operation and development and the Asia- Pacific region and the world at large.

At the summit, all sides will discuss measures to realise the ASEAN-US strategic partnership with a focus on enhancing links in politics, security, economics and socio-culture, deepening the ties practically and specifically and making exchanges on regional and international issues of mutual concern. It is believed that the summit will stimulate the ASEAN-US strategic partnership, boost the comprehensive partnership between the US and Vietnam – a proactive and responsible member of the ASEAN Community, contributing to peace, stability, co-operation and development in Asia Pacific and beyond the world.