The most important diplomatic task in 2017
10:02 | 02/01/2017

The year 2016 has drifted to an end and marked with complicated and unpredictable situations in the region and the world, in addition to the unstable global economy and the lowest economic growth in recent years.

The populist and nationalist movements have grown. The Brexit and political changes in many other countries occurred unpredictably. The process of globalization and international integration is now facing new challenges. Strategic competition and force gathering among powers have become complicated, having multi-dimensional impacts on small and medium countries. Many hotspots in the Middle East, East Asia, and South Asia continue remain at a standstill, and on the verge of outburst.

Territorial, maritime, and natural resources disputes remain fierce while nontraditional security challenges such as climate change, water security, cyber security, migration, terrorism, etc. have emerged harshly, threatening the security and stability of many countries, including Viet Nam.

In the panorama with many shades of gray, Asia - Pacific continues to be the most dynamically developing region of the world. ASEAN has achieved an average growth of around 5%, stepping up efforts to build the community, continuing to maintain its central role in evolving regional architecture. The role of international law in settling disputes in the region has drawn more attention from ​​international public than ever before, especially after the ruling dated July 12th, 2016 of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the lawsuit between the Philippines and China on the East Sea.

In this context, our country’s external affairs continued to be implemented proactively and actively, with key focal points, focusing on enhancing efficiency, effectively serving objectives of diplomacy "to ensure the supreme interests of the country and the people" as set out at the 12th National Party Congress with five major directions as follows:

First, we have expeditiously mastered and concretized the major directions of the foreign policy of the 12th Party Congress, especially additional and new contents on international integration. Shortly after the National Party Congress, the Government instructed relevant agencies to develop a scheme on comprehensive evaluation of international economic integration since our country became a member of the World Trade Organization (WTO), which frankly pointed out the causes of weaknesses in the integration process over time, provided an in-depth analysis of opportunities and challenges of the new-generation free trade agreements, and proposed recommendations to enhance efficiency of the integration process in the new period. In November 2016, the Party Central Committee approved the Resolution No. 06/NQ-TW on effective implementation of the international economic integration process and firm maintenance of socio-political stability as Viet Nam joins the new-generation free trade agreements.

The 29th Diplomatic Conference was held under the theme "Increasing the efficiency of external activities and international integration to successfully realize the foreign diplomacy of the 12th National Party Congress" to promptly master the foreign diplomacy of the Party Congress, determine the focal points of the diplomatic work in the time to come and identify new measures, new approaches, and coordinate closely with defense, security, and economic sectors, etc. to for more effective realization of the goals on national development and security protection.

Second, we have radically implemented external activities, particularly high-level diplomatic activities which were considered as an important direction to deepen relations in a stable manner, bringing practical benefits for the country. Over the past year, leaders of the Party and the State made 16 visits to foreign countries. We also welcomed high-ranking leaders of nearly 30 countries to visit Viet Nam. In particular, priority was given to high-ranking exchanges with neighboring countries of Laos, Cambodia, China, ASEAN countries such as Singapore, Brunei, Myanmar, the Philippines, big countries such as the United States, Russia, Japan, India, France and traditional friendly countries such as Cuba, Iran, etc. These important diplomatic activities were carried out towards increasing the level of interweaving of interests between Viet Nam and our partners, raising effectiveness of cooperation mechanisms, and enhancing political trust between the two sides.

Besides, we have also utilized more effectively the mechanisms established through high-level exchanges to promptly handle issues arising in our relationship with other partners. For example, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte in a meeting with Vietnamese leaders in Ha Noi committed to releasing immediately 17 Vietnamese fishermen and for the first time Indonesia handed over Vietnamese fishermen at sea.

Third, we have accelerated border and territorial work and strengthened national borders. In 2016, we completed the project to increase thickness and upgrade the system of border markers, signed a Protocol on border line and border markers, an Agreement on regulations to manage land border and border gates with Laos completed more than 83% of the work on land border demarcation and landmark planting with Cambodia. We also effectively implemented the Agreement on the exploitation of tourism resources in Ban Gioc waterfall and an Agreement on free movement of vessels at Bac Luan river mouth with China.

On maritime matters, we conducted negotiations on the delimitation of exclusive economic zones with Indonesia, continued government-level exchanges and negotiations on border issues with China, and worked with ASEAN to promote the effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and construction of the Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC), etc.

Fourth, in multilateral diplomatic activities, we have actively shifted from "attending" to intrinsically, "proactively and actively participating" in the process of building and shaping general rules of regional and international organizations and fora.

We have actively contributed to activities of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Organization Internationale de la Francophonie, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), Lancang-Mekong Cooperation Mechanism, the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA), and Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU), successfully hosted the 7th Ayeyawady Chao Phraya Mekong Economic Cooperation Strategy (ACMECS), the 8th Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Viet Nam Summit (CLMV), the World Economic Forum (WEF) on the Mekong Region for the first time. Our proposals and initiatives in ASEAN, APEC, ASEM, etc. received positive responses from our friends and partners.

Viet Nam has performed well its role as a member of the important agencies of the United Nations such as the Human Rights Council, the World Heritage Committee, the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), the UNESCO Executive Board, etc. For the first time ever, a Vietnamese representative was elected to the United Nations International Law Commission (ILC).

The preparations for APEC Viet Nam 2017 have basically completed. APEC members expressed their support for the theme "Creating New Dynamism, Fostering a Shared Future" proposed by Viet Nam. In other cooperation mechanisms of defense, security and other fields, we have also engaged more deeply, more substantial, especially at ASEAN-led forums such as the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM), the ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus (ADMM+), the ASEAN Chiefs of Police Conference (ASEANAPOL), etc.

Fifth, we have implemented strongly the "Overall strategy for international integration through 2020, vision to 2030" in most fields. Viet Nam together with its partners officially signed the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), began implementing the Viet Nam-Eurasian Economic Union Free Trade Agreement (FTA) and the Viet Nam-EU Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA), and is about to sign the Viet Nam-EU Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). Many other important FTAs are under negotiation such as the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) and the Viet Nam-Israel FTA.

In the past year, seven more countries recognized Viet Nam’s market economy status, bringing the total number to 66. International political-diplomatic and defense-security integration has also gone into depth with positive contributions of Viet Nam in peacekeeping activities of the United Nations, mechanisms on information exchange, consultation, joint exercises within ASEAN and with major partners such as China, the United States, Japan, India, France, etc.

With the major directions mentioned above, foreign affairs have positively contributed to the maintenance of peaceful international environment conducive to national development and firm safeguard of the country’s independence and sovereignty. It can be said that external affairs made significant contributions to the general economic achievements in 2016 in which exports reached US$175.9 billion, up by 8.6%, FDI disbursement estimated at US$15.8 billion, an increase of 9%, and the number of international visitors set a new record of 10 million, up by 25% compared to that of 2015, etc.

International and regional situations are forecast to be more complex and unpredictable in 2017. Many countries will hold elections and make certain adjustments in development strategies and foreign policies, which will create multidimensional impacts on the international and regional situations, including the issues vital for the security and development of our country such as the regional environment, the centrality and unity of ASEAN, the maintenance of peace, stability and prosperity in the East Sea, etc.

We are now facing new challenges. But our country has a new position and strengths. On diplomacy, we have built up a network of strategic and comprehensive partnerships which are strong enough to stabilize the international status of the country under the volatility of the situation. What is needed is that the sector needs to double its efforts to continue with the spirit of being more proactive, active and creative.

Accordingly, the main direction of diplomacy in 2017 is to deepen relations, increase the level of interweaving of interests with neighboring countries including Laos, Cambodia, China, big countries, and ASEAN members, effectively deploy the action plan to implement Resolution No. 06/NQ-TW on effective implementation of the international economic integration process and firm maintenance of socio-political stability, and actively prepare to adequately handle problems arising in relations with other countries.

The most important external activity in 2017 is to fulfill Viet Nam’s role as the host for APEC and effectively take advantage of this opportunity to promote Viet Nam’s bilateral relations with other countries, especially China, the United States, Russia, Japan and other important partners, turn multilateral and high-level external activities into opportunities to realize the country’s security interests and development.

To do fulfill the above mentioned tasks, diplomacy in 2017 should pay full attention to the implementation of the Resolution adopted at the Party Central Committee’s 4th plenary session on enhancing the building and rectification of the Party and preventing and curbing political ideological, ethical and lifestyle degradation, as well as the manifestation of "self-evolution" and "self-transformation" inside the Party, focusing on the implementation of Directive 05-CT/TW of the Politburo on promoting learning and following the thought, morals and style of President Ho Chi Minh, an eminent diplomat in terms of both intellectual competence and personality, to build a contingent of foreign affair staff both “red and expert” to meet the requirements of the country’s deeper and broader integration in the region and the world. At the same time, further efforts should be made to improve efficiency of the coordination among dilomatic channes, and between the diplomatic sector with defense and security.

Under the sound leadership of the Party, we believe that the sector will fulfill its mission as the pioneer soldier in peacetime, continue to serve faithfully and effectively serve for the best interests of the country and the nation regardless of complex and uncertain situation./.

Pham Binh Minh

Politburo member, Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister 

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