By Mr Ly Quoc Tuan, Ambassador of Viet Nam to Myanmar
In celebration of the coming 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Viet Nam and Myanmar (May 28th, 2020), and having experienced a short, but warm and wonderful stay in Myanmar, allow me to share some of my thoughts about the ties between our two countries:
Before Myanmar began its reform a decade ago, Viet Nam – Myanmar bilateral relationship was traditional and cordial. Thanks to the welcomed, and very significant reforms that were introduced by U Thein Sein government – including important economic reforms that have helped reduce poverty by more than 40 per cent -today, Viet Nam and Myanmar are close and trusted partners, bilaterally and multilaterally. Our relations have expanded and deepened in all fields. Our trade today is the biggest it’s ever been, and is bound to continue on its upward trajectory. Our exchanges, in culture, in tourism, and in ideas have flourished. Our cooperation within ASEAN, at the UN, and other regional bodies have also taken off, helping us both to achieve the shared goal of prosperity and sustainable development.
Over the past 45 years, our relations have grown in all respects, bringing benefits to both our peoples. Our political relations have expanded and deepened, as evidenced by the growing exchange between our leaders – both bilaterally and at multilateral forums. Within the past 4 years, we have had 4 top-level delegations visiting each other1, and our Heads of Governments frequently meet at regional and international forums, including ASEAN, the EAS, ARF and the UN. These visits and meetings have laid historic milestones, set new directions and created significant momentum for the further development of relations.
Today, our relations is a “Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership” – known as the CCP framework. This agreement was inked by both sides in August 2017 during the State visit to Myanmar by Vietnamese General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong. The CCP framework helps to promote and strengthen existing bilateral cooperation mechanisms, realize signed agreements and seek new opportunities for cooperation in line with the principles of the UN and ASEAN Charters, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia and universally recognized norms of international law… It focuses on accelerating the five pillars of cooperation between our two countries: i) Political Relations; (ii) Defense and security cooperation; (iii) Economic cooperation; (iv) Cultural, social, people exchange and other areas of common interest; (v) Cooperation at regional and international forums.
During his official visit to Myanmar in December 2019, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc also signed 4 important documents including the Plan of Action for implementation of the Viet Nam-Myanmar Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership for the 2019-2024 period2. These significant documents are instructions for the development of the relationship between the two countries with a long-term vision and increasingly deep and durable cooperation.
As part of the realization of this Plan of Action, exchange of visits at ministerial and vice ministerial levels have stepped up, taking place not only among Ministries, but also between Parliamentary Committees, and social organizations, including such organizations as the Viet Nam Union of Friendship Organizations, the Women’s Union, or the Farmers’ Association.
Defence and security cooperation have also been enhanced and deepened as a result. Discussions currently are underway to hold defence policy dialogue at the Deputy Minister of Defence and Chief of General staff levels; expansion of cooperation in potential areas such as strengthened cooperation in combatting crimes related to national security at national and regional levels are also in the pipeline. In addition, both sides have agreed to promote and maintain bilateral cooperation mechanisms such as the Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation, the Joint Sub-Committee on Trade, and the Political Consultations at Deputy Foreign Minister level.
In order to fruitfully implement the CCP Plan of Action, culture and religion cooperation could be prioritized which in turn can further foster bilateral relations, upgrade and strengthen the CCP. With that in mind, the Vietnamese embassy in Myanmar will include cultural activities and exchanges in this year’s functions such as the 75th National Day of Viet Nam reception in September, commemoration of the 45th Anniversary of Establishment of Diplomatic Relations among others.
Our trading relations has also seen much growth. Our trade has grown to 953 millions USD in 2019, from just 860.1 million USD in 2018. Viet Nam is currently the 7th largest investor in Myanmar, with over 2.1 billion USD invested in over 25 projects. There are now over 200 Vietnamese companies doing business in Myanmar, and I hope they will be successful, making responsible, sustainable investment and business decisions here in Myanmar just as they are encouraged to do so in Viet Nam. We look forward to working with Myanmar counterparts to continue to create favourable environment for Vietnamese investors to explore potential cooperation opportunities in Myanmar and strive to reach the target of bilateral trade turnover of 1 billion USD in the near future.
With the flurry of recent political exchanges, new fields of investment and business opportunities have also been promoted such as automobile manufacturing and assembly, hi-tech agricultural production (organic vegetables, processed food), hi-tech application products (smart TV, smart homes) with such flagship projects and investments as Mytel Joint Venture and HAGL-THACO. The opening of industrial zones in Myanmar with preferential incentives could soon also become a reality with efforts from both sides, boosting bilateral trade and becoming a prime example of the success potential .
For its part, Viet Nam has become a destination of choice for regional and international investors and businesses in recent years, boasting a highly-skilled, competitive work force, business-oriented policies geared towards sustainable development, and the largest market on mainland Southeast Asia. Thanks to its comprehensive, consistent approach to reform and development for over 3 decades, its consistent, average annual growth of over 6.5% during this period, and having identified key breakthroughs for new drivers of growth: institutional, human resource, and infrastructure, Viet Nam has been an economic success story in the region, quickly becoming a hub powering not only its national development, but also that of the region.
Today, Viet Nam has trading relations with over 200 countries and territories. It is among several ASEAN members taking part in new, next-generation FTAs, including the CPTPP, the EVFTA, and is also party to the current RCEP negotiations. Thanks to the developmental state mindset of its current administration, the ratification and implementation of these important FTAs have created new drivers for growth, generated further economic reforms, and increase the competitiveness of its economy. The World Economic Forum currently ranks Vietnam’s competitiveness at 67/141 countries and territories. In the post Covid-19 era, the government has also identified 5 key breakthroughs for the economy: promotion of domestic investment, exports, public investment, domestic consumption, and FDI attraction. In 2019, Viet Nam attracted over 38 billion USD in FDI, and saw export surplus of nearly 10 billion USD.
Our people to people relations has been on the rise as well. We saw the increasing number of Myanmar tourists, students and investors coming to Viet Nam, and roughly 48,000 Vietnamese visitors to Myanmar in 20193. As Myanmar is undergoing a comprehensive reform, steadily moving towards a modern state that is peaceful, democratic, prosperous and open, Viet Nam firmly supports Myanmar’s path of development most appropriate to its national conditions. Viet Nam looks forward to and is ready to assist Myanmar in keeping its development momentum of political stability, economic development and social harmony and that Myanmar can achieve national peace and reconciliation as soon as possible.
The Buddha has taught us: “However many holy words you read, however many you speak, what good will they do you if you do not act on upon them?” As a dominantly Buddhist country, Viet Nam has showcased this teaching in a substantive and timely manner most recently through its assistance for Myanmar during the initial outbreak of Covid-19. Viet Nam has shown her support and solidarity to the Asean nations amid Covid-19 pandemic by giving her assistance of medical equipment, such as, medical masks, ventilators, test kits, and of finance support to the Association members. Myanmar’s Ambassador to Viet Nam has received a donation of US$ 50,000 from the representative of the Government of Viet Nam on April 10th 2020 in Hanoi Capital. Another donation worths of 7.5 million Kyats campaigned by the Embassy of Viet Nam in Myanmar, donated by Vietnamese community and businessmen in Myanmar, handed over to Chief Minister of the Regional Government of Yangon on May 8th 2020. These are a clear expression of our Comprehensive Cooperative Partnership between the two Governments and two peoples.
As a member of the global community of nations, the Government of Myanmar has confirmed its commitment to the realization of the Sustainable Development Goals. It has developed a comprehensive social, economic and environmental policy reform agenda, known as the Myanmar Sustainable Development Plan (MSDP) which provides a unifying and coherent roadmap for all future reforms, and is Myanmar’s national development vision, a long-term vision of a peaceful, prosperous and democratic country.
Based on our own experience with successfully realizing the MDGs ahead of schedule, and given that Viet Nam is on target to realize the SDGs with our own sets of national indicators and goals, we can offer Myanmar many lessons in realizing the MSDP, and hope to learn from Myanmar’s experience as well.
International and regional cooperation:
Regionally, Vietnam’s embassy in Myanmar maintains close coordination with its counterparts in all cooperation aspects, to consolidate and promote ASEAN solidarity and resilience, strengthen ASEAN centrality and accelerate coordination in sustainable development, connectivity, information and communication technology. On the international arena, Viet Nam has provided much support for Myanmar at the UN General Assembly and within the Security Council on resolutions contrary to Myanmar’s common position, and will continue to lend our political support in Myanmar’s interests to ensure peace, stability and development.
However, as Daw Aung San Suu Kyi has put it: “Whatever help we may want from the international community now or in the future, we want to make sure that this help is tailored to help our people to help themselves.” Viet Nam understands this sentiment very well given our own experience with rising out of isolation, and our intentions and actions are always guided by this maxim.
This year, as Viet Nam assumes the role of ASEAN Chairman, AIPA Chairman, and UNSC non-permanent member with a rotating presidency, and equipped with aspirations to be a more responsible regional member, it is uniquely positioned to further the interests of ASEAN and the organization’s members. As such, Viet Nam looks forward to working closely with Myanmar and other members to further issues of common concern and global interests.
Viet Nam is a strong believer of complying with international law, and that increased cooperation, solidarity and confidence building at the regional and global level are critical to maintaining peace and stability in the world. The principles and mandates of the UN, as well as those values espoused by the ASEAN Charter, particularly those related to sovereignty, and sovereign rights, territorial integrity, non-use of violence and peaceful resolution of disputes play key roles in preventing global conflicts and building a sustainable peace. In our region, ASEAN’s success story has turned Southeast Asia from a war-ravaged and deeply divisive region into a region of amity and cooperation. ASEAN has a track record, and has proven the critical role that international/regional organizations play in maintaining, peace, security and stability in the region and the world. It is Viet Nam’s goal to continue to carry on this tradition, and practice it in reality.
The bilateral relation has been time tested. Viet Nam and Myanmar has got an invaluable friendship and trust. Both countries have common things to advance forward for peace, stability, prosperity and development.