Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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Diplomatie & Défense
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  S.E.M. / H.E. Nguyen Dinh Bin

The Doi Moi policy gets a Second wind
Thirty years after the initiation of the Doi Moi national renewal policy, the Tenth Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam will launch new measures to speed up the economic restructuring process. Former Vietnamese Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs and current Ambassador to France, H.E. Nguyen Dinh Bin discusses the transformations inside his country as well as the successes of the dynamic Franco-Vietnamese partnership.

The Diplomatic Letter: Mr. Ambassador, last year Vietnam celebrated the 30th anniversary of the country’s reunification. From your viewpoint, as a former Deputy Minister for Foreign Affairs, has Vietnam made good headway towards rebuilding its economy and reintegrating the world political stage?


H.E. Nguyen Dinh Bin : During the past 30 years, especially since the launch of the Doi Moi (reform) process, Vietnam has recorded enormous, comprehensive and historic achievements with great changes to all aspects of people’s life and the ever expansion of Vietnam’s relations with and position in the world.

The most remarkable achievement was the sustained economic growth of nearly 7.5% per year (in 1991-2005, the figure was 8.4 %) with positive economic restructuring.

The investment environment became increasingly liberal and attractive. To date, there have had 5000 foreign-invested projects with the registered capital of US$ 50 billion. Export witnessed incessant growth for many years; reaching US$ 32 billion in 2005. Vietnam is among the top exporters in such products as rice; coffee; pepper etc. The markets of stocks, finance, labour, real estate etc. have been developed with strong growth.

In parallel with economic development, the State paid special attention to the settlement of social issues. Over 1/3 out of the total investment was allocated for poverty reduction, human resource development, education-training, science – technology, health, culture etc. All aspects of people’s life were rapidly improved. GDP per capita was doubled in the 1995 – 2003 period. Vietnam was rated by the United Nations as one of the leading country in poverty reduction (the number of poor households were halved in the past 10 years).

Under the foreign policy: “Vietnam is willing to be a friend and reliable partner of all countries”, Vietnam has established diplomatic relations with 168 nations and trade ties with 165 countries and territories. The country has been an active member of many international and regional organisations and forums, including the UN, ASEAN, APEC; ASEM, Non-Aligned Movement etc. We are now moving very close to realising our WTO membership.


T.D.L.: At the 2001 Ninth Party Congress, the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) reaffirmed the Doi Moi renewal policy initiated in 1986 and expanded the powers of the Vietnamese National Assembly. As the Tenth Party Congress grows near, could you outline the key areas in which the CPV plans to continue pushing forward with reforms?


H.E.N.D.B.: At present, Vietnam is actively preparing for the 10th National Party Congress. On the basis of the experience drawn out of the 20 years of Doi Moi, we will continue to intensify reforms to realise the target of moving Vietnam out of underdevelopment.

Economically, we will improve more strongly the business environment to facilitate the raising of productivity and competitiveness and ensure equality in production and business for all domestic and foreign individuals and institutions.

We will soon promulgate some new policies to increase the attraction of foreign investment in all economic sectors, create more favourable conditions for the private sector while raising the efficacy of investment, combat extravagance and loss of capital and accelerate the rearrangement and equitization of state owned enterprises (SOEs).

We will continue with the process of proactive international economic integration, deliver on the AFTA commitments and join the WTO in an earliest possible time. We will review, amend and supplement the institutional systems and enhance the implementation capacity to meet the demand of Doi Moi and requirements of the WTO.

Political reform will be implemented in parallel with economic reform in accordance with our own conditions and circumstances, which includes: raise the role of elected bodies, especially the National Assembly with priority given to legislative and oversight functions, enhance the democratic rights of the people at the grass-root level and forge an open society. At present there are over 600 newspapers in Vietnam; media agencies are encouraged to raise their voices. Thanks to these correct steps, Vietnam has achieved social stability and high economic growth rate.


T.D.L.: Several religious prisoners were released in early 2005, as Prime Minister Phan Van Khai approved a special measure banning the practice of forcing people to renounce their faith. Could you tell our readers what else is being done to strengthen democracy and ensure freedom of religion in your country?

H.E.N.D.B.: The Vietnamese constitution and laws ensure the fundamental rights and freedoms of each person while also laying down responsibilities and obligations of citizens to the nation under the principle: “all citizens are equal before the law”.

Vietnam has made tireless efforts to maintain political stability and economic development with great progress made in the social domain. Our socio-economic achievements and the incessant improvement of people’s life help create better premises and material conditions for the implementation and promotion of people’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

Our country has been recognised by the world as among the top countries in terms of poverty reduction where political and social environment is highly stable and people’s rights are protected.

Vietnam has speedily completing its legal system, amend existing laws and change the approach to meet the requirements of the new situation to better ensure people’s fundamental rights and freedoms.

It is the consistent policy of the State of Vietnam to respect and guarantee the right to freedom of belief and religion and freedom of non belief and religion. The Ordinance on belief and religion has established a system of fundamental rights and obligations of the people with regard to belief and religion in order to create favourable conditions for the belief and religious activities. On 1 March 2005, the Government issued Decree No 22/2005/ND-CP guiding the implementation of the Ordinance, which prohibits forcing people to follow or renounce religions or taking advantage of the rights to freedom of belief and religion to undermine peace, independence and national unity. With a view to helping Protestant dignitaries and followers to exercise their religions in accordance with the law, on 4 February 2005, the Prime Minister issued Directive No 01/2005/TTG on some tasks related to Protestantism.


T.D.L.: As Vietnam pushes forward with the transition into a market economy, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai has made joining the World Trade Organization one of his top priorities. What does Vietnam hope to gain from WTO membership? Does it have several stages of the accession process yet to complete? What is the Vietnamese government doing to improve the country’s business climate?


H.E.N.D.B.: For Vietnam, joining the WTO gives an added resources and new opportunities to speed up and raise the quality of socio-economic development. Vietnam will face fewer barriers in expanding export markets, attracting foreign investment, technology transfer and so on.

Over 10 years with great efforts, Vietnam has concluded negotiations with most of partners; including the EU. At present, we are speeding up negotiations with the remaining partners to join the WTO as early as possible.

Accession to the WTO requires Vietnam to continue accelerating economic restructuring and reform, reforming the legal system so as to be compatible with international practices, avoiding discrimination in international economic-trade relations and raising the competitiveness of domestic enterprises.

We will continue to promore economic reform with special focus raising the competitiveness of economic sectors and enterprises. Our country continue to improve the business environment by promoting the completion of the legal system to make it transparent, clear, non-discriminatory and create favourable conditions for both domestic and foreign economic sectors.

International economic integration will continue to be promoted, commitments under the AFTA framework implemented and bilateral economic ties expanded.

Concerns and opinions of the business community will continue to be heard for removing obstacles and difficulties of investors.


T.D.L.: Your country has posted average economic growth of 8% over the past ten years, making it the second most dynamic economy in Asia, behind China. While we have seen headway in reducing poverty, how do you account for the growing social inequalities and the weakness of the Vietnamese economy? The average age in your country is now around twenty-five. Could this possibly make it easier to push forward with the innovation policy and industrialize your country?


H.E.N.D.B.: Vietnam always attaches importance to sustainable economic development with economic growth linked to settlement of social issues, including rich-poor polarization. In 2002, the Government adopted the Comprehensive Poverty Reduction and Growth Strategy (CPRGS). This is the most comprehensive document reflecting Vietnam’s determination to secure fast and sustainable economic growth coupled by ensuring social progress and equality to raise people’s living standard. As mentioned earlier, over 1/3 of the total economic investment in the past years was allocated to such domains as comprehensive human development, raising of people’s well-being, poverty reduction etc.

On the other hand, though the Vietnamese economy has recorded enormous achievements in various aspects, weaknesses still remain. The pace of growth has yet to match the potentials, and most notable is the low quality of growth and low competitiveness. Economic restructuring along the line of modernisation and industrialisation remains slow. Institutions of market economy have yet to be integrated. Incomplete legal framework gives room to arbitrary application at grass-root level. Major equilibrium of the economy remains unstable and vulnerable to outside shocks.


T.D.L.: Prime Minister Phan Van Khai made an historic visit to the United States in June 2005, thirty years after the end of the Vietnam war. Vietnam signed a bilateral free trade agreement with the US in 2001. Have there been other key advances in US-Vietnam relations since the normalization of bilateral ties in 1995? How are the two countries cooperating in the defense and intelligence arenas? What do you think about the comparisons various analysts are making between the US intervention in Iraq and the war in Vietnam?


H.E.N.D.B.: Vietnam-U.S. relations have seen positive improvements. The two sides are moving towards full normalisation in all political and economic spheres; cooperation in other fields has also been expanded.

In the official visit to the U.S. by Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in June 2005, the two sides have adopted a Joint Declaration, which reaffirmed the elevation of bilateral ties to a new height through the development of constructive and friendly ties and multi-sided cooperation on the basis of equality, mutual respect and mutual benefit.

Since the entry into force of the Bilateral Trade Agreement in December 2001, bilateral trade volume rocketed from US$ 50 million in 1990 to US$ 1.5 billion in 2001. The estimated figure for 2005 is over US$ 7 billion. The U.S. has invested US$ 2 billion in 259 projects, standing as the 11 largest foreign investors in Vietnam. During the visit of Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, a number of cooperation agreements and contracts were signed with the total capital of US $ 1.4 billion. However, the potential for further expansion of bilateral trade ties remains huge.

Bilateral cooperation in security – defence has seen some major movements. The two Ministers of Defence have exchanged official visits. The two sides also worked with each other in anti-terrorism and combating transnational crimes. Agreement on Vietnam’s joining the IMET programme of the U.S. was reached.

The war in Vietnam ended 30 years ago and no one wants it to be repeated anywhere in the world.

T.D.L.: As witnessed by the agreement on the demarcation of the Bac Bo (Tonkin) Gulf, Vietnam and China appear to be pushing forward toward stabilizing bilateral relations, which have been conflictual in years past. Could this accord be the first step toward resolving other border disputes, such as the quarrels over the Spratley and the Paracel Islands? President Tran Duc Luong visited China in July 2005; his Chinese counterpart visited Vietnam the following October. Should we expect to see closer cooperation between the two countries, and if so, in what areas?


H.E.N.D.B.: In the past years, the Vietnam-China relations have made great strides in all areas; cooperation has increasingly been deepened in both sides’ interest. Bilateral ties have been forged under the motto: “good neighbourliness, comprehensive cooperation, long-term stability and future outlook” and under the “Joint Declaration on Comprehensive Cooperation in the New Century”.

In the recent visits made by President Tran Duc Luong and General Secretary and President Hu Jin Tao, the two sides exchanged views on a wide range of issues on bilateral ties and set out directions and major measures to strengthen mutual understanding and trust as well as promoting mutually beneficial economic and trade relations to uplift them up to the level of both sides’ potentials and the Vietnam-China good friendship.

China has become Vietnam’s largest trading partner with the trade volume reaching US$ 8 billion in 2005; the target set for 2010 is US$ 10 billion.

By the end of October 2005, China has invested US$ 732 million in 349 projects, ranking 15 among countries and territories investing in Vietnam.

In addition to the Agreement on Land border and the Fishing Agreement in the Tonkin gulf, the signing of the Agreement on Delimitation of the Tonkin gulf represents an event of great significance, laying the solid legal foundation for constructing the Vietnam-China border of peace, friendship and long-term stability that facilitates the building and development of each respective country. The two sides also desired to maintain peace and stability in the East Sea in the bilateral framework as well as multilateral agreements between China and ASEAN.


T.D.L.: Ten years after joining the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is your country more closely integrated with this region? Will abolishing customs tariffs inside the ASEAN free trade zone have a positive impact on the Vietnamese economy? Do you think economic cooperation can be successfully boosted in the Greater Mekong Sub-region? What do you think must be done to ensure lasting stability in Southeast Asia, in light of tensions with North Korea and Taiwan and the rise in terrorist activity in recent years?


H.E.N.D.B.: With Vietnam’ accession to ASEAN in July 1995, a Southeast Asia divided by two confronting blocs had been a thing of the past and a new era began, which was one of dialogue and cooperation for shared development in the interest of peace, stability and common prosperity of all Southeast Asian nations.

Vietnam has played its role as an active member of ASEAN with practical contribution to the reinforcement of solidarity and protection of ASEAN’s ground principles as well as in raising the role, prestige and position of the Association. What Vietnam has done was highly appreciated by other Members of the grouping.

Bilateral relations between Vietnam and each ASEAN member country have seen both quantitave and qualitative developments. At present, ASEAN makes up 30 % and 22% of trade volume and FDI respectively in Vietnam.

In the years ahead, Vietnam will strive to “raise the effectiveness and quality of cooperation with ASEAN member countries, together build a Southeast East Asia of peace, non-nuclear weapons, stability, cooperation and common development”.

Following 10 years of joining AFTA, by 1 January 2006, Vietnam has basically fulfilled the roadmap of implementation of AFTA commitments, targeting the tariff level of those in the inclusion list to 0 – 5 %. We have achieved encouraging initial results.

AFTA was an initial step and an exercise to draw experience for a more far-reaching integration in the later stage. It helped Vietnam reform and improve the mode of macroeconomic management and management of business activities and the system of economic policies and laws and regulations to create a legal framework and business environment, which is liberal and compatible to international practices. The Vietnamese enterprises enjoyed preferences in importing and exporting of goods and materials from ASEAN countries. Compared to the first year of implementing AFTA, Vietnam’s import-export turnover with ASEAN in 2004 increased by 1.8 times.

In addition, Vietnam also had to overcome many difficulties in terms of legal system, policies, management, competitiveness of Vietnamese enterprises and goods due to small-scaled production, low productivity, and disadvantaged goods structure with the majority of products being agricultural and unprocessed materials. Therefore, Vietnamese companies benefited less than those of other countries.

Concerning the Mekong sub-regional cooperation, there are various programmes and international forums on development of the subregion at present, covering many areas, of which the common objectives are to promote growth, sustainable development, poverty reduction, narrowing of development gap. The Greater Mekong Subregional cooperation (GMS) encompassing Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Myanmar and Yunnan province of China with priorities given to the development of infrastructure, energy, telecommunications, tourism, trade, human resources and environment.

Vietnam highly appreciates the initiative on subregional cooperation and is of the views that it helped bring about prosperity for the members. We hope that countries in the subregion will take joint actions to effectively utilise the resources, especially water of the Mekong River, meeting interest and demand for sustainable development of all 6 members in the subregion as well as the requirement for environment protection. Legitimate interest of the downstream countries must not be undermined, especially in terms of water for irrigation in the downstream at the right time for crops and for preventing salinity.

Concerning the Korean Peninsula, Vietnam’s consistent position is to support peace, stability, unification and denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. We support the settlement of all disagreements and disputes in the region through peaceful dialogue. Vietnam hopes that parties concerned will soon resume talks that can produce fruitful results for the maintenance of peace and stability in the region and the world.

On the Taiwan issue: Vietnam’s policy is always consistent, which is to support the “one China policy”. Vietnam’s ties with Taiwan are of non-governmental and people-to-people nature.

We hope that parties concerned will not take any action that may affect peace, stability and security in the region.


T.D.L.: In February 2005, Vietnam hosted an international conference on bird flu sponsored by the United Nations. Could you tell us what your country is doing to fight this epizootic disease? Experts attending the October 2005 bird flu conference in Ottawa, Canada called for a more vigorous international response to this problem. What do you think about the way the developed countries and international organizations are handling the risk of a potential pandemic?


H.E.N.D.B.: Vietnam sees the fight against bird flu and the pandemics in human being is an urgent and central task. Therefore, we have mobilized internal resources while soliciting assistance from and working closely with other countries, including France, Japan, Canada, Australia, United States, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Finland etc. and such international organisations as WHO, FAO, UNDP, WB, ADB, World Veterinary Organisation in planning, monitoring, exchanging information and preventing the spread of the epidemic to human. We have vaccinated all of the poultry and water-bird in Vietnam, bought, stored and negotiated on the production of anti- H5N1 medicine in Vietnam. We have taken drastic and effective measures to put an end to bird flue with positive results. To date, bird flu in Vietnam was under control.


T.D.L.: As a candidate for a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council for the 2008-09 term, what does Vietnam think of the drive to reform this multilateral institution to make it more representative of countries from the South? Prime Minister Phan Van Khai went on a tour of Africa in November 2004. Does your country lay great importance on reinforcing its ties with the African continent and enhancing south-south cooperation?


H.E.N.D.B.: Vietnam shares the common views that reform of the UN after 60 years represents a pressing demand and the desire of all members. UN reform must first and foremost aim to raise the effectiveness and democracy in its mode of operation on the basis of consolidating and strengthening the fundamental principles of the Charter. The reform must be conducted in a comprehensive manner to ensure the balance between the goals of maintenance of peace and security and development. It is also necessary to ensure an equal representation among regions and interest of developing nations while reflecting the current balance of forces. The central role and powers of the General Assembly, which has the equal participation of all member countries, needs to be enhanced. On this note, Vietnam supports development-related proposals enshrined in the Documents of the Summit in September 2005.

The Security Council needs to be enlarged, both for permanent and non-permanent membership with satisfactory representation of developing nations. The organ’s democracy and transparency must be raised to guarantee that the Security Council acts on the basis of representing all UN members as stipulated in the Charter.

Vietnam and Africa enjoy fine traditional relations with a great deal of similarity. The two sides have actively supported and assisted each other in their past struggle for national independence. Vietnam attaches importance to relations with African countries, especially following the visit to some African nations of Vietnamese Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in November 2004. Visits at high level as well as ministerial and sectoral levels have been exchanged for fact-finding, market exploration and discussion of cooperation measures.

Our has adopted a Plan for the expansion of relations with African countries for 2005-2010, established the Vietnam-Africa Friendship and Cooperation Association, Vietnam-Africa Business Forum and Vietnam-Africa e-commerce portal ( Trade volume between Vietnam and Africa increased from US$ 220 million in 2002 to US$ 559 million in 2004 and by September 2005 reached US$ 716 million.

Vietnam has also actively participated in the tri-partite South-South cooperation in agricultural, which is a very promising cooperation model and suitable to the existing development conditions, meeting the aspiration and practical needs of the parties.

In the past 9 years, with the support of FAO, Vietnam signed agreements on exchange of experts and technicians with Senegal (1996), Benin (1998), Republic of Congo (1999), Madagascar (2000) and most recently Mali.

T.D.L.: In October 2004 Hanoi hosted the Fifth Asia-Europe Summit Meeting (ASEM 5). With China and the United States still Vietnam’s top strategic partners, what role does the European Union play in your country’s foreign policy? Could you describe the key arenas of Hanoi-Brussels cooperation?


H.E.N.D.B.: The E.U. is an important political, economic, scientific-technological and cultural centre of the world with two out of the five permanent seats at the UN Security Council. It makes up four out of eight leading industrialised countries characterised by the status as the cradle of the industrial revolution with solid foundation of social development, public welfare, time-honoured cultural tradition and diverse nationalities and one of the root of mankind’s civilisation.

At the time of the ASEM 5 summit in Hanoi in October 2004, the EU just had 10 new members from Central and Eastern Europe, which brought all together 25 members. With that, EU’s global position was raised. The EU continued to stand as an example of regional integration at the highest level. It has the strength and expertise in terms of capital, science and technology and adopts a rather “generous” development cooperation policy with the world’s leading ODA ratio of 0.34% of GDP. The EU has an increasingly important voice in addressing major global issues.

For Vietnam, EU always assumes an extremely important position. At present, EU is our top trading partner, accounting for 25 % of Vietnam’s total trade volume with the annual growth of 15-20% per annum, reaching US$ 7 billion in 2005. EU’s investment in Vietnam amounted to about US$ 7 billion in projects with high volume of technology and technology transfer. This has made considerable contributions to Vietnam’s economic growth, raised the country’s export capacity and created hundreds of thousands of new jobs. The EU is the second largest ODA provider to Vietnam with 800 million euros in 2006, out of which it served as the largest provider of grants. The EU has actively assisted Vietnam in shifting to market economy, poverty reduction, development of education and training, health and rural development. Most of EU members consider Vietnam a priority in and a success as an ODA recipient.

In June 2006 the Vietnamese Prime Minister adopted the Master plan for Vietnam- EU relations until 2010 and directions to 2015 accompanied by the Government’s action plan. This represents a new, comprehensive, and long-term framework for Vietnam-EU relations with economic and trade bonds as the foundation and premises for promoting cooperation in other areas.

Here are the outlines of Vietnam-EU relations:

– Maintain high-level contacts and establish annual dialogue mechanism to enhance mutual understanding and trust;

– Encourage direct contacts among Ministries and Agencies of Vietnam and EU High Commissioners, Commissions and Department Generals as well as among various circles and localities to promote cooperation in specific areas;

– Conduct open and straightforward dialogues in the fields of mutual concerns, including such issues as institutional reform, state governance, human rights, religions, nationalities etc.

– Conduct military and security exchange to raise mutual understanding and trust;

– Proactively promote dialogue and cooperation between ASEAN and EU and that within ASEM in a pragmatic and effective manner, especially in economic-trade and science and technology to produce benefits to both sides;

– Work closely with each other in a constructive manner in international forums, especially the UN in the interest of peace, cooperation and development.

T.D.L.: After the June 2005 visit to France by the Secretary General of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nong Duc Manh, President Chirac proposed that France become “Vietnam’s partner of reference.” How would you describe the current political dialogue between our two countries, more than 50 years after the signing of the Geneva Peace Accords that brought the Indochina War to an end? Could the creation of a high council for the enhancement of economic cooperation help give Franco-Vietnamese trade a fresh boost? Could you describe some of the key successes that testify to the strong decentralized cooperation between the two countries?


H.E.N.D.B.: Vietnam-France relations are marked by a time-honoured history with numerous vicissitudes. Thanks to both sides’ sustained efforts and forward-looking approach, bilateral ties have been incessantly reinforced and seen strong growth in various areas, reflected by the encouraging results produced since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic relations on 12 April 1973. Currently, France stands among Vietnam’s leading partners in terms of economic cooperation, trade, investment and ODA.

In terms of politics, the exchange of delegations at high and other levels is carried out regularly. Late President François Mitterrand visited Vietnam in February 1993; President Jacques Chirac visited Vietnam in November 1997 and October 2004. President of Senate Christan Poncelet visited Vietnam twice, in April 2000 and in May 2003. A number of Vietnamese high-level delegations have paid official visits to France, including General Secretary Le Kha Phieu in May 2005, Secretary General Nong Duc Manh in June 2005, President Tran Duc Luong in June 2005, President of the National Assembly Nong Duc Manh in September 1993, Prime Minister Vo Van Kiet in June 1993, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in April 1998.

France always takes the lead among the European countries and currently ranks 6th among the 66 countries and territories investing in Vietnam with the total capital of almost 2.2 billion euros in nearly 150 projects, concentrating mainly on Vietnam’s targeted industries, such as heavy industry, transport and communication, post and telecommunications, processing of agricultural products, energy and water supply.

France is one of Vietnam’s leading trade partners in Western Europe with the growth rate of 10% in the past 5 years, reaching 1.2 billion euros in 2004; the estimation for 2005 is 1.4 billion euros in 2005.

Vietnam has access to all three sources of financial aid from France and ranks seventh among France’s ODA recipients with a total funding of more than one billion euros in more than 200 projects, which have been shown good effect and contributed considerably to Vietnam’s poverty reduction efforts, particularly in far-flung areas. Vietnam appreciates France’s continued commitment to increase ODA for Vietnam. December 2004 saw a three-fold ODA increase, amounting to 334.4 million euros. In December 2005, France made another increase of 5.4 million euros, lifting the total figure to 339.8 million euros. Cooperation at local-level has been boosted with the existing of 650 projects from over 560 French partners. In addition, 150 cooperation agreements have been signed between universities, 50 projects among research institutions and 25 agreements among hospitals. The 6th meeting on Franco-Vietnamese local cooperation, the biggest ever event of this sort organized in Hue from 16th to 17th May 2005, is indicative of the diverse and dynamic cooperation between the two countries.

France maintains an annual budget of about 10 million euros for its cooperation with Vietnam in the fields of culture, education, sciences and technology. During the past 10 years, the number of Vietnamese students in France has increased by 40%. In the academic year of 2005-2006, 3,000 Vietnamese under- and post-graduates are studying in France.

The two countries hold common views on a wide range of regional and international issues. Both are in favour of a central role played by the United Nations and striving for the building of a world of peace, stability, democracy, justice, cooperation for development and respect for human rights. Political-strategic dialogues between the two countries are organized annually in a spirit of openness and mutual trust. Vietnam and France, one considering the other as the entry to ASEAN and EU respectively, are working closely in the Francophonie, ASEM, ASEAN-EU and other international organizations.

The achievements recorded over the past three decades are of great importance, laying a firm foundation for the two countries to further bilateral relations of traditional friendship and long-term and comprehensive cooperation on the basis of mutual trust as agreed by the high-ranking leaders of the two countries.


T.D.L.: There are nearly 300,000 Vietnamese living inside France, which has the second largest Vietnamese community outside the country, behind the United States. Has this helped to build closer ties between our countries? As a former Chairman of the Committee for Vietnamese Living Abroad, can you tell us what role the diaspora plays in your country’s image outside its borders?


H.E.N.D.B.: As a big Vietnamese community living overseas and having a long history of formation and development, the Vietnamese people in France have to date integrated themselves deeply into the French society, to which they have made certain contribution.

The Vietnamese community in France represent the interface of the Franco -Vietnam cultures. They always wish to maintain strong ties with their homeland. Therefore, the Vietnamese community in France are well-positioned as a friendship bridge to promote mutual understanding between the two countries and contribute to strengthening bilateral relations in various fields, ranging from economics, culture, science, education, and at the same time, make the image of Vietnam in France and the world more visible.


T.D.L. : During the Francophonie Festival 2005, held last March, your country announced it would step up its involvement with the French-speaking community. How does it plan to go about doing this? Vietnam has been a member country of the International Agency of the Francophonie since 1979. What can it do to ensure the French language continues to be used, with the High Council of La Francophonie reporting that only 1% of Vietnamese still speak French ?


H.E.N.D.B.: Vietnam’s policy toward the Francophonie is consistent, which is active, responsible and constructive participation in activities of the community. We communicate strongly this policy to all Ministries, Agencies and people so that they can fully grasp it. We have made active contributions to ensure the on-the-track development of Francophonie in various forums, such as Summit in New York to review the implementation of the Millennium Goals and the 21st Francophonie Ministerial Meeting in Madagascar. We also created favourable conditions for such organisations as OIF and AUF to expand their operations in Vietnam.

The level of French language use is only one of the two criteria for acceding to Francophonie. For Vietnam, the maintenance and promotion of French language will also of help to our international integration efforts. The Prime Minister has approved the Master Plan on the strategy for foreign language teaching, through which the reaching and learning of French is institutionalised. French has long been taught in various forms at all levels of our education system. With the effective cooperation of OIF and AUF, such programmes as “bilingual at school level”, “specialised faculty of Francophonie university education” or “French as the second foreign language” have been implemented successfully. Vietnam also promotes the use of French in the mass media, strengthens exchange of culture and arts with French-speaking countries and facilitates the operation of Francophonie in Vietnam.

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