During my recent visit to the United States, I was told that Vietnam-U.S. relations had entered a new chapter and sketches of a bright future had been shaped. I suppose this is a completely correct assessment. We have good reasons, however, not to stop at only sketches. Instead, we should continue to draw the whole picture.
Despite the geographical distance between our two countries, the relationship between Vietnam and the United States goes back almost to the birth of America. Thomas Jefferson in 1787 tried to obtain rice seed from Vietnam for his Virginia farm. Then, the first efforts to establish relations between the two countries started with the visit to Vietnam by Admiral Edmund Roberts in 1832 and the two visits to the United States in 1873 and 1875 by Mr. Bui Vien, a senior diplomat under the Nguyen dynasty. Entering the 20th century, the two countries enjoyed a period of cooperation in the fight of mankind against fascism. And in 1945, the Declaration of Independence of a new Vietnam opened with Jefferson’s immortal words, “All men are created equal; they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights; among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.”
These testify to the fact that even in the previous centuries, the two countries had found common interests and values and potential for cooperation. Regrettably, the bilateral relationship, instead of evolving as expected, had undergone vicissitudes and even a sorrowful past. After many lost years, however, in both the immediate and long-term interests of the two countries, Vietnam and the United States again realized that they have things in common to build on rather than a past that may separate them. Following efforts from both sides, bilateral relations were normalized in 1995. Since then, Vietnam-U.S. relations have shown their strong vitality. The most impressive thing to many is the growth of economic relations. Only 10 years after normalization, bilateral trade volume increased nearly twentyfold. Many leading US businesses with well-known brands such as Boeing, Ford, Microsoft, Intel and GE are now present in Vietnam. With Vietnam’s membership in the World Trade Organization and the United States’ establishment of Permanent Normal Trade Relations with Vietnam, more opportunities have opened up for expanding bilateral economic relations.
Besides economic cooperation, the Vietnam-U.S. relationship has expanded to other fields of culture, education and sports, as well as cooperation against nontraditional security threats including terrorism and transnational crime. In particular, goodwill and close cooperation in solving the war legacies have an important role to play in promoting cooperation in other fields. Even on issues where there are differences due to historical background, traditions, culture, customs and development levels, the two sides have established dialogue and cooperation mechanisms to narrow the differences.
After a dozen years of normalization, unprecedented opportunities are unfolding now for Vietnam and the United States to build a more sustainable, fruitful relationship. Bilateral ties are built on the two countries’ common interests and concerns: commerce, culture, science and technology, education, regional peace and stability, the fight against terrorism, preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, humanitarian assistance to combat HIV/AIDS, avian influenza, and the lingering wounds of war. For Vietnam, the United States is always a key partner, and Vietnam’s commitment to multifaceted cooperation with the United States is sincere and steadfast.
Vietnam has emerged today as one of the most dynamic and rapidly growing economies in the world. Known as a new rising star in Asia, Vietnam offers an attractive business and investment environment, driven by a youthful and friendly population who are exceedingly optimistic about the future. In the international arena, Vietnam is showing itself more and more to be a responsive and reliable partner. And I know that a stable and prosperous Vietnam is also the wish of the American government and people.
Amid such robust development of bilateral ties, I paid an official visit to the United States for the first time and met with President Bush. What came out of our meeting was that our bilateral relations have recorded tremendous achievements and we are on the threshold of a new development stage. We agreed that Vietnam and the United States will develop our friendship and constructive partnership on a broad, in-depth and effective base. We also agreed on how to promote bilateral cooperation in politics, economy and commerce, science and technology and education, and to settle issues left behind by the war and other issues of mutual concern. Most notably, during my visit, the two countries signed a trade and investment framework agreement and many other economic deals, exemplifying vividly how the two countries are bound together.
History again shows that the two countries, once separated by a sorrowful past, have common interests and values to build on. The first sketches of a new chapter have taken shape, and Vietnam and the United States are ready to draw the whole picture now.
H.E Nguyen Minh Triet is president of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.
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