First US visit by Party leader marks progress in bilateral ties

US Ambassador Ted Osius spoke to local media about US-Vietnam bilateral relations as the two countries mark the 20th anniversary of normalised relations.

Q: As we celebrate this important year, it's also time to look ahead for the next 20 years. What do you think are the most important facets of our relations?

A: Our plans for this year are very ambitious.

We will have a big celebration on July 2 but that's only one of the events that we are holding in the course of all 12 months of this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary. We are engaged in 20th anniversary events in all of 63 provinces of Vietnam this year.

Even more important than the events is what our two countries are accomplishing together. In 2013, our two presidents declared a comprehensive partnership with 9 pillars where we could emphasise collaborations.

We are making progresses in every single one of the areas outlined in the joint statement between our two presidents. The US supports a strong, prosperous and independent Vietnam that respects human rights and the rule of law.

As long as I'm ambassador, we will work in as many areas as possible to support Vietnam's success. I was here when we first began this relationship and for me, it's a great privilege and honor to come back to Vietnam in the capacity as ambassador.

The reason I can talk about a comprehensive partnership and the 9 pillars of cooperation is because many people in Vietnam and the US worked very hard to create the conditions for our two countries to cooperate in so many areas at so many levels.

So I believe it's my responsibility to build the strongest possible foundation for the future of this relationship. In addition to completing negotiations for the TPP, I think it's tremendously important to deepen our education partnership.

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Q: How will the upcoming visit of Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong elevate the US-Vietnam relations?

A: When this visit takes place, it will be the first visit by the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam to the United States. It will be a historic visit and it's being treated as such by the leaders of the United States.

US leaders see this visit as an important opportunity to emphasise how much we have accomplished in 20 years of normalised relations and what enormous potential there is for us to do together in the next 20 years.

I predict that they will discuss issues across the range of our relationship. I mentioned there are 9 pillars. Those include political and diplomatic cooperation, economic and trade, security, science and technology, education, environment and health, people-to-people ties.

At the highest level, they discuss issues of highest importance and urgency. I understand that when he goes, the General Secretary will bring an important and powerful delegation with him. The engagement between his delegation and US counterparts is going to span all of the areas of the relationship.

So we look forward to a historic, substantive visit that helps create a joint vision of the future of our relationship.

Q: With the US Congress' recent passing of the Trade Promotion Authority Bill, do you expect this will accelerate TPP negotiations?

A: Yes, it will certainly accelerate TPP negotiations. Now that the President has secured the authority to complete the TPP negotiations, there will be pressure on all 12 of the TPP negotiating countries to conclude negotiations.

As the least developed economy among the 12 countries negotiating the TPP, Vietnam also stands to benefit the most and experts estimate that TPP could boost Vietnam's economy by as much as 30% of its GDP.

The US and Vietnam and 10 other negotiating countries now must make the hard decision to bring negotiations to a close. TPP will accelerate Vietnam's comprehensive international integration and so I would urge Vietnam and all other negotiating partners to use this opportunity to close the deal now.

Q: Coming back to Vietnam after 20 years, what has impressed you the most?

A: First of all, Vietnam has changed enormously since I was here last time. That provides different opportunities from the once I had in the past. Vietnam is much more prosperous than when I was here before and much more open and modern. Vietnam has adopted a policy of comprehensive international integration, which creates enormous opportunities.

Vietnam has 30 million people on Facebook and 40 million using the Internet. And people talk about everything, so that makes it very exciting and especially young people have very great hopes for the future of Vietnam.

In my experiences, Vietnamese are not only hard-working and smart, they are also optimistic and have great hopes for the future.