Vietnam joining ASEAN: The first breakthrough in the integration process

Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh.

 (Photo: Reunification / VNA)
This July 28, 2015 marks the 20 years of Vietnam joining the ASEAN. On this occasion, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh have answered media questions.
Here is the full interview by Vietnamplus.
- As the Deputy Prime Minister, what do you think about the importance of Vietnam joining the ASEAN 20 years ago? What achievement Vietnam has made to the success of ASEAN during the past 20 years?
Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh: First, the decision of joining ASEAN is a right and wise strategy of the Party and State because it gave Vietnam the benefits and practical importance that embrace the favorable international environment to the purpose of building and defending the country.
Vietnam joining ASEAN hits a milestone and is the first breakthrough in the international integration process of the country that contributes to the multi-lateralization and diversification implementation guideline of foreign relations that the Seventh Party Congress has devised.
At the same time, results of Vietnam joining ASEAN have come to a shape and are the basis for the innovative thinking of Vietnam’s foreign policy, which is the thinking about extensive and comprehensive international integration.
Second, compared to many ASEAN members, Vietnam at some level still lags behind the level of development. However, we can be proud of the increasingly important contribution of Vietnam during 20 years for the Association.
Shortly after joining ASEAN, we have been actively promoting ASEAN to admit Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar, although faced with many obstacles. Vietnam has become a bridge connecting continental South East Asia with island Southeast Asian and the dream of a large family of 10 ASEAN member countries became a reality in 1999.
Strategically, the fact that Vietnam and members altogether driving ASEAN on the right track is the biggest contribution of Vietnam. What can be mentioned is the Vietnam’s mark in the strategic documents of the Association in Vision 2020, the Declaration of ASEAN Concord II, the ASEAN Charter, the Roadmap for the ASEAN Community (2009-2015). Currently, we are getting involved in building the ASEAN Community Vision after 2015 with the goal of making a greater ASEAN integration, operating on the basis of law and people-centered.
Having overcome the initial surprise, only three years after joining ASEAN, Vietnam successfully hosted the ASEAN Summit in Hanoi 6th (12/1998) with significant results, including Hanoi Action Plan; contributing to the development of the Association; helping ASEAN overcome the financial crisis in the area at the time. In particular, Vietnam has successfully completed the role of Chairman of ASEAN 2010 with the substantive results, contributing to the "culture of compliance" and concretize an important step of ASEAN Community in 2015, enhancing the role and international position of the Association.
Surely many will be surprised to learn that despite of being a "latecomer," low level of development, Vietnam is among the leading countries in implementing measures to build the ASEAN Economic Community, impressive hit rate 93.5% versus 90.5% average level of ASEAN countries. We also participate fully and deeply into cooperation activities in the field of security-politic, socio-cultural and foreign relations.
In particular, Vietnam has played an important role in promoting the expansion and institutionalization of the framework of ASEAN relations with major countries and important partners. In the ASEAN Chair in 2010 in Vietnam, decided to expand the East Asia Summit (EAS) to admit America and Russia, the first Conference of ASEAN DEFENCE MINISTERS MEETING-PLUS (ADMM +), represent ASEA to attend the G-20 Summit in South Korea and Canada to show that Vietnam have expressed vision beyond the region.
It can be said Vietnam joining ASEAN proves that the future of the region will be better shaped by the path of integration, dialogue and cooperation.
- ASEAN Community will be expectedly established late 2015, what has Vietnam prepared to take advantage of opportunities to overcome challenges when ASEAN Community is formed?
Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh: First, the objectives and the Roadmap for the ASEAN Community by 2015 have been adopted and implemented since the beginning of 2009. Thus, the formation of the ASEAN Community that is expected later this year is not is a single event, but a process, and Vietnam has actively participated and contributed significantly to the process.
Since ASEAN set goals of community building, we have prepared very early, with the close guidance of the Party and State leaders, has set out the objectives, orientations and measures and steps to take advantage of opportunities and overcome the challenges involved in the process of ASEAN integration.
Therefore, as I said, Vietnam is at the forefront of the implementation of measures to build the ASEAN Economic Community, an impressive hit rate 93.5% versus 90.5% average level of countries ASEAN. We also participate fully and deeply into cooperation activities in the fields of politics-security, socio-cultural and foreign relations.
ASEAN integration is an important part and is integrated into the program, an action plan to implement the policy of regional integration and internationalization of the Party and State. Accordingly, we have implemented many positive national action programs to improve the country's politics, foreign affairs, defense and security, economics and socio-culture.
During the implementation process, we always focus on the integration of the goal of building the ASEAN Community by the national action program as well as international integration. We have regularly reviewed the commitments and agreements of ASEAN cooperation and the status of implementation for timely policy adjustments and appropriate measures, including adjusting the rules and regulations of the country in line with international commitments to facilitate the implementation of ASEAN agreements.
We also soon consolidate, strengthen organizational apparatus and the coordination between the ministries involving in ASEAN cooperation; promote the training and retraining of staff; promote the dissemination and promote ASEAN to raise awareness and encourage all classes of people involving in the process of ASEAN integration.
The formation of the ASEAN Community has created both opportunities and challenges for Vietnam and other member countries. On opportunity, we have peaceful environment and stability to focus on developing economics and society as well as enlist the sympathy and support of other countries in dealing with these challenges security and our development, especially in protecting the sovereignty and interests in the South China Sea.
We have a greater chance of accessing markets inside and outside the region, while attracting investment and increasing business from outside. We have conditions to enhance capacity opportunities to receive information, science and technology, modern management experience and resources, training and capacity enhancing of staff to make positive development transfer in the construction and improvement of policies, rules and procedures in the country to be more suitable with international integration requirements.
We have substituted and favorable conditions to expand and strengthen relations with non-ASEAN partners, especially major powers, as well as greater participation in the framework of international cooperation and inter-regional wider; thereby contributing to enhancing the role and international position of Vietnam.
On challenges, the following main aspects can be mentioned: We will face many difficulties in promoting deeper integrated ASEAN as well as to strengthen solidarity, unity and vital role of the Association in the region mainly because there are still differences in the institutional, level of development and national interests among member countries. We will see more intense competition in the implementation of commitments on economic links, because the competitiveness of our country's economy remains limited. We should prepare for better internal policy and invest more in resources in the implementation of the commitments of ASEAN, including adjustment policies, laws, regulations and administrative procedures in the country accordingly with international commitments.
- The theme of the ASEAN in 2015 is people-centered, so Deputy Prime Minister wants to transfer what message to the people of Vietnam on the occasion of the ASEAN Community to be formed later this year?
Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh: Although the theme "people-centric" is the main theme of this year, but we can say, this is an overarching goal of ASEAN in recent years, and especially the next time when forming the ASEAN Community. On this occasion, I would like to emphasize some sense of this subject as follows:
On one hand, this goal requires leaders of ASEAN members to uphold the responsibility for the country's leaders and the leaders of the Association in order to ensure peace, stability and sustainable development, improve quality of people's lives, create practical development and opportunities for the individual and the community.
On the other hand, every citizen should be aware that we are not only a part of the ASEAN but the ASEAN; ASEAN's future is the future of our own. Joining ASEAN has brought Vietnam many significant benefits and practicality. We, Vietnamese people, will benefit from the general benefits from the fruits of cooperation in the fields of politics-security, economics and socio-culture. Many benefits can be abstract, but very meaningful.
We are living in an environment of peace, security and stability; in friendship and solidarity with the Member States with a sense of community cohesion; better support for social security network; more favorable business environment; accessible and high quality goods at reasonable prices; more convenient to travel to ASEAN countries; have opportunities to find employment in ASEAN countries.
ASEAN integration and international integration is the common cause, not only for the government but also of the entire population. The Government hopes every citizen will participate actively and proactively in the process of ASEAN integration, promotes a sense of community, the practical benefits for individual citizens themselves.
On 29 May 07 2015