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Wednesday, 19 June 2013 19:54
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The special Vietnam - Laos relationship in the renewal period

Vietnam and Laos officially established their diplomatic relationship on 5th September 1962. The foundation of today’s traditional friendship and the special solidarity and comprehensive cooperation between the two countries was laid by President Ho Chi Minh, President Kaysone Phomvihane and President Suphanouvong, and nurtured by generations of leaders of the Parties, States and the two nations. They have been increasingly strengthened and developed over nearly a century, bringing peace, independence and happy and comfortable life to the people of the two countries. Following the complete victory of their resistance wars against foreign invaders, Vietnam and Laos singed the Friendship and Cooperation Agreement (18th July 1977), which further asserted the determination of the leaders and people of the two countries to continue consolidating their traditional friendship relationship, special solidarity and comprehensive cooperation in the new era - the era of national construction and defence.

The 3rd Vietnam - Laos people's friendship festival, Hanoi 16th, Junly, 2012

Photo: VNA

Facing tough difficulties of the socio-economic crisis both in Vietnam and Laos in the late 1970’s and the 1980’s, the Communist Party of Vietnam and the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party looked straight at the truth, acknowleging their mistakes of subjective voluntarism, and impatience to reach socialism by adopting the centralized planned bureaucratic subsidized economy. At the 6th Congress of the Communist Party of Vietnam (December 1986) and the 4th Congress of the Lao People’s Revolutionary Party (November 1986), the two parties set forth policies for comprehensive renewal in both countries, initiatively economic renovation.

 
 
Since then, the two countries have been going abreast and supporting each other on the path of renewal. Comprehensive cooperation has brought many positive results to both countries; it has contributed greatly to their cause of national protection and the laying of the initial foundation for the socialist-oriented market economy, continuously improved the people’s living standards, enabled Vietnam to be listed among the countries with middle per capita income  in the world, and helped Laos soon move out from the underdeveloped countries; both countries have been intensified their regional and international integration, gradually raising their standing on the international arena. 
In the context of the achievements made in the implementation of the renewal process and quickly changing situations in the region and the world, the relation between Vietnam and Laos faces the objective requirements to be renewed in terms of both the content and method as well as both the mode and mechanism of cooperation, in the direction towards raising its overall efficiency and ensuring mutual benefits on the basis of mutual respect for each other’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Politically, Vietnam and Laos maintain a working mechanism among the top-ranking leaders of their Party, State, National Assembly and Government respectively through official friendship visits, working visits and exchanges of internal visits to each other. Through this working mechanism, the leaders of the two countries always affirm their determination, design policies, and directly instruct ministries and sectors from central to local levels to carry out activities aimed at continuously reinforcing, strengthening and enhancing the comprehensive cooperative relationship between the two countries.
Most recently, after the successful holding of their Party Congresses and National Assembly elections in 2011, the top leaders of the Party, State, National Assembly and Government of each country have made visits to each other. The maintaining of frequent high-level visits between the two countries shows the special nature of their relationship.
Besides, the two countries have established the Intergovernmental Committee as a mechanism to put into practice the directions of the high-ranking leaders and concretize the comprehensive cooperation between the two countries by designing the contents of cooperation for each phase, each period and every year. 
To date, the Intergovernmental Committee has conducted 34 alternate annual sessions in each country. At the 34th session held in January 2012, the two sides agreed to further enhance cooperative effectiveness in all fields, especially the economic field, and that Vietnamese aids for Laos should be used in a focused pattern to avoid dispersal. 
The perfection of the organization of the cooperation sub-committee and raising of their working efficiency is one of the pioneering measures taken in this direction. In August 2012, the two sub-committees conducted a mid-term review meeting in Luang Prabang, Lao’s beautiful ancient capital.
In the areas of cooperation, we can say that both Parties pay very special attention to education and training. Every year, about 50 percent of Vietnam’s development aid for Laos is allocated to education and training cooperation. Both Parties share the view that they should quickly build qualified human resources to meet the increasing development requirements in each country and contribute to further strengthening and cultivating their special ties.
The two countries agreed to sign and implement “Project of improving the quality and effectiveness of Vietnam - Laos cooperation in the field of education and human resource development for the period between 2011-2020”, considering this the fundamental basis for the development of their human resources, contributing to the successful implementation of the cause of national development in each country; they also signed the 2012 Plan for Education Cooperation. In 2012, the two sides also agreed to invest more in training through enhanced facilities for training, accommodation and educational equipment to boost the quality of training. At the request of the Ministry of Education and Sports of Laos, Vietnam continues to send 28 teachers to teach Vietnamese and other basic sciences at schools built by Vietnam in support of Laos. In addition, it also sent two more teachers to Laos to teach Vietnamese to Laos’ key officials of  ministries, sectors and localities.
The number of scholarships Vietnam grants to Laos increases year by year. In 2008, Vietnam granted Laos 650 scholarships, in 2010, 650, in 2011, 695, and in 2012, 750. Similarly, the Government of Laos also awards more scholarships to Vietnamese officials and students who pursue undergraduate and graduate schooling, and vocational training in Laos. Specifically, in 2009, 30 grants, in 2010, 35, in 2011, 40, and in 2012, 44. Besides, Vietnamese localities and enterprises also use their budget to award additional scholarships to ministries, sectors and localities in Laos. In 2012, more than 5,000 Lao officials and students were learning in Vietnamese training facilities. At the same time, more than 400 Vietnamese students were studying in Laos. 
Security and defense cooperation between the two countries is of special importance. This collaborative relationship has always been maintained very closely, constantly improved on all aspects, including coaching and training. Recently, the two sides signed an agreement on the 5-year cooperation plan for 2011-2015 and the annual cooperation plan. They regularly coordinate activities aimed at maintaining and ensuring political security and social order and safety in each country, effectively preventing conspiracies and sabotage activities by the hostile forces. Security, order and safety in the border areas are always ensured. This has contributed to strengthening economic and cultural exchange in the border areas as well as ensuring continuous development of the comprehensive cooperation between the two countries.
In the work of border demarcation, the two sides are trying to accelerate the project on thickening and upgrading the system of national border markers. This work is evaluated as meeting the set schedule. By December 2011, the two sides had set up 483/503 border markers, identified 631/661 demarcation points. Both parties strive by the end of 2012 to define all the demarcation points as national boundary markers and by 2014, to complete the construction of all national border markers on the entire borderline between the two countries.
In the field of economic cooperation, Vietnam’s comprehensive assistance to Laos in the early times to help its friend safeguard its nascent independence and gradually restore its production has been shifted to other forms of appropriate economic cooperation on an equal basis, depending on the capacity of each party in each period, in accordance with the requirements of the cause of national construction and protection of each country. This is aimed at taking both of them out of poverty and backwardness for co-development. At Laos’ request, Vietnam provides it development assistance on a year-on-year increase basis. This assistance is implemented according to Lao’s plan for socio-economic development and under agreement by both Parties. In return, Laos also gives Vietnamese enterprises a lot of privileges and favors.
Vietnam’s direct investment in Laos began to thrive in 2005 when a number of industrial plants cultivation projects were licensed and carried out. However, the number of projects and investments of Vietnam in Laos has actually soared since 2009. To date, Vietnam has become one of the leading investors in Laos. As of June 2012, Vietnamese enterprises had more than 435 investment projects licensed by Laos and worth over USD 5 billion.
Vietnam’s investment projects in Laos are present in most sectors of the economy and in most provinces and cities of Laos. The number of projects and investments are most concentrated in the areas of industrial plants cultivation, mining, finance and banking, telecommunications and services. A number of Vietnam-invested projects in Laos have been rapidly implemented, bringing about initial positive effect and were highly appreciated by Laos. The most typical projects include: rubber tree planting, sugarcane industrial cluster of Hoang Anh Gia Lai Group in southern Laos; rubber growing and processing projects of Vietnam Rubber Industry Group and Dak Lak Rubber Company; Laos - Vietnam bank and Laos-Vietnam Insurance (BIDV joint venture), StarTelecome joint venture with the brand name Unitel (Viettel venture), the specialized economic zone Vientiane - Long Thanh (Long Thanh Real Estate and Golf Court Group), etc.
The trade turnover between the two countries has continuously achieved a high growth rate. Generally in the period between 2006-2010, the total two-way trade turnover reached USD 1.902 billion, making up for a growth of 35% over the period from 2005 to 2011 (in 2010 alone, it reached USD 490 million, an increase of 17.2% compared with that of 2009). In 2011, two-way trade turnover reached USD 734 million, up 49.8.1% compared with 2010; Vietnam’s exports to Lao was valued at USD 274 million, recorded an increase of 38.1%; Vietnam’s imports from Laos yielded USD 460 million, an increase of 57.5% over that of 2010; In the first 6 months of 2012, trade turnover between the two countries reached USD 465.7 million, an increase of 33.1% compared with the same period in 2011. At present, the two countries are implementing a preferential policy of reducing 50% import duty for goods originating from each country; 0% tariff tax for the items approved by both Ministry of Industry and Trade under their annual agreement. The two countries set the targets of increasing their bilateral trade turnover to USD one billion in 2012 and USD two billion in 2015.
In the field of infrastructure connections, the two sides have closely coordinated to promptly resolve arising problems in order to ensure the progress of the construction of Road 2E (Muong Khoa - Tay Trang) to be completed in 2012. Regarding the implementation of the agreement on the use of Vung Ang port signed on 20 July 2001, so far the two sides have established the Laos - Vietnam Vung Ang Port Joint Stock Company to be launched into operation soon.
High attention is paid to cooperation between localities in both countries. The localities that share borders regularly strengthen their cooperation and mutual help, work together to ensure social security in the borders, well settling arising problems in order to build it into a border of peace, stability, friendship and development between the two countries. In recent years, in addition to cooperation between provinces sharing borders and twined localities, other localities of Vietnam and Laos have also established partnerships for mutual support. Thus, Ho Chi Minh City has established cooperative relationship with Hua Phan; Quang Ninh with Hua Phan, Luang Prabang, Sayabuly; Bac Ninh with Hua Phan; An Giang with Champasack, etc..
Local cooperation often works in the direction of making use of and promoting the strength of each country in terms of their potentialities (land, natural resources and human resources), learning and exchange of experience in order to promote investment, trade, tourism and cultural exchange. 
The localities in Vietnam often help their Lao counterparts build civil facilities such as schools, offices of local administration, cultural houses, bridges, roads, hospitals; send doctors to Lao localities for medical checkups and  treatments; offer other humanitarian assistance; provide training and grant scholarships to Lao candidate students; exchange management experience. Lao localities give favors to their Vietnamese counterparts regarding land, and investment projects.
The cooperation between ministries and sectors of the two countries has also been actively boosted. Both countries share the perception that the efficiency of cooperation between the two countries to be improved, so the cooperation between ministries and sectors also develops in this direction. So far, most of the ministries and sectors of the two countries have signed yearly and five-year cooperation agreements. The ministries and sectors also make frequent working, learning and exchange trips and programs.
At international forums, Vietnam and Laos conduct regular exchange of views on regional and international issues of mutual concern. At multilateral forums, especially within the framework of ASEAN, ASEM, Cambodia - Laos - Vietnam (CLV) cooperation, Cambodia - Laos - Myanmar - Vietnam (CLMV), ACMECS EAS, Mekong River Commission (MRC) and other forums as well as the sub-regional mechanisms in the region, the two countries always coordinate with each other to contribute in the most positive way to build, maintain and strengthen peace and security in the region as well as in the international arena.
With increasingly rising international status, in recent years, Laos has hosted many major international events with Vietnam’s support, for example SEA Games 25 (December 2009) in Vientiane, the 9th Asia - Europe Summit (ASEM 9) and Asia - Europe Parliamentary Partnership for Sustainable Development (ASEP 7) in late 2012.
In the education of the people, especially the younger generation of the two countries about the tradition of Vietnam - Laos special relationship; recently, the two sides have completed the book “History of the Vietnam-Laos Special Relationship (1930 - 2007)”. The book is of special importance in unraveling the historical events testifying to the faithful, pure and sincere solidarity between the two nations in the past years of the struggle for national independence, as well as in today’s national construction and defense. 
The dissemination of this historical book will help educate current and future generations about the years of glorious history of the two nations, make them understand that the special Vietnam - Laos solidarity is a lesson of history, an invaluable and sustainable asset that subsequent generations are responsible for safeguarding, maintaining and promoting it for the sake of mutual benefit and development of the two countries. In addition, the two sides are working actively on the construction of the Ho Chi Minh commemorative house in Laos, scheduled to be completed in 2012.
Looking back on the covered distances, we can be proud of the tremendous efforts of many generations in developing and cultivating the special Vietnam - Laos relationships to forever “blossom and fruit”; making this relationship very exemplary, loyal, pure, and is the only model of its kind in the world. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations and the 35th anniversary of the Signing of the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation , high-ranking leaders of the two countries agreed to choose 2012 as the year for “ Vietnam - Laos Solidarity and Friendship”. In February 2012, during his official friendship visit to Laos, Vietnamese President of State Truong Tan Sang and the General Secretary and President of State of Laos Choummaly Sayasone announced the “Vietnam - Laos Solidarity and Friendship Year”, to launch a series of significant events of celebration full of brotherliness to be organized widespread in both countries. The most prominent among such activities was the meeting in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of the Laos - Vietnam diplomatic ties and the 35th anniversary of the signing of the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation between the two countries, which was held simultaneously in both capital cities, in Hanoi and Vientiane in July 2012.
We have good grounds to pin our faith on a bright future of the special relationship of solidarity between Vietnam - Laos to be “forever green and forever sustainable”.
 
NGUYEN XUAN PHUC
Politburo Member, Deputy Prime Minister, 
Chairman of Vietnam - Laos Cooperation Sub-Committee and 
Deputy Head of the Steering Committee for Vietnam - Laos Solidarity and Friendship Year 2012
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