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Constructing modern diplomacy in Vietnam to serve effective economic development

(PTOJ) - In the context of globalization and the Industrial Revolution 4.0, Vietnam is becoming deeply and comprehensively integrated, the Party and the entire people strive towards the desire to build a prosperous and strong nation. The objective set forth for Vietnamese diplomacy is to develop into a modern one in order to better serve our national economic development. The article outlines directions, objectives, and solutions for Vietnamese diplomacy to reach this goal in the upcoming period.

 

Source: mic.gov.vn

1. Policy and opinion

Right after regaining our national independence, President Ho Chi Minh paid great attention to diplomacy in service of economic development. In his appeal to the United Nations in 1946, he stated: “Vietnam gives a favorable reception to investment by foreign capitalists and technicians in all industries...; is ready to build seaports, airports and roads for international trade and transit... and to join all international economic organizations under the auspice of the United Nations...”(1). Grasping his thoughts, the Party and State always give due attention to economic diplomacy, which has made noteworthy contributions to the revolution and gradually become one of the three pillars of modern Vietnamese diplomacy (politics, economics, and culture). 

In the early 70s of the 20th century, when the country was still at war, the Party and State inquired the diplomatic service to research the trends and models of economic development worldwide and prepare to promote post-war economic cooperation with other countries. In 1972, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs established the Economic Commission under its Office, and on February 27, 1974, the Economic Department was established(2). After Vietnam’s reunification, economic diplomacy focused on mobilizing and taking advantage of the aid and assistance from socialist countries and international friends to overcome post-war consequences, rebuild the country, and get through the difficulties caused by the socio-economic crisis and the embargo.

Embarking on the renewal period, when socialist countries collapsed, economic diplomacy, especially since 1990, has made important advances to promote its vanguard role and actively contributing to the development of the national economy, breaking the embargo and isolation, developing the relationship between our country and major partners regarding economics, international trade, financial and cooperation mechanisms regional and worldwide. 

On February 10, 2003, the Government issued Decree 08/2003/ND-CP, which clearly defined the objectives for national economic development to be pursued by Vietnamese overseas missions. In the year 2007, which was known as “Economic Diplomacy Year”, along with the issuance of Directive 01/2007/CT-NG, the economic pillar was identified as one of the primary objectives of modern Vietnamese diplomacy. Following that, Directive 41-CT/TW dated April 15, 2010 of the Central Party Secretariat on strengthening economic diplomacy in the period of accelerating national industrialization and modernization, Resolution No. 22-NQ/TW dated April 10, 2013 of the Politburo on international integration, and the instructions of the Minister of Foreign Affairs in 2014 and 2017 on diplomacy for economic development emphasized the important roles and duties of economic diplomacy in the period of deeper international integration. Thereby, it could develop the basis and orientation for the more synchronous, efficient, and comprehensive implementation of economic diplomacy.

Under the Party and State’s guidelines and supervision, economic diplomacy has constantly been renewed in terms of viewpoints, policies, and practical implementation. Diplomacy is first and foremost an active force in creating and consolidating a peaceful external environment and strengthening open political-foreign relations, which is the fundamental factor for national development. Economic diplomacy is now done better in researching, advising, consulting, and proposing to develop foreign economic relations and international integration policies for the Party and State; and to negotiate and enter into external economic cooperation agreements, but also actively, directly participates in key external economic tasks such as opening markets for domestic products, searching for partners, attracting investment and foreign aid, promoting technology transfer, exploring labor market, captivate international tourists, etc., thereby making a huge contribution to the dynamic development of the Vietnam economy.

Vietnam entered the third decade of the 21st century with profound changes in the domestic and international environment. The COVID-19 pandemic is devastating the world economy and reshaping the economic trends. Competition in trade, investment, science, and technology is becoming fiercer. Investment flows and global supply chains are disrupted. Emerging trade protectionism exacerbates security problems and geopolitical situation in the region and the world. Meanwhile, Vietnam maintains open and good political-diplomatic relations with most countries in the world, thereby it has established a stable and long-term relationship frameworks and comprehensive partnerships with 30 strategic partners. Along with that, its participation in a series of old and new FTAs has been pushing the country into deeper and more comprehensive integration into the global economy. After 35 years of national renewal with historical achievements and valuable lessons, Vietnam is embarking upon a new stage of development towards the determined objectives and plans to overcome the middle-income trap to achieve more successes in 2030 and 2045 as proposed in the Draft Document of the 13th Party Congress.

The international environment, the national strength and position, the diplomatic foundation, the integration as well as the national development objectives may offer both great motivations and advantages. At the same time, there are many challenges that require us to have new way of thinking, long-term vision and determination to reform, and to find new development dynamics, as well as the method to effectively utilize our premises and the external environment. In particular, economic diplomacy needs to constantly elevate, advance ahead, innovate and improve efficiency to meet the requirements, tasks, and goals of national development in the upcoming period.

Based on that, the 13th Party Congress has proposed the following foreign policy in this new period: “Building an economic diplomacy in service of development with focus on the people, the locality and the businesses”(3). Diplomatic perspective for development has been repeatedly mentioned by the Prime Minister of the Vietnamese Government. With the guideline and determination to build a government that acts and serves the people and businesses, the Prime Minister has inquired the diplomatic sector to make efforts to innovate its mindset and approach, build a dynamic and modern diplomacy, and concentrate on the pivotal task of serving economic development, thereby serving the need of localities, businesses, and the people, and accompany businesses to help them reach out to the world(4).

2. Orientation and objectives

In the context of the current complicated international situation and deep intergration of the country into the world, economic diplomacy should focus on the following directions to effectively contribute to national development in the new period:

First, it must align the three pillars of politics, economy, and culture in the overall diplomatic strategy to maximize Vietnam’s national interests. With unpredictable changes in the international environment, diplomacy must be able to dynamically adapt to the fluctuations of international relations. Policies with partners should be adjusted to protect national interests in the modern international relations. Diplomacy must keep up with the world’s trends, integrate into international diplomacy, position the country in the modern world based on its strength in international relations.

Second, the ideas must match actions. Economic diplomacy is defined as the centered task in the current period, which is used to evaluate the Vietnam’s overseas missions. On the foundation of our open political-diplomatic relations with many countries around the world, diplomacy should focus on promoting economic cooperation to strengthen relationships with partners, promoting mutual interests, transforming political relations into economic benefits and resources for national development.

Third, it is required to focus on effective implementation of signed FTAs, especially new generation FTAs, with large markets and important partners such as CPTPP, EVFTA, RCEP, and so on. Effective implementation of FTAs requires economic diplomacy to be a vanguard in introducing and promoting cooperation opportunities to Vietnam, actively attracting external financial aid, investment and other resources for development, providing direct and effective support for businesses and people to gain knowledge of the international rules and practice, exploring the market, promoting external economic relations and integration, seeking partners, and linking business cooperation opportunities, expanding markets, and solving problems and disputes in cooperation.

Fourth, along with the traditional goals of the political objectives for the Party, the State and the nation in international relations, modern diplomacy needs a considerable reform. Strong awareness of who to serve, and which puts people, localities, and businesses at the center, is also the important goal of the sector. Thereby, it is necessary to consult with businesses and people to evaluate the effectiveness of Vietnamese overseas missions as directed by the Prime Minister(5).

Fifth, a modern Vietnamese diplomacy for national interests and development in the period of deep international integration must be imbued with Vietnamese national identities. It is a diplomacy that harmoniously combines traditional values with the new ones of the current deepening integration period. It is a combination of public and private interests, of the nation’s interests and those of partners, with the increasingly proactive responsibilities of Vietnam as a member of the international community.

Sixth, in the context of the digital age, Vietnamese diplomacy needs to adapt to the 4.0 era, or “digital diplomacy”. Accordingly, it is imperative to comprehensively reform the contents, methods, organizational structure, resources, and especially the contingent of diplomats in general and economic diplomacy in particular.

Given the primary orientations mentioned above, the task of building a modern Vietnamese diplomacy, which is in accord with the current conditions to effectively contribute to the country’s economic development in the new period, needs the main directions as follows:

First, R&D activities need to closely follow the international political and economic situation to evaluate and forecast international economic patterns and trends, and to timely inform and advise the Party, Government, ministries, sectors and localities in formulating development strategies, macroeconomic policies and managing the economy and society.

Second, Vietnamese diplomacy needs to participate directly in exploring new markets, fields, and areas as well as new partners, actively participating in shaping regulations and rules, negotiating bilateral and multilateral agreements between Vietnam and partners, promoting its partnership and investment, communication, monitoring and evaluating the economic commitments between Vietnam and the world.

Third, Vietnamese diplomacy should continue to actively accompany and support businesses, localities, and people in external economic relations. The diplomatic sector plays an important role as a hub in providing information regarding customs, laws, business environment, business partners, connecting domestic and foreign enterprises, consulting with the specific requirements of ministries, sectors, localities, and enterprises, protecting interests, dealing with difficulties, and settling disputes in external economic relations.

Fourth, Vietnamese diplomacy should further consolidate the connection among overseas Vietnamese to build a strong community of themselves, strengthen their solidarity and mobilization of their brainpower, finance, science, technology, and management experience and other resources for their homeland. This will contribute to the development of external economic relations, and of the country as a whole.

3. Recommendations

First, Vietnamese diplomacy should devise a master and detailed plan on the implementation of economic diplomacy. This is a macro plan with a clear vision, roadmaps, and specific objectives in the medium and long term based on adhering to the national development strategy towards 2025, 2030 and 2045. The plan should also clearly define resources, methods, organization and involved people. Furthermore, it should be practical, flexible, feasible, and appropriate to the national resources and conditions.

Second, it is necessary to further accelerate the coordination and information exchange between agencies inside and outside Vietnam, and among ministries, sectors and localities. Each and every ambassador, head of diplomatic mission, commercial counselor, and representative of overseas Vietnamese media agencies needs to strengthen coordination and develop mechanisms to cooperate closely with each other as well as with the functional units of ministries and sectors related to international economics. The interconnection, coordination and cooperation among ministries, departments and sectors such as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the Central Committee for External Relations, the Ministry of Public Security, the Ministry of Industry and Trade, the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and the Ministry of Labor, War Invalids and Social Affairs are important for the implementation of economic diplomacy.

Representatives from the ministries and sectors related to external relations should participate in the annual Diplomatic Conference. There should be another conference on economic diplomacy with the participation of the ministries, departments, and sectors related to international economics to effectively implementing economic diplomacy. 

Third, the diplomatic service, specifically the media of the ministry and the Vietnamese overseas missions need to enhance information-sharing on foreign economic relations to Vietnamese citizens, domestic and foreign enterprises, leaders of localities, ministries, and sectors. Diplomatic information needs to be updated in a timely and diversified manner regarding of both content and form. The content includes trade agreements that Vietnam has signed, updates on business environment, opportunities for business cooperation of the country, policies and laws on domestic investment, the economic situation, and policies of our partners, especially major and important ones, as well as research on international economics and global integration.

Fourth, based on the specific demand of sectors, localities, and enterprises, the diplomatic service and overseas Vietnamese missions need to proactively accompany and support the above-said entities in attracting investment, seeking partners, expanding markets, transferring technological advances. The Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and its representative agencies in more than 90 countries should periodically organize conferences, seminars, forums, dialogues, and trade promotion activities with domestic and foreign businesses to promote the opportunities for cooperation and investment, and directly support foreign economic relations between domestic businesses and localities and those in other countries.

Fifth, diplomacy in the digital age needs to promptly innovate towards digitalizing public services, as well as making it transparent, streamlined, and convenient for both people and businesses. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs should encourage digital diplomacy to be associated with public relations, promote communication on digital platforms, social networks, multimedia, and apply e-government to improve the effectiveness of management, and better serve people and businesses. 

Sixth, it is required to build and train a contingent of diplomats to meet the requirements in the new conditions. They not only need to have firm mettle, be professional, dedicated and patriotic, but also need to have solid and professional skills, expertise, good knowledge of foreign languages, economic and technological knowledge, and responsiveness. Every ambassador and/or diplomatic official should be a professional diplomat, an economic envoy, a technology ambassador, a scholar, an entrepreneur, an investment promoter, a marketer, a salesperson, and one who unites the overseas Vietnamese community, as well as a person who promotes and mobilizes talents for the Fatherland, especially from the overseas Vietnamese community.

Seventh, with the criteria and standards to evaluate the performance of economic diplomacy as well as assessment of the satisfaction of businesses and people with Vietnamese diplomats and overseas missions, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs should establish an annual award for achievements in economic diplomacy. Such an award is for individual Vietnamese diplomats or overseas missions as a whole with outstanding achievements in and contributions to economic diplomacy. Outstanding achievements can be ideas and initiatives that can make practical and effective contributions to the country’s external relations, or investment attraction, or technology transfer, or expanding our trade and labor market, etc. Ultimately, it is necessary to honor and encourage Vietnamese ambassadors and overseas missions who have made great efforts to successfully mobilize foreign investors and projects for the country, or have been able to open a new market for Vietnamese exports, and bring socio-economic benefits, or employment opportunities to the nation.

__________________

Endnotes:

(1) Ho Chi Minh: Complete works, vol.4, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2011, p.520.

(2) Nguyen Van Lich, Phung Huy Hoang: Improving the efficiency of economic diplomacy for national development, https://www.tapchicongsan.org.vn, on April 27, 2020.

(3) CPV: Document of 13th National Party Congress, vol. I, National Political Publishing House, Hanoi, 2021, p.284.

(4), (5) Duc Tuan and Quang Hieu: The Government is ready to welcome unprecedented proposals, http://baochinhphu.vn, dated August 15, 2018.

ASSOC. PROF., DR. PHAN VAN RAN

Dr. NGO CHI NGUYEN

Institute of International Relations,

Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politic

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