Vietnam has made several contributions to a united, peaceful, stable, and developed ASEAN
It was 28 years ago today that Vietnam officially joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), becoming an active and responsible member and making practical contributions to the grouping’s efforts to build a united, strong, and prosperous regional community.
Significant contributions to regional success
ASEAN was first established on August 8, 1967, with five founding members. It has gradually developed into an organisation which boasts comprehensive and close co-operation among members, comprising of 10 Southeast Asian countries and going on to become the ASEAN Community on December 31, 2015.
Vietnam officially joined the regional bloc on July 28, 1995, during the 28th ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting (AMM-28) held in Brunei. Joining ASEAN represented a historic, correct, and timely decision for the country as it sought to integrate into the region and the wider world. This move was part of wider efforts helping to consolidate a peaceful and stable local environment, taking advantage of external resources for the cause of development, and boosting Vietnam on its development pathway.
Over the past 27 years since joining the bloc under the motto of an ‘active and responsible’ member, Vietnam has made several contributions to a united, peaceful, stable, and developed ASEAN that possesses a steady voice in the region recognised by major countries.
As soon as it had joined the grouping, Vietnam, despite facing numerous obstacles, lobbied ASEAN to admit both Laos and Myanmar in 1997 and Cambodia in 1999, serving as a bridge between mainland states and island nations to later form a bloc of 10 member states. With the participation of all 10 states in the region, any distrust among countries was gradually eliminated, the development gap between member states gradually narrowed, and regional autonomy also significantly enhanced.
Vietnam has therefore played a pivotal role in defining development goals and directions, along with formulating major decisions within ASEAN. Among them are the 1995 Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ), the ASEAN Vision 2020, the Hanoi Plan of Action, the Vientiane Plan of Action, the 2003 Declaration of ASEAN Concord II, the 2007 ASEAN Charter, the Blueprints for the ASEAN Community, and the ASEAN Integration Initiative (IAI).
Most notably, together with Singapore, the country is one of the two member states with the highest rate of implementing priority measures in line with the ASEAN Economic Community blueprint.
Amid rapid and complex developments occurring regionally and globally, Vietnam has contributed to building and playing by the rules, working effectively with ASEAN to respond to threats to regional peace, security, and stability, while promoting dialogue and co-operation.
Through its contributions, the bloc has asserted its stance on important issues, including releasing the 2019 ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, known locally as the East Sea (DOC). It is currently working on negotiations with China as it seeks to build a Code of Conduct in the regional waters (COC).
Furthermore, Vietnam has contributed to expanding relations and promoting co-operation between ASEAN and its partners. In its role as ASEAN Chair in 2010, the country lobbied the East Asia Summit (EAS) to welcome Russia and the United States as its partners. It also successfully assumed the role of ASEAN co-ordinator with China from 2009 to 2012, the EU from 2012 to 2015, India from 2015 to 2018, and Japan from 2015 to 2018.
As an ASEAN member, Vietnam has made an imprint on the bloc by successfully hosting regional conferences and meetings, including the sixth ASEAN Summit in December 1998, and assuming the role of ASEAN Chairmanship twice in 2010 and 2020.
Practical benefits for Vietnam
ASEAN membership has also brought about a range of important and practical benefits for the country.
The bloc is one of the important foundations for Vietnam to gradually integrate into the world and create a favourable international environment to boost national construction and defence. Over the past 28 years, the country has joined ASEAN members in transforming the region into a friendly, co-operative, and war-free part of the world. Along with this, it has established strategic partnerships and comprehensive partnerships with neighbouring countries, major countries, and many other important partners in order to garner wider international support for its security and development interests, including the East Sea issue.
Joining ASEAN has helped Vietnam to integrate more deeply into the world, mobilise resources for development, and enhance its aggregate strength. The country joined the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). A number of new generation free trade agreements (FTA) signed by Vietnam such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) helped it to accelerate reforms, expand markets, increase exports, and attract investment, as well as official development assistance (ODA).
ASEAN membership has also helped raise Vietnam’s magnitude of multilateral diplomacy and enhance its international position on the global stage. The country competently performed its role as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2008 - 2009 and 2020 - 2021 terms, as well as successfully hosting the APEC Summit in 2006 and 2017. It has also co-operated closely with the international community in dealing with global challenges such as climate change and the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past quarter of a century, Vietnam has united with ASEAN at every opportunity, contributing to the bloc’s success, with this ever-growing role once again highlighting the country’s correct decision to join the grouping.
Such participation testifies not only to Vietnam’s initiative and positivity in upholding the motto of multilateralisation and diversification of foreign relations, but also to the growing need for greater co-operation for the sake of peace, development, and prosperity of the whole region.