On December 1, 2020, ASEAN and the EU officially upgraded their partnership to a strategic level, an event announced by international, regional, and Vietnamese media, at a time when Vietnam was still in its rotating chairmanship of the block of countries in Southeast Asia.
On December 3, some news and political observers shared with BBC News Vietnamese comments on the substantive aspect of the event regarding what Vietnam, as a member of ASEAN, can benefit from this newly enhanced partnership between the two blocs.
From Warsaw, the capital city of Poland, journalist Mac Viet Hong, editor of the online newspaper Dan Chim Viet Online, said that Vietnam will benefit a lot especially in terms of market, export, including labor export:
“I think first, in terms of economic relations, Vietnam has also signed a free trade agreement with Europe and with this, I think Vietnam’s market has nearly 100 million people at its golden age, it can be said that Vietnamese are also hard-working people …, in my opinion, it is a dynamic economy and possibly in the future with the above free trade agreement and relations this upgrade strategic partner, Vietnam’s exports to the EU will also increase.”
“Then the labor market, I think Vietnam in recent years has exported labor to South Korea, to Japan, then to Arab countries such as Qatar or Saudi Arabia has a lot of products. Tens of thousands of Vietnamese are working in Japan and South Korea, but meanwhile, when we look at the current European market, Vietnamese workers go to there are not many through official channels.
“For example, Poland has only been open for two years, I think there are only a few hundred people, perhaps less than a thousand Vietnamese workers have come to work, or there is one in the Czech Republic. Some, but not too many, in Germany there are a number of Vietnamese workers to work as nurses, but not many.”
“I think Europe can be a market where Vietnam can send tens of thousands of workers, for example, in addition to the development of goods export, labor export.”
“In addition, the European Union’s counter-impact on Vietnam as an observer for democracy, I also hope that it will improve the law, as well as the behavior of the Vietnamese government to the public and to the dissident in particular,” Mac Viet Hong told BBC’s Fifth Round Table discussion program.
“Benefit from security, to human rights and the rule of law“
Mr. Heiko Maas, foreign minister of Germany, which is currently the rotating president of the EU, announced the online session between EU-ASEAN Foreign Ministers on December 1, 2020.
From Hanoi, Dr. Ha Hoang Hop, guest senior researcher at the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (Iseas Yusof-Ishak, Singapore) told the BBC:
“Vietnam is in the ASEAN but the bloc has a strategic partnership with 9 countries and 9 blocks, of course, Vietnam enjoys the benefits within the ASEAN framework, in addition, Vietnam has a strategic partnership with all ASEAN countries.”
“The benefits that Vietnam enjoys, through the ASEAN strategic partnership with other blocs and other countries, is more direct in terms of politics, economy, security – security in this is a direct reference to the South China Sea, and in some other respects such as market development for economic development.”
“Then comes the extremely important issues of development in the rule of law, about human rights, on continuing to develop and raising awareness and democratic practices.”
“In all of these aspects, one thing is certain that Vietnam, like other ASEAN countries, will enjoy, because each country has a different political institution and organization of state and government but they all have one thing in common, is towards all of the points that I just talked about.”
“It is because ASEAN is not a block but a forum, but it also leads to a consensus regulation as well as ASEAN-centricity for internal handling of ASEAN and issues of the region, especially in terms of economic development and security.”
“And in security, there are only two big problems that the South China Sea (Vietnamese call it the East Sea) is one and the second problem is that now the Mekong region, the benefits that Vietnam can enjoy lies there,” Ha Hoang Hop told BBC conference.
“Commitment to strengthening strong relationships“
On December 2, the World & Vietnam newspaper reported on ASEAN and EU upgrading their partners to strategic levels:
“ASEAN-EU is strongly committed to enhancing coordination and promoting regional and international multilateral cooperation, on the basis of shared values and interests of a rules-based international order.”
The newspaper under the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam added:
“The two sides have made an important decision to officially upgrade ASEAN-EU relations to a strategic partner after a decision in principle was made at the 22nd ASEAN-EU Foreign Ministers Meeting in January 2019.”
“ASEAN and the EU continue to affirm the importance of the partnership in linkage relationship between the two most successful regional organizations, strongly pledging to strengthen coordination and promoting multilateral cooperation, regional and international, on the basis of shared values and interests of a rules-based international order.”
“ASEAN values the EU as the most important partner of ASEAN. The EU is currently the second-largest trading partner of ASEAN with total two-way trade in 2019 of $280 billion and the third-largest source of foreign investment of ASEAN with total FDI in 2019 reaching $16.2 billion. EU continues to affirm its support for ASEAN’s central role, emphasizing that ASEAN is an important partner of the EU in the region, sharing many benefits and potential capabilities and strengths of cooperation.”
From Berlin, the capital of the Federal Republic of Germany, freelance journalist Le Manh Hung shared his point of view and stressed through the event what remarkable signals were given.
“I think that upgrading the strategic relationship between the EU and ASEAN at present is a very special event and it is a long wait for both the EU and ASEAN.”
“Following the signals between the two sides, such as between Vietnam and Germany or between ASEAN and the EU in the past few months, I personally find that the two sides want to assemble each other as quickly as possible.”
“And especially during the period of President Donald Trump just now, the changes in US foreign affairs cause a lot of confusion for Germany and the EU, through which one finds the dependence on one pole is very dangerous.”
“The second thing is that the Covid-19 pandemic happened, it was discovered that the EU and Germany are heavily dependent on China’s supply system, making such unilateral dependence very dangerous.”
“So I see the signal given by the EU and especially Germany, and it is very coincidental with Vietnam that both sides have the idea that there is a new multilateral economic order also bipolar but multi-polar so that single countries, or a block … come here to have many options and have many things to put on the balance table to negotiate with strong economies,” Mr. Le Manh Hung told the Thursday Round Table on December 3 from Germany.