|The Viet Nam-Russia Strategic Partnership was established in 2001 and then upgraded into the comprehensive strategic partnership in 2012. -- Photo vietnamese.ruvr.ru
Following is the unofficial translation of an interview granted by State President Truong Tan Sang to the Russian News Agency Itar Tass.
In recent years, the traditional friendship and comprehensive strategic partnership between Viet Nam and the Russian Federation have been improved in both scope and scale. So in your opinion, what areas should the two countries focus on to elevate the effectiveness of partnerships between the Vietnamese and Russian people?
Viet Nam and the Russian Federation have enjoyed a long traditional friendship. The Viet Nam-Russia Strategic Partnership was established in 2001 and then upgraded into the comprehensive strategic partnership in 2012.
This firm foundation has enabled bilateral relations between the two countries to improve in both scope and scale. Political relations have enjoyed a high level of confidence while bilateral economic co-operation has been very effective. Humanitarian co-operation has also been expanded.
To create a new breakthrough in the near future, I think the two countries should focus on core areas, such as trade and energy - including oil, gas and nuclear power. Military techniques should also be studied and special attention must be given to strategic projects.
Regarding trade, the two sides should exert further efforts to negotiate and have an early signing of the Free Trade Areas (FTA) between Viet Nam and the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. Although bilateral trade turnover keeps increasing (in 2012 it was nearly $2.5 billion - and in the first eight months of this year it was $1.8 billion), it remains at a modest level, accounting for a small portion in the total import-export turnover of each nation. The FTA agreement will serve as a breakthrough to help increase trade between Viet Nam and Russia to $7 billion by 2015 and a much higher figure by 2020.
In recent years, the two countries have closely and effectively co-operated on many big projects to look for new oil and gas fields in offshore Viet Nam and in Russian territory. Besides the joint venture in oil and gas, Vietsovpetro, the two parties have expanded co-operation in a few other joint ventures, such as Vietgazprom, Gazpromviet and Rusvietpetro.
Viet Nam will continue to provide favourable conditions to Russian oil and gas companies to expand gas exploration and exploitation on Viet Nam's continental shelf. The Ninh Thuan 1 Nuclear Power Plant project is making good progress and the two sides should ensure it is carried out safely, efficiently and with the highest quality.
In the near future, Viet Nam will continue to complete its legal foundation for nuclear development and wants Russia to help Viet Nam train human resources with high skill in the field of nuclear power. In the long run, Viet Nam wants to be able to master the technology, management and operation of the Ninh Thuan nuclear power plant.
Military technical co-operation, a traditional activity between the two nations, is developing effectively. The two sides should continue to promote good relations and think of new forms of co-operation that will contribute to tightening the strategic partnership.
What are your assessments on the co-operation between the two countries in the fields of national security and defence, particularly in the context of rapid changing situation in the region and the world?
Being comprehensive strategic-partnership members, the two nations have closely co-operated in every field with a high level of confidence. I'm glad at the fine relationship between the two nations in national defence and security.
In the recent past, the two sides have effectively implemented all agreements and contracts signed by their leaders. In addition, meetings and contacts at all levels, including meetings between top leaders of the two countries have been organised. These involve a series of annual talks, including strategic dialogues on National Defence and Security and multilateral co-operation at the ADMM+. Such meetings enabled leaders of both countries to timely discuss how to co-operate with each other on national defence, security and on peace and co-operation in the region and the world.
Vietnamese-Russian military technical co-operation is a traditional field. This co-operation has constantly developed and been in line with international laws and practice. In the near future, the countries should raise military co-operation to a higher plane, as in joint-venture production, in research, in setting up service centres and after-sales service as well as in exports to the third countries. In addition, they will continue to co-operate in military training, in scientific research as well as in technology transfer.
In the context of fast changes in the region and the world, I think that the two sides need to further tighten their co-operation in the field of national defence and security so that they can contribute to economic development in each country while strongly promoting the development of the Viet Nam - Russia comprehensive strategic partnership and actively contributing to peace, stability and sustainable development in Asia-Pacific and the world.
As a member of the ASEAN and a close friend of Russia, what can Viet Nam do to contribute to the development of the relations between Russia and the ASEAN?
First of all, I should confirm that ASEAN always wants to promote and expand relations with other partners, including Russia, on the basis of friendship and equality in the interest of peace, stability and common prosperity. In reality, the ASEAN-Russian relationship has developed well in security, politics, economics, culture and development co-operation.
Being a traditional friend of Russia, Viet Nam highly regards Russia's role and support its closer ties to the region. After becoming an official member of ASEAN in 1995, Viet Nam supported Russia to become a full Dialogue Partnership member of ASEAN in July 1996. It was the first country to take the role as a co-ordinator of the ASEAN-Russia Dialogue in the period 1996-1999.
In 2010, in the capacity as Chairman of ASEAN, Viet Nam successfully hosted the second ASEAN-Russia Summit. And at the fifth East Asia Summit, Viet Nam actively supported Russia in joining the event. Viet Nam is willing to continue to act as a bridge for ASEAN-Russian co-operation in the period 2005-2015. Followings are some of the priorities:
First, Viet Nam supports Russia's closer ties with the region by supporting ASEAN's core objectives in building an ASEAN community, enhancing connectivity, closing development gaps and promoting co-operation in the sub-Mekong region.
Second, Viet Nam considers it necessary to further promote economic co-operation between ASEAN and Russia through specific co-operation channels and the exchange of information on trade and investment. Russia in now a member of the WTO and Viet Nam supports the FTA between ASEAN and Russia. This is to create a new driving force for deeper and wider development for economic and trade co-operation between the two sides and to set a precedent for Russia to participate in the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations.
Third, Viet Nam believes it is important to further promote the ASEAN-Russia co-operation in the fields of politics and security for peace and stability. The two sides should organise more meetings to cultivate confidence and mutual understanding as well as to discuss international and regional issues of mutual concern. At the same time, ASEAN and Russia should tighten co-ordination in various mechanisms in which ASEAN plays a vital role in the ARF, ADMM+ and others. The two parties should also discuss the organisation of the third ASEAN-Russia Summit - a new driving force for enhancing bilateral relations.
Fourth, Viet Nam supports the promotion of specific co-operation and development between ASEAN and Russia, especially in the fields of science and technology, culture, people relations, tourism, human-resources development, education and the effective performance of the ASEAN Centre of the MGIMO University in Moscow.
And finally, Viet Nam strongly supports ASEAN-Russian co-operation in response to non-traditional security challenges, such as disaster management, epidemics, anti-terrorism, trans-national crimes, food security, energy and others.
During your discussion with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the framework of the APEC in Vladisvostok, Mr President, you mentioned Viet Nam's interest in investing and developing the Russian Far East. Does Viet Nam have any projects up there?
The Far East region of Russia has high potential in natural resources - particularly oil and gas - and in fertile land and light industry, such as making leather shoes, garments and textiles, wood processing, interior decoration, aqua-culture and industrial plants. These are the sectors that attract quite a lot of foreign workers, including Vietnamese. About 1,000 Vietnamese work in construction and forest projects over there.
The Vietnamese Government supports Vietnamese enterprises wanting to invest in the Russian Far East. Although at present there is no specific project, the two sides are actively discussing (within the framework of the Working Group on light industry in the Viet Nam-Russia Economics, Trade, Science and Technology Joint Committee) opportunities for co-operation in light industry and aquaculture.
Viet Nam appreciates Russian President's signing into law (revised version) issues on income tax for investment projects in the Far East. Viet Nam hopes Russia will grant more preferential policies on land and workers for these projects.
What bilateral and international issues will you discuss with President Putin during his coming Viet Nam visit?
President Putin's upcoming visit to Viet Nam this month has a special significance towards bilateral relations. It will be the catalyst to promote the implementation of the comprehensive strategic partnership that the two countries have established.
The visit is an occasion for myself and President Putin to evaluate opportunities and look for measures to solve any challenges. We will discuss and come to agreement on future orientations to ensure our co-operation stays on the path to high efficiency and quality. We will also review the implementation of agreements reached between Vietnamese and Russian senior officials as well as the progress of major projects between the two countries.
During my meeting with President Putin, I will talk about orientations and specific measures to lift co-operation between the two nations, including politics, economics, trade, investment, especially the oil and gas projects, the Ninh Thuan 1 nuclear power plant, military technical co-operation, the strategic co-operation in the field of technology and education and many others.
In addition, we will discuss international and regional issues of mutual concern; the existing co-operation between Viet Nam and the Russian Federation in the framework of UN mechanisms; the co-operation between the two nations in APEC or in organisations that ASEAN plays a key role as in the ARF, East Asia Summit, ASEM and others.
I am confident the visit will manifest the willingness and resolve of Viet Nam and Russia to take the strategic partnership to a higher level. — VNS