Secretary Clinton returns to Hanoi on October 29 for her second visit to Vietnam in just over three months. In Vietnam, she will attend the East Asia Summit and host a meeting with her counterparts in the Lower Mekong Initiative, reflecting the Obama administration’s commitment to deepening multilateral engagement in the Asia-Pacific region. Secretary Clinton will continue discussions with her Vietnamese hosts on a wide range of bilateral and regional issues. Her return visit underscores the U.S. commitment to sustained engagement in the region and reaffirms our interest in broadening and deepening our relationship with Vietnam, an increasingly close partner and emerging regional leader.
Enhancing Partnership with Vietnam. The Secretary will highlight expanded cooperation in security, nonproliferation, environment, health, education, and trade during her bilateral meetings with Vietnamese leaders, complementing her discussions with senior Vietnamese officials in Hanoi in July and in the United States over the past year. This progress underscores how far the U.S.-Vietnam relations have come since we normalized diplomatic relations in 1995.
- Annual two-way trade has gone from just $450 million to nearly $16 billion during the past 15 years. In 2009 – an otherwise difficult year for trade – U.S. exports to Vietnam rose 11 percent, reaching $3.1 billion. Vietnam’s participation in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations and its status as a “next tier” market in the President’s National Export Initiative (NEI) further demonstrate our improving economic ties.
- Significant advances in our security ties include three annual security dialogues; cooperation on maritime security, search, and rescue; humanitarian assistance and disaster relief; and peacekeeping training. This year alone we have signed an MOU on civil nuclear cooperation and Vietnam joined both the Global Initiative to Combat Nuclear Terrorism and the Megaports Initiative, designed to prevent the spread of nuclear materials. Ship visits are another continuing success story. In just the past three months, Vietnamese officials made an off-shore visit to the USS George Washington; the USS John S. McCain made a port call to Danang; and the hospital ship USNS Mercy made a second visit to Vietnam under the Pacific Partnership program.
- The number of Vietnamese students studying in the United States has more than doubled in the last three years, making Vietnam the ninth-largest source of foreign students.
Speaking out for Human Rights and Religious Freedom: Advancing our relations with Vietnam allows the United States to promote its core values and discuss our differences on human rights and religious freedom more candidly and openly. The United States acknowledges progress when warranted, but continues to urge the national government and local officials to bring an end to continued abuses. As she did in July, the Secretary again will raise the arrests and convictions of peaceful dissenters; restrictions on the internet, including blocks on Facebook; and attacks on religious groups. She will continue to encourage political reform in Vietnam.
Building Multilateral Cooperation with Southeast Asia. This has been an important year for U.S. multilateral engagement in the region, starting with the Secretary’s participation in the ASEAN Post-Ministerial Conference and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) in July, followed by President Obama’s hosting of the 2nd ASEAN-U.S. Leaders Meeting in New York in September, and Secretary Gates’ attendance at the inaugural ASEAN Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus in Hanoi earlier this month. Building on those successes, the Secretary will meet for the first time on October 30 with the leaders participating in the East Asia Summit (EAS), which is an increasingly important forum on regional political and security issues. President Obama plans to attend the EAS in Jakarta next year, and the United States will host the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum in 2011. Growing U.S. engagement with and contributions to the work of these emerging institutions is a priority of the Obama Administration and reaffirms our leadership role in the region as an Asia-Pacific nation.
Strengthening Engagement with the Lower Mekong Countries: On October 30, the Secretary will meet with her counterparts from Vietnam, Thailand, Laos, and Cambodia for the third time since July 2009 to discuss regional cooperation on capacity-building in health, environment, education, and infrastructure. At the meeting the ministers will discuss plans to explore permanent and sustainable operating structures for the Lower Mekong Initiative, an important vehicle for bolstering regional capacity to address some of the most pressing challenges confronting the region.