Talking on the role of diplomacy in service of national development, specifically in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, former Deputy Foreign Minister, Ambassador Doan Xuan Hung stressed the importance of MOFA’s planning and acting accordingly, taking every opportunity for further national development...
Former Deputy Foreign Minister, Ambassador Doan Xuan Hung. (Photo: Tuan Anh)
After two years, the COVID-19 pandemic has continued to be humanity’s nightmare. Economists believed that its effect on the global economy will be a lasting one. What is your biggest concern for the pandemic’s effects on Viet Nam’s economy?
The pandemic has really turned the world upside down, devastated the global economy on multiple fronts, including its functioning, international trade as well as supply chains, logistics… Most countries were forced to revise their growth models. The global economy has been overshadowed by uncertainty and insecurity.
Viet Nam’s economy, deeply integrated into the regional and global economy in the past few years, was no exception. Specifically, the recent fourth wave of COVID-19 outbreak has created numerous challenges. First, the pandemic is going to last for a while, without certain ending. Second, it is important for us to gather enough qualified vaccines to create herd immunity. Third, we must prepare to adapt to the new context of living together with the SARS-CoV-2 virus, with treatment drugs ready to be dispatched. Fourth, the outcome that we once called “a new normal” has changed beyond our expectations.
My biggest concern among the pandemic’s negative effects on Viet Nam’s economy are increasing risks of fragmentation, ruptures of the domestic market, lasting delays of manufacturing and production, disruptions of supply chains leading companies losing market share. Longer social distancing could force businesses to collapse, disturb the labor markets, affect the well-being of hundreds of thousands of workers and create various social security issues.
COVID-19 vaccines are considered to be the strategic, sustainable solution in the fight against the pandemic. What is your evaluation on the implementation of vaccine diplomacy - an important key in the national vaccine strategy, as well as a focus of economic diplomacy recently?
I highly applaud the Government’s early addition of a COVID-19 vaccine strategy to the long-term, sustainable campaign of combating the pandemic, as well as decisive measures of the Government and the Prime Minister in implementing the strategy, including the establishment of Government’s working group on vaccine diplomacy.
The working group quickly got to work and has achieved impressive results. Senior leaders, along with the entire diplomacy network of Viet Nam, have all joined hands to press forward. In a short time, Viet Nam has optimized on substantial international assistance, as it received millions of COVID-19 vaccine doses and a large number of biological products, as well as opportunities to cooperate and manufacture domestic COVID-19 vaccines using transferred technology, all in time of need.
A highlight, also a major achievement of the vaccine diplomacy campaign, was how Viet Nam continued to receive the attention and support of numerous countries and international partners on our fight against the pandemic, therefore promoting further relations with countries and partners. This is an important resource, not only for combating the pandemic, but also for future national development.
Nevertheless, I believe that while it was important, vaccine diplomacy was just a temporary solution in an emergency situation and not an underlying, long-term focus of economic diplomacy. As Viet Nam continues to acquire more vaccines through stable, long-term international contracts or starts to produce COVID-19 vaccines domestically, the working group’s objectives are mostly fulfilled.
A crucial point in guaranteeing COVID-19 vaccine for combating the pandemic is having long-term contracts on qualified vaccines from major global manufacturers, combining with domestic vaccine production. It could not get better if Viet Nam could produce qualified, effective COVID-19 vaccines “Made in Viet Nam”.
Moreover, it is important for us to have enough COVID-19 treatment drugs as well as further reinforce the central, local health systems with advanced equipment, along with qualified doctors, nurses and caregivers.
In the meantime, as various COVID-19 vaccines are arriving in Viet Nam in greater numbers, it is crucial that related agencies plan forward to fairly condition, distribute the supplies to effectively vaccinate the population, even prepare to administer booster shots. Furthermore, having COVID-19 vaccines from different manufacturers also results in certain complications that related agencies must timely address.
Viet Nam's Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son chaired the fourth meeting of the Government’s working group on Covid-19 vaccine diplomacy in Ha Noi on October 13, 2021. (Photo: Tuan Anh)
Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son once stressed the importance of economic diplomacy in service of national development, including taking advantages of important external forces to promote the country’s internal forces. As an experienced diplomat in economic diplomacy, could you share some of your thoughts on how Viet Nam could effectively “utilize external forces” for development in the upcoming time?
We must recognize that “external force”, in a wider context, is not just about money! External forces can be understood as forces coming from outside, yet they are necessary in supporting national development. They are FDI, ODA, markets, experience in development, government governance, economy and business management, cooperation in training and effectively utilizing human resources…
In the context of major changes in domestic and global landscapes, Viet Nam's diplomatic service in general and economic diplomacy in particular should focus on these objectives:
First and foremost, we should focus on supporting the goal of controlling the COVID-19 pandemic (vaccine diplomacy) and consulting for the Government to set and achieve suitable socio-development goals. Without controlling the pandemic, it is difficult to maintain manufacturing and businesses, as well as to achieve improvements in social lives. On the opposite side, stagnated manufacturing, businesses, logistics and social lives make it more challenging to control the pandemic and therefore, promote national development.
At the moment, it is crucial to implement measures to timely encourage, support domestic and foreign companies, to tightly grasp the opportunity given in 2020 in participating and becoming an important link in the global supply chains.
Second, we must attempt to forecast movements of the international stage, global economy, specifically in understanding upcoming trends and factors of the global economy and markets, new growth models and leading technologies post COVID-19. We must timely consult for the Party, the State and the Government in adjusting to a more suitable direction, development plan, without missing out on development opportunity.
Viet Nam’s overseas diplomatic missions, specifically those in important regions of the world must remain focus and serve as the “eyes and ears” of the MOFA, occasionally, timely observe and report to the Ministry.
Third, Viet Nam must continue to enhance and deepen relations with countries, partners, regardless of countries, territories, organizations or major international companies, devising detailed plans and focuses. While some of these policies have been implemented for years, it is time to devise a clearer and more cohesive plan, with specific measures.
Fourth, we must improve on collaboration with other ministries and sectors, providing practical supports for local provinces in external economic relations. In addition, we should value and cooperate, provide the business community practical assistance. The MOFA should consider actively hosting discussions with leading CEOs of Viet Nam at least twice a year to learn and support the business community with effective measures.
Fifth, we should fully utilize contributions of more than 5 million overseas Vietnamese. The community is a part of the nation and its growth is vital to the nation's development. In addition, this body is a crucial, driving force, with many experts that can contribute to the pandemic prevention and national development.
Our highly regarded multilateral diplomacy would also play an important role in utilizing external forces in services of national development.
Thank you very much!
"Goals and functions of economic diplomacy basically remain to be what we once outlined, but it is important that we re-arrange our priorities with focuses and key points, devise clear and cohesive plans, as well as implement those in a decisive and practical manner, without showing off or carrying out merely in formality.
Here, the new thing is focusing on tightly grasp upcoming trends such as new growth models, adjustment of economic structures, regional and global supply chains... therefore timely consult and advise leaders. Specifically, we must collaborate with other ministries, economic sectors to implement measures, taking advantages of opportunities in deepening our participation in the global supply chains."
(Ambassador Doan Xuan Hung)
Sources: The World and Viet Nam report