Vietnam sees Japan as partner: Party chief
Vietnam regards Japan as an important and long-term development partner, said Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in an interview granted to major Japanese news agencies and newspapers on the threshold of his official visit to Japan on September 15-18.

Vietnam regards Japan as an important and long-term development partner, said Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in an interview granted to major Japanese news agencies and newspapers on the threshold of his official visit to Japan on September 15-18.

Regarding questions raised by reporters of NHK Television, Yomiuri Shimbun and Asahi Shimbun newspapers on the aim of the visit, the Party leader said that this is his first-ever official visit to Japan in his capacity as the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam at the invitation of Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

The visit takes place at a time when bilateral relations have been flourishing. With this visit, Vietnam wants to reaffirm its consistent policy to consider Japan as an important and long-term development partner as well as its desire to further deepen the Extensive Strategic Partnership between the two countries for peace and prosperity of Asia.

“I hope that the three highlights of this visit, namely promotion of economic connectivity, enhancement of political trust and intensification of bilateral cooperation on regional and international issues, will generate fresh momentum to elevate the Vietnam-Japan relations to a higher plane,” he noted.

Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in an interview granted to major Japanese news agencies and newspapers on the threshold of his official visit to Japan on September 15-18 — Photo Tri Dung/VNA

According to Trong, Vietnam and Japan enjoy a time-honored relationship. The people of the two countries share a lot of cultural similarities and values and hold a valuable friendship and sincerity for each other. Moreover, the countries have scores of immediate and long-term interests. They have mutually become Extensive Strategic Partners and their people have become true friends who understand and respect each other.

Vietnam always welcomes a prosperous Japan, playing an increasingly active role for peace, stability, cooperation and development of the region and the world. The strengthening of friendship and cooperation between Vietnam and Japan will meet the aspirations and match the interests of the two peoples, the region and the world.

When Kyodo News, Yomiuru Shimbun, NHK and Asahi Shimbun reporters asked for his expectation of Japan’s active contributions to developing the bilateral ties in the time to come, Party chief Trong noted with satisfaction that Vietnam and Japan have managed to overcome the obstacles of the past to record significant and substantive progress in the bilateral ties since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1973, particularly since the end of the Cold War.

The definition of the “Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in Asia” in 2009 and its upgrade to “Extensive Strategic Partnership for Peace and Prosperity in Asia” in 2014 have enabled the bilateral cooperation to grow rapidly and effectively in all areas.

Mutual trust has been consolidated and strengthened, particularly thanks to a frequent exchange of visits and contacts at high and lower levels. Economic ties continued to grow strongly, especially in terms of ODA, FDI, trade and tourism. Vibrant cultural and people-to-people exchange has deepened mutual understanding between our two peoples. It can be said that those fruits of the bilateral cooperation were borne out of our mutual understanding and trust as well as joint vision and efforts of our two countries’ leadership and people to maximize the shared interests and efficiency of our cooperation.

Building upon that momentum, the Party leader said Vietnam would like its partnership with Japan to further deepen with greater efficiency and effectiveness in all areas, especially in the economic domain. Japan is an advanced industrial nation with strong advantages in terms of capital, technological know-how and managerial experience, while Vietnam, with rich natural resources, an abundant workforce and a promising market, is on its path towards industrialization and modernization.

The two countries, therefore, need to devote more attention to maximizing their complementary advantages, increasing the connectivity between the two economies, and boosting bilateral cooperation in promising areas.

Vietnam would also like Japan to continue awarding its preferential ODA to Vietnam, expanding investment into such areas as hi-tech and supporting industries, infrastructure development, agriculture, forestry and fishery, and promoting bilateral trade facilitation and intensifying direct cooperation between and among provincial authorities.

At the same time, the two nations also need to raise the effectiveness of cooperation in education and training, science and technology, culture, tourism, labor and people-to-people exchange, environment protection, disaster preparedness, climate change response, as well as in defense and security.

He said he believes that, on the basis of such cooperation and with resolve and efforts from both sides, the Vietnam-Japan Extensive Strategic Partnership will continue to grow in all dimensions for the two peoples' interests.

About Vietnam’s use of Japanese official development assistance (ODA) and a policy recently announced by the Japanese Government on partnership for quality infrastructure, Trong stated that Japan is currently the top economic partner and also the biggest ODA donor of Vietnam. Vietnam deeply appreciates the valuable assistance from the Government and people of Japan. Therefore, Vietnam has been using Japanese ODA in an effective and transparent manner, and always for the right purposes.

“I am particularly grateful to the Japanese Government for the assistance and support to infrastructure development in Vietnam. Major projects financed by Japanese ODA, including the Can Tho, Bai Chay and Nhat Tan bridges, Hanoi Ring Road No.3, and terminal T2 of Noi Bai International Airport, have helped transform the face of the country and promote social and economic development and thus, become the powerful icons of the Vietnam-Japan friendship and cooperation.”

Vietnam is restructuring its economy and transforming the growth model in efforts to turn the country into a modern industrial nation. As such, Vietnam looks forward to the continued high influx of ODA from Japan, especially into infrastructure and human resources development, development of advanced industry and agriculture, response to climate change and environmental challenges, as well as economic management capacity building. Vietnam also applauds Japan’s “Partnership for Quality Infrastructure: Investment for Asia's Future”, and wishes to be listed as a priority partner of the Program.”

Regarding economic relations between the two countries, the Party chief said that Vietnam always places high priority on its economic ties with Japan. Both sides have concluded deals on several key cooperation projects and schemes, including the Industrialization Strategy within the Vietnam-Japan Cooperation Framework towards 2020 with vision until 2030 with focus on electronics, agricultural machinery, processing products originating from agriculture and fishery, shipbuilding, environment, energy efficiency, production of automobiles and auto spare parts. Japan has been actively assisting Vietnam in terms of technology and experience in industrialization and modernization of agriculture and rural areas.

Furthermore, he said he believes that the launch of the ASEAN Community by the end of 2015 and the fact that both Vietnam and Japan are taking part in promoting regional economic linkages including the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) would open up new opportunities for businesses of both countries to increase cooperation in investment and trade.

Vietnam welcomes Japanese investors to expand the size of their investment in Vietnam in sectors that Japan has advantages, including processing and manufacturing industries, construction and energy, among others. Japanese investors are also invited to continue exploring the possibility of investing or expanding their investment in priority industries under the bilateral cooperation framework. I wish to underline that the Party, State and people of Vietnam always exert much effort to provide conditions for Japanese businesses to be successful in Vietnam,” he said.

Answering questions on some problems arisen from Vietnam’s 30-year renewal process such as corruption, gaps between the rich and the poor, and investment environment that needs to be improved, Party leader Trong said that the reform process in Vietnam has recorded historic and far-reaching accomplishments. In terms of socioeconomic development, the average growth rate from 1991 to 2015 was 7 percent. From an underdeveloped country, Vietnam has become a middle-income country in 2010. It is integrating deeper into the regional and global economy. Vietnam also accomplished ahead of schedule many important Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), especially those on poverty reduction, healthcare and education.

However, Vietnam is well aware of the existing challenges and difficulties like low quality of growth, weak competitiveness and productivity, shortcomings of the business environment, corruption and wastefulness, and a slow-to-improve standard of living for part of the population.

In order to overcome such difficulties, Vietnam is determined to implement strong, consistent and comprehensive reforms, seize opportunities and make the most of all internal and external resources to accelerate transformation of its growth model and restructure the economy. For Vietnam, sustainable development is based on macroeconomic stability, increased productivity and competitiveness of the economy and economic growth coupled with equality, social progress and environmental protection.

To this end, the country is implementing three strategic breakthroughs on institutions, human resource and infrastructure while restructuring the economy and transforming the growth model toward rapid and sustainable economic growth, active international integration as well as accelerated industrialization and rural development.

At the same time, Vietnam is also promoting administrative procedure reform and instituting policies to create a transparent, safe and friendly business environment so that people and businesses can fully utilize their creative power in a fair and competitive market economy.

According to him, Vietnam’s important achievements during the reform process are a solid foundation to generate a springboard for economic development in the years to come. In addition, the country’s international integration is embarking onto a new phase as the ASEAN Community will be in operation by the end of 2015. Vietnam has officially signed the FTAs with many partners while engaging in the last round of negotiations of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP). Accordingly, with the possibility of concluding 12 FTAs in the future, Vietnam will become an important part of a widespread economic network that includes 55 partners, of which 15 are G20 members.

Significant accomplishments made in economic development and international integration also open up new markets and room for development. The Vietnamese economy is integrating more deeply and effectively into the regional and global production network. Knowing that there remain many challenges and difficulties, Vietnam still believes that the current circumstances of the country warrant vigorous transformation along with a fast and sustainable growth rate for the Vietnamese economy.

When Japanese reporters asked for how Vietnam will be once the ASEAN Community is formed later this year and what the country wants Japan to do for ASEAN, the Party General Secretary stated that 20 years ago, Vietnam decided to join ASEAN, a strategic move and also the first breakthrough in our international integration process. It is a manifestation of the Vietnamese Party and State’s foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, multilateralization and diversification of external relations along with proactive international integration.

“We always value ASEAN’s role in ensuring peace, stability and development in the region and the world. Our 11th National Party Congress has laid out the policy of “working with other countries in an active and responsible manner to build a strong ASEAN community while strengthening ties with partners to maintain and reinforce ASEAN’s central role in cooperation mechanisms in the Asia-Pacific.” Our consistent policy is to support a strong and united ASEAN community. We recognized clearly that this is in the interest of Vietnam as well as the region at large. We have been and will continue to be an active and responsible member of ASEAN with more significant contributions to a growing ASEAN community in the time to come.

“With regards to the ASEAN-Japan relations, I am certain that not only Vietnam but all other ASEAN members look forward to work with Japan in our common effort for peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region on the basis of the ASEAN-Japan Strategic Partnership.”

He said in the next few months, the ASEAN Community will take effect, marking a significant development of the Association. It will be the basis for the Association to transition into a higher stage of closer integration. Vietnam and all other members hope to receive tangible support from partner countries, including Japan, to implement existing commitments, agreements and cooperation programs, especially with regards to the formation of the ASEAN Community after 2015.

“We also hope that Japan, as a major country in the region, will continue to support ASEAN's centrality in regional cooperation mechanisms, actively participate in ASEAN-initiated mechanisms such as ARF, EAS and ADMM+ while working with ASEAN at other international forums like APEC, ASEM and the UN. We also look forward to Japan’s active collaboration with ASEAN in dealing with regional and global challenges as well as non-traditional security issues where Japan possesses advantages such as cyber security, disaster relief, combating pirates, etc.

“We are very appreciative of Japan’s cooperation with countries in the Mekong Sub-region. We hope Japan will continue to support the development of the East-West Economic Corridor and sustainable management and use of water sources in the Mekong River.

"We have high expectations for the economic, trade and investment cooperation between ASEAN and Japan as we aim to double bilateral trade and investment by 2022 following the ASEAN-Japan 10-Year Strategic Economic Cooperation Roadmap. Both sides should also complete the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership soon along with the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Collaboration is also needed in the implementation process. We hope that Japan will continue to support ASEAN in promoting regional linkages."

About Vietnam’ s single-party political institution, Nguyen Phu Trong said that human history has shown that the development of political institutions is based on the specific historical, political, economic, cultural and social backgrounds and conditions of each country. There is no unique model to be applied for all countries. The political regime in Viet Nam is the outcome of its historical evolution. In this course, the reputation and role of the Communist Party of Vietnam have been demonstrated, receiving broad support of the people, particularly in the struggles for national liberation, unification, reform, development and defense.

“I hold the view that the core of democracy is to guarantee that power truly belongs to the people, by the people and for the people. The political institution that can satisfy the requirements, aspirations and legitimate interests of the majority of people, will have a strong vitality regardless of one-party or multi-party system. The important thing is not about quantity, but quality of the Party. It means to whom the Party belongs, how it is organized and operates, for the interests of whom, how it conducts relationships with the people, serves the country and people, and whether it is supported by the majority of people or not,” he affirmed.

Over the past 85 years, the one-and-only and unchangeable purpose that the Communist Party of Viet Nam has been striving for is to serve the people's interests and the country at large, he said, adding that the Communist Party of Viet Nam has been always receptive, exercised self-criticism and conducted reform to address shortcomings to improve itself in order to better fulfill the tasks assigned by the people and to deserve the title of true representative of the majority of Vietnamese people from all social strata.

Regarding Nikkei newspaper's question on Viet Nam's socialist-oriented market economy, the Party chief said that indeed, Viet Nam pursues the consistent and long-term policy of developing a socialist-oriented market economy, or in other words, a multi-stakeholder commodity economy operated by market principles with State regulations and socialist orientation. That was Viet Nam's innovation, which, on the one hand, follows the universal law and, on the other hand, matches the reality of the country.

"We are all aware that market economy is the shared achievement of humankind civilisation. In transition to socialism, Viet Nam's adoption of market economy becomes an objective indispensability, completely compatible with the laws of development and the trend of the times. However, reality also indicates that no country nowadays can afford to entrust all economic issues into the market's ‘invisible hand' but they rather must combine market economy with macro-level regulations of the State."

Viet Nam is committed to developing the market economy, respecting market rules, creating an environment conducive to production, investment and doing business in the country, ensuring a playing field for equal and healthy competition among stakeholders, while actively and proactively integrating into the world economy. At the same time, Viet Nam also accords high priority to the role of the State as the regulator to ensure the sound and effective operation of the market. Policies and economic tools have been used to promote sustainable development. Social progress and equity were mainstreamed in every action and development policy of the State. Efforts were taken to ensure the alignment of economic growth with poverty reduction, improvement of the people's living standards, and protection of the environment and ecological systems. The goal of these efforts is socialism in the country. Viet Nam does not view that socialism-orientation and market economy are in any way mutually exclusive. On the contrary, it was a dialectical blend, a necessity highly relevant to the reality of Viet Nam.

About the upcoming 12th National Congress of the Communist Party of Viet Nam, he said the congress will be convened 30 years after the Reform or Doi Moi. This is a moment of historic importance, marking the overall maturity of the Party and State of Viet Nam. The 12th National Congress is expected to discuss and decide on the country's major domestic and foreign policies and guidelines in the next five years in order to well position the country for an era of sustainable development and extensive international integration. The Congress will also take stock of several theoretical and practical matters of the past 30-year journey, pin-point opportunities and challenges, and work out doctrines that outline the development direction for Viet Nam in the new stage, including issues such as steps to be undertaken in the transitional phase, the socialism-oriented market economy, the paradigms and methods of social management, integrated and appropriate reform of economic and political realms, and key engines for the reform and development in Viet Nam in the new phase, among others. High priority will continue to be attached to strengthening the Communist Party of Viet Nam in order to build a clean, resilient Party with enhanced leadership capability and that is able to meet the demands of the new stage.

"We pursue a consistent policy of integrated and comprehensive reform in order to build a fast-growing and sustainable economy while transforming the growth model, ensuring political stability and social order and justice, as well as maximising democracy and improving the people's living standards. We are focusing all efforts on implementing measures to increase development quality and productivity; accelerating the realization of the three strategic breakthroughs – namely complete the institutions of the socialism-oriented market economy, rapidly develop the human resources, particularly quality workforce, and develop an integrated infrastructure."

On the external front, he noted that the Party and State of Viet Nam continue to pursue the consistent foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation, development, multilateralisation and diversification of international relations. In the years to come, we will continue to step up the comprehensive international integration, deepening relations with partners, including Japan, and extensively participating in multilateral forums as an "active and responsible member of the international community".- (VNS/VLLF)

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