Strengthening the National Assembly’s foreign affairs amidst the extensive and comprehensive global integration
Communist Review - The 13th National Congress of Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) affirmed that, after 5 years of implementing the Resolution of the 12th Congress, foreign relations and international integration have become more and more extensive and have achieved outstanding performances. Global integration is accelerated, inclusive, flexible, and effective for the benefit of the nation and people, ensuring national independence, self-reliance, and sovereignty. The National Assembly (NA)'s foreign affairs have made significant contributions to this success.
In the past time, the rapidly changing regional and global situation, especially the emergence of the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused unprecedented impacts for decades, and the synergistic effects of old and new non-traditional security challenges have threatened the peaceful and stable environment of many countries around the world. In that context, Vietnam has maintained and promoted many important achievements in international integration, contributing to strengthening the country's position and power, in which foreign affairs always perform their regular and inclusive tasks of maintaining a peaceful and stable environment, seizing opportunities to renovation cause and enhancing Vietnam's international position and prestige.
The NA’s role is shown clearly through activities such as Vietnam’s fulfillment of its term 2020-2021 as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, and ASEAN Chair in 2020. These achievements have marked a special milestone in promoting and elevating multilateral external relations and contributing to building multilateral institutions. Besides, Vietnam's external relations with other countries have been substantively fostered, stabilized, and reinforced, creating more resources for national growth. In that common success, the NA's foreign affairs have become an important element in the common foreign affairs work of the Party and the State, bringing practical effects to the implementation of the Party diplomacy and strongly combining the comprehensive and extensive international integration with the enhancement of overall power, renovation, improvement of domestic institutions, and improvement of self-reliance, competitiveness, and adaptability of the country.
Enormous efforts have been made to achieve significant results in the new situation
Over the years, the NA has built and perfected the legal framework for foreign affairs, meeting the requirements set out in the new situation when Vietnam has integrated deeply and widely into the world. The NA has discussed and passed laws, directly and indirectly, related to foreign affairs and international integration, such as Law on National Border (2003), Law on National Security (2003) 2004), Law on the conclusion, accession, and implementation of international treaties (2005), Law on Overseas Representative Missions of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (2009, revised and supplemented in 2017), Law on the Sea of Vietnam (2012), Law on International Treaties (2016), and Law on International Agreements (2020). The NA has reviewed, amended, and supplemented relevant laws and ordinances to ensure that the national legal system is compatible with Vietnam's international commitments during the process of international integration.
Moreover, the NA has supervised the implementation of policies and laws on foreign affairs and international integration, and the NA's resolutions related to foreign affairs. It has coordinated with the parliaments of some countries to pilot the implementation mechanisms such as the Vietnam-Russia Inter-Parliamentary Cooperation (2020), joint supervision of Vietnam’s NA and Lao’s NA on the implementation of the Government's Agreement to settle free migration, undocumented marriages in border areas (2020). NA’s agencies are also implementing certain cooperation models suitable to the nature and level of the bilateral relationship, such as cooperation between Vietnam’s NA and the European Parliament to enhance the effectiveness of the EU- Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), cooperation within the framework of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) and a parliamentary network to promote the effective implementation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).
Playing the role of decision-making on major issues related to foreign affairs, the NA decides on basic foreign policies and the conclusion and accession of bilateral and multilateral mechanisms and agreements. The NA's agencies conduct verifications of international treaties and submit them to the NA for ratification of important treaties related to national sovereignty, borders, territories, and membership of Vietnam in international organizations, human rights, basic rights, and obligations of citizens.
Accordingly, the NA ratified several important international treaties and new-generation free trade agreements, such as CPTPP, EVFTA, Vietnam - EU Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA); international treaties related to the border and territory between Vietnam and neighboring countries sharing a border, such as a Treaty on adding the starting line and increasing the width of border markers between Vietnam and Laos, the Treaty on supplementing the 1985 Treaty on National Boundary Delimitation and the 2005 Supplementary Treaty as well as the Protocol on the boundary demarcation between Vietnam and Cambodia. It also ratified the accession to important international conventions to fulfill Vietnam's international commitments, such as Convention No 98 of the International Labor Organization (ILO) on the right to organize and collective bargaining, Convention No 105 of the ILO on the abolition of forced labor. It gave opinions on international treaties which have different regulations or regulations that have not yet been stipulated in laws and resolutions of the NA. The ratification and accession to the above-mentioned important international treaties are in line with the Party's guidelines and the State's policies on international integration; affirming Vietnam's responsibility and determination in international integration, especially economic integration; confirming its support for a rules-based multilateral trading system amid complicated populism and trade protectionism; helping to diversify Vietnam's market, contributing to ensuring economic security, creating momentum for economic integration and domestic economic recovery amidst the ongoing global pandemic.
In implementing parliamentary diplomatic activities, the NA has made a prominent milestone. NA’s bilateral foreign affairs are carried out at different levels, especially at the high level, with the active involvement of the NA Chairman and Vice-Chairmen under the motto “proactive, responsible, active, flexible, and inclusive”. Consequently, NA’s parliamentary diplomatic activities have strengthened and deepened the relationship between Vietnam’s NA and parliaments around the world. As a result, a wide range of activities have been organized: the exchange of delegations at all levels, cooperation programs conducted by groups of parliamentarians, female parliamentarians, and young parliamentarians; cooperation in politics, diplomacy, national defense and security, economy, trade, investment, sustainable development, science - technology, culture and education, exchange between peoples and so forth.
The multilateral parliamentary diplomacy activities of the NA are organized under Directive No. 25-CT/TW, dated August 8, 2018, of the Secretariat on “Promoting and raising the level of multilateral diplomacy until 2030”. As an active member of the international community, Vietnam has conducted major multilateral parliamentary activities within the framework of multilateral parliamentary cooperation mechanisms such as the IPU, the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Council (AIPA), the Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership (ASEP) Meetings, the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF), the Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie (APF) and made many important initiatives, creating a substantive change among these organizations, raising Vietnam's role from “active participation” to “actively contributing to building and shaping the rules of the game”, thus contributing to the protection and effective promotion of strategic interests on security and development of Vietnam.
Vietnam’s full involvement at a high level in key multilateral parliamentary forums proves that Vietnam is a reliable partner and responsible member of the international community. In recent years, Vietnam’s NA has made an imprint on multilateral parliamentary diplomacy by hosting multiple important multilateral conferences on the international and regional scale, such as the 132nd General Assembly of IPU (2015), the 26th annual Meeting of the Asia-Pacific Parliamentary Forum (APPF-26, 2018) and the 41st General Assembly of AIPA (2020). Many innovative ideas proposed by Vietnam’s NA have laid the foundation and long-term development orientation for these mechanisms.
In 2021, the proposals made by Vietnam’s NA at AIPA, APPF, Parliamentary Assembly of the Francophonie (APF), and IPU are all highly appreciated and recognized in joint documents. Regarding politics and security, Vietnam affirms its support for peace and security, cooperation for growth, upholds the rule of law and multilateralism, the role of the United Nations, the principle of respecting the United Nations Charter and international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982) in solving regional and international security issues.
With its prestige, position, and bravery that have been proved, over the years, the NA has an increasing number of candidates and representatives elected by international friends to hold important positions in major regional and international inter-parliamentary organizations, such as the IPU Executive Committee, IPU Vice President, APF Vice President, APPF Executive Committee, AIPA Secretary General. Through discussion at multilateral parliamentary forums and bilateral meetings, Vietnam’s NA can seize opportunities to acquire valuable experiences in improving its legal framework and accelerating institutional reform for international integration and socio-economic growth. At the last 29th annual Meeting of APPF (December 2021), Vietnam’s NA was elected with a high rate of voter turnout to the Executive Committee of APPF for a 4-year term (from 2022 to 2026).
In particular, parliamentary diplomacy makes practical contributions to COVID-19 pandemic prevention and control through vaccine diplomacy, access to drugs and medical equipment and biologicals, and calling for international sharing of vaccines to guarantee equal and affordable access to vaccines. In 2020, amidst the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam’s NA offered masks to regional and international parliaments and parliamentary organizations, creating good impressions among the international community and supporting national diplomacy in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2021, in response to the epidemic, phone conversations and online talks between NA’s Chairman and homologs of other countries as well as meetings on the sidelines of the 5th World Conference of Speakers of Parliament have created imprints and shown the high involvement and engagement of the NA in the new term. The official bilateral visits of the NA Chairman to the European Parliament, the Kingdom of Belgium, Finland, the Republic of Korea, and India with comprehensive, inclusive, and practical agendas have strengthened parliamentary relations between Vietnam and other countries, spreading the image of a proactive, innovative and responsible NA. In addition, the achievements of bilateral parliamentary diplomacy have enabled Vietnam’s NA and parliaments of other countries to closely coordinate in regional and international parliamentary forums and effectively implement bilateral agreements concluded, promoting the conclusion of new agreements with parliaments of countries in an effective and substantive direction.
Parliamentary diplomacy has also promoted economic diplomacy, thereby accelerating trade and foreign investment. Investment attraction and trade promotion activities have been organized on the occasion of official visits by the NA Chairman to policy dialogue forums. Regarding the economy, major questions such as digital transformation, inclusive digital economy coupled with digital equality, information and data security, transition of the development model, green economy, circular economy, sustainability, increased investment, and trade cooperation, and the implementation of free trade agreements have been discussed. Regarding sustainable development, due consideration has been given to enhancing parliamentary cooperation for sustainable development goals as committed, with emphasis on climate change, gender equality, and cultural cooperation.
The role of an effective external channel continues to be strengthened
The significant performances of the parliamentary diplomacy of Vietnam’s NA over the years have made practical contributions to the improvement of the legal system, the creation of a peaceful environment, and additional resources for comprehensive and extensive integration of our country. However, besides the achieved results, the implementation of foreign affairs of the NA in particular and the State in general also faces challenges and obstacles such as human resources, coordination mechanisms between agencies involved in foreign affairs; coordination between NA’s bodies and Government’s agencies; advise and assessment of the international and regional situation, the implementation of foreign affairs, problems during in the process of implementing policies and laws related to foreign affairs; quality of law formulation, foreign policy making, supervision of foreign affairs in the new situation and with new requirements.
In the coming years, the rapidly and complicatedly changing global and regional situation with opportunities and challenges intertwined will have inclusive impacts on national security, stability, and development. What is more, parliamentary system, parliamentary diplomacy continues to be proven to be an effective diplomatic channel, a sustainable trend, in the long run, contributing to complementing traditional diplomacy. International integration, especially economic integration, is the top priority in the Party's policy on national development. Inheriting and promoting the success achieved in the past time, closely following the diplomatic guidelines of the Party, we should pay attention to the following solutions in order to enhance the effectiveness of the NA's foreign affairs work in the context of r extensive and comprehensive international integration:
Firstly, clearly identify the position and importance of the NA's foreign affairs in the overall foreign affairs of the Party and the State in order to maximize the advantages of parliamentary diplomacy in building modern and comprehensive diplomacy. On that basis, formulate diplomatic strategies for the 15th NA term, focus on bilateral and multilateral parliamentary cooperation, share experiences in implementation and promote the legislative role, supreme supervision, budget decisions making, important issues and ratification and decisions on accession to international treaties under the competence of the NA.
Secondly, improve the law-making process and legal system to create a legal environment and favorable conditions for the implementation of diplomatic policies and international integration; consider approving projects of laws and ordinances in all areas of social life in order to implement Vietnam's international commitments and monitor more closely the negotiation, conclusion, and implementation of international commitments and major issues, especially new-generation free trade agreements, promote the supervision of border and territorial activities, overseas Vietnamese work, and implementation of sustainable development goals (SDG).
Thirdly, thoroughly grasp the implementation of Decision No. 272-QD/TW, dated January 21, 2015, of the Politburo on "Promulgation of the Regulation on the unified management of foreign affairs" and guiding documents as well as the Document of the 13th Party Congress on strengthening the close coordination between agencies involved in foreign affairs; The focal agencies involved in foreign affairs should be active in coordinating and sharing information with relevant agencies and organizations to promptly and effectively handle issues related to foreign affairs.
Fourthly, branches, sectors, and agencies need to work closely to ensure that Vietnam’s NA could accomplish its role in the APPF Executive Committee, effectively implement cooperation activities with IPU, well prepare for its participation in AIPA, APF, ASEP in order to promote the position that Vietnam has built up at multilateral forums over the years, diversify forms and content in parliamentary diplomacy, especially digital technology application - one of the big trends of the future.
Fifthly, improve external information, harmonize the NA's diplomacy with the diplomacy of the Party, State, and people, closely coordinate internal and external information, and convey the message about the reform of the NA and the comprehensive and extensive integration of Vietnam.
Sixthly, restructure the organizational apparatus, improve the capacity and quality of public officials involved in the NA’s foreign affairs, and build professional, innovative, comprehensive, and modern diplomacy.
Amidst the changing world and region with intertwined opportunities and challenges, for effective global integration of Vietnam, the NA’s diplomacy needs to strongly promote its role and position that have been cultivated over the years in order to promote the successful implementation of international integration strategies in the fields of politics, security and defense, economy, culture, society, science - technology, education - training and sustainable development, thereby successfully implementing the Party's strategy of proactive and active international integration set forth at the 13th Party Congress./.
This article was published in the Communist Review No. 986 (March 2022)