Vietnam and the United States are poised to take diplomatic relations to a higher level, 15 years after establishing formal ties. U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met with top Vietnamese officials for 2 days in Hanoi recently, and said in that time the 2 nations have learned to see each other as actual and potential partners, colleagues and friends.
On the economic front, the United States' relationship with Vietnam has also grown. 15 years ago, there was virtually no U.S. investment in Vietnam, and bilateral trade was just $451 million a year. Since 2006, U.S. exports to Vietnam have nearly tripled, and in 2009 two-way trade reached $15.4 billion. Last year, the U.S. was Vietnam's largest foreign investor.
"We have consistently moved in the direction of engagement and cooperation, even on those issues where we disagree," Secretary Clinton said.
The talks covered education, health, environmental protection and defense issues. About 75% of all U.S. official development assistance to Vietnam has been invested in health-related activities. The U.S. is Vietnam's largest bilateral donor for combating pandemic and avian influenza. The U.S. will provide $95 million to help Vietnam address the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS in 2010. Total U.S. HIV and influenza assistance to Vietnam since 2004 exceeds $440 million.
The relationship is important not only on its own merits, but also to ensure the prosperity and stability of the entire Southeast Asia region. Vietnam is on a path to becoming a great nation with unlimited potential, and the United States will continue to choose engagement and cooperation over escalation and division.