Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov is on a three-day Southeast Asia tour, visiting Vietnam and China. In Ho Chi Minh City, Russia’s top diplomat took part in the Valdai Club Conference, discussing bilateral issues and economic cooperation between Moscow and ASEAN members.
If you talk to people in Ho Chi Minh City, you’d see how their lives have been changing over the past few years. Vietnam has recently been taking giant steps forward in terms of economic development, with tourism, industry, trade and small businesses becoming key drivers of growth.
While thousands of motorcycles remain the main type of transportation in Ho Chi Minh City, you can see more cars, sometimes luxury ones, in the streets. The city is also working on a rapid transit system, aiming to commission the first metro line by 2020.
The Vietnamese say that part of their success strategy is in the flexible approach to foreign policy and alliances. The country is a member of major blocs, such as APEC and ASEAN. It has been a member of ASEAN for almost a quarter of a century and established bilateral import-export ties with key major powers in the region, such as China, Japan, and South Korea.
Russia sees Vietnam as a strategic partner in Southeast Asia. It was the first Asian country to sign a free-trade agreement with the Moscow-backed Eurasian Economic Union in 2015, which brought a 28% increase in trade volume between EEU countries and Vietnam within first 7 months from its implementation.
According to Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Moscow is prepared to go even further in its integration initiatives:
“Russia, together with its EEU partners is promoting integration, and this strategy is already paying off. We have a free trade agreement with Vietnam. Preparation of a similar agreement with Singapore is in final stages, we’re also working on FTAs with Indonesia, Thailand, Cambodia and Brunei. And, actually, ASEAN itself is interested in the EEU”.
Lavrov also praised Russian-Vietnamese cooperation in ASEAN’s formats, such as the East Asia Summit and Russia-ASEAN summit. Moscow joined the EAS in 2011, and Russian officials will be participating in this regional forum in Thailand this year.
Cybersecurity and counterterrorism are the two areas in which Moscow is happy to share its expertise with Vietnam and other ASEAN members.
Besides his participation in Valdai Club Conference, Russia’s top diplomat held bilateral meetings on Monday with Vietnamese officials – the country’s Deputy Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son and Secretary of Ho Chi Minh City’s Central Party Committee Nguyen Thien Nhan.