Unforgettable years

Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien had just started his terms in the US, the tragic event of September 11, 2001, occurred by terrorist attacks. After that, the US launched a global war against terrorism, and that was followed by two other battles in Afghanistan and Iraq. “Probably because my name is Chien (means Fighting in English), so I tend to be assigned tough jobs” – Ambassador said and laughed. Due to the intense situation, he had to delay submitting the President’s Letter of Delegation to the US President for nearly two months, however, he was able to choose a meaningful day, October 10 – the Capital Liberation Day, to officially begin his term. 

 
Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien

Remarkably, since November 2001, the Vietnam-US Bilateral Trade Agreement (BTA) came into effect. The first BTA movement was the contract of Vietnam to buy four Boeing 777 aircrafts from the US. However, less than three months afterwards, in February 2002, the US sued Vietnam for the first time for dumping basa fish. “At that point, I thought: Exporting to the US is much more difficult than buying American goods”, the Ambassador recalled. Talking more on this first lawsuit, Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien said: “At that time, the case was very sensitive. It was our first trade conflict with the US and it allowed us to have a significantly realistic lesson of trading in a market economy. In our confusion, we had to do and learn at the same time to find the most appropriate solutions”. The Ambassador also mentioned the difficulties and tensions in finding a way to export other Vietnamese goods to the US market such as negotiating quotas on textiles, using additives in seafood processing, and furniture packaging standards… etc. Dealing with issues required to have the technical knowledge, interest balance of each site, the approach of the law, and business culture, yet above all, both sides must together overcome challenges under mutual interest for co-development.

Recalling the negotiation with US when Vietnam joined the World Trade Organization (WTO), Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien emphasized: “The bilateral negotiation with the US was the decisive moment for us to participate in WTO. Meetings were intensive and lasted all nights long. The more we were on the negotiation table, the more we realized that it was important to understand the international status as well as the differences in economic development and culture”. Until President George W. Bush's official visit to Vietnam in November 2006, the US Congress had not yet voted to approve the Permanent Normal Trade Relations (PNTR) with Vietnam. Along with difficulties, the issue was finally resolved and Vietnam was admitted as the 150th  member of the WTO in January 2007.

 
The Vietnam - US Association and the Vietnam - US Business Council signed the Agreement of Cooperation and a Memorandum of Understanding.

Assessing the developmental progress in  25 years of normalization of Vietnam - US relations, Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien affirmed: “It was a great leap forward that it made many people surprised, giving praises for the peaceful and far-sighted diplomatic policies of Vietnam when looking at the 25 years (1995-2020) that Vietnam and the US have moved from former enemies in fierce battles to the comprehensive partner of each other. However, if we look further into the long history of the two countries, there have been so many severe challenges in Vietnam - US relations since the birth of the Democratic Republic of Vietnam, in 1945.  This relationship has gone through rough-and-tumble with periods of hostilities and war. This unusual period lasted for half a century (from 1945-1995) and only by overcoming hardships did we managed to maintain the past friendly 25 years”. According to the Ambassador, there are still many things to accomplish to improve the relationship between Vietnam and the US, based on further understanding and trust. Along with promoting State diplomacy, both sides need to further foster people-to-people diplomacy because every policy and cooperative opportunity needs support and fulfillment from the citizen of both countries.

The bridge between the two countries

Working as Permanent Vice Chairman from 2008 and President of Vietnam - US Association from 2012 to now, Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien always keeps in his mind: “Let's strive to make The Vietnam - US Association become a bridge that connects two nations, towards the best future for both”. According to Ambassador, The Vietnam - US Association, formerly known as the Vietnam - US Friendship Association, with nearly 75 years of development (established since October 1945), has gained precious experiences with public activities of the US’s social organizations forming the movements of the US citizens for peace. Also according to him, when the official relationship between the two countries has been remarkably stable, activities of people-to-people diplomacy need to be more valued and invested because: "The integrity of all relationships require to appreciate the role of people-to-people diplomacy. That is a path that covers the most fields”, he said. Remembering the story that the Viet Minh Front sought opportunity to establish the relation with the Allied Forces and the US, President Ho Chi Minh immediately asserted that this relationship was based on the principles of equality, reciprocity, and interdependent assistance. According to Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien, the Vietnam-US Association always conforms to this principle in every activity to develop strong relationships. 

 
Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien, Chairman of the Vietnam - US Association welcomed the delegation of VVA led by Mr. Grant Coates

2020 is a significant year for the Vietnam-US relations in general and the Vietnam-US Association in particular, although the COVID-19 pandemic has restricted some socializing opportunities between the citizens of both nations. Nevertheless, the Association was able to welcome some American delegations (before March 2020), organize a donation to send hundreds and thousands of masks to support American friends; open seminars on Vietnam-US tourism under new circumstances; and increase remote communication. In the second half of the year, the Vietnam US Association is planning to hold many activities to celebrate two major anniversary: the 25th anniversary of diplomatic establishment between two countries, and the 75th anniversary of the Association’s establishment, including organizing online seminars with American friends to review the efforts of the people contributing to the normalization of Vietnam-US relations; conducting cultural exchanges and sports activities with American people in Vietnam; coordinating with local associations and agents to organize painting exhibitions organizing seminars about important events in Vietnam-US relations; and encouraging Vietnamese students currently residing in the US to overcome the challenges of COVID-19 pandemic.

 
The official logo will be used by Vietnam and the US in events marking 25 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries this year

In the upcoming years, according to Ambassador Nguyen Tam Chien, while the COVID-19 epidemic might still have a long-term impact, the Vietnam-US Association must seek for new approaches to continue promoting public relations such as taking advantage of online technology to contact with partners; organizing seminars on  Vietnamese-American business culture; sending business delegations through the Vietnam-US Business Club when conditions permit; coordinating with other American associations in building "The Bridge of Vietnam-America Economic Information" to support small and medium-sized companies; promoting cultural exchange with other cooperative projects. In particular, the Ambassador said that it is necessary to increase activities to further reconcile between citizens of two countries, including the Vietnamese community in the US through cooperative activities with mutual benefits; increase humanitarian assistant projects to overcome the consequences of war;  expand exchanges among locals of two countries; and continue to organize events and activities to thank those who have contributed our relationship. Also, it is necessary to increase exchanges on various fields between young people of the two countries; increase diplomatic information on articles through Vietnam – USA Magazine in both Vietnamese and English; disseminate this magazine when direct flights are established; and improve the quality of Vietnam - USA digital magazine.

Thu Phuong