Vaccine diplomacy isn’t just about calling international partners and organizations to continue providing vaccine aid, but also about seeking vaccine purchases and negotiating for vaccine production technology transfer.
Vietnamese Ambassador to the US Ha Kim Ngoc
Vietnamese Ambassador to the US Ha Kim Ngoc told the press on the sidelines of the 20th National Conference on Local Diplomacy that the number of vaccine doses donated by the US has reached 24.5 million, or one-third of that to all of Southeast Asia.
The figure reflects the current good relationship between the two countries, Vietnam’s serious mobilization and effective use of vaccines.
“When discussing with US partners, I always stressed that every vaccine dose will be used effectively and no dose will be wasted,” Ngoc said.
“At first, when Covid-19 broke out and the US was in difficulty, Vietnam shared difficulties with the US though we ourselves were having problems. This made a good impression,” he continued.
“When I mentioned this with the US partners, they said a friend in need is a friend indeed. And now, when they give vaccines to us, they always repeat the saying,” he said.
Vietnamese Ambassador to Belgium, Head Vietnam’s Delegation to the EU, Nguyen Van Thao also believes that the ‘know-how’ behind the success of Vietnam’s vaccine diplomacy is that Vietnam has affectionate friends who have closely linked interests. The success also affirms Vietnam’s position and role in the global value chain.
“Vietnam is a member of the global supply chain, so if it is too seriously hit by the pandemic, this may cause supply chain disruption and the countries in the chain, including the EU, will also be affected. This was the argument we used when discussing with EU countries,” Thao said.
The countries are well aware of this and have donated vaccines through both COVAX program and bilateral agreements. The EU is second just to the US in number of vaccine doses donated to Vietnam.
Vietnam has been effectively using political diplomacy, economic diplomacy and cultural diplomacy.
In terms of political diplomacy, Vietnam has been mobilizing vaccine aid through strategic and comprehensive partners, creating political relation cohesion. Economic diplomacy aims at avoiding disruption to supply chains.
Regarding cultural diplomacy, in 2020, when Europe was affected by the pandemic, Vietnam donated face masks. And now European countries are willing to help Vietnam, according to Thao.
Ngoc said that what Vietnam has gained is the result of relentless comprehensive efforts in many fields. The US administration has given about $40 million by providing medical equipment and training in anti-pandemic skills to medical workers.
Ngoc said he met the US CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) Director under the previous Trump administration and asked for help.
“They said: no need to ask. All the equipment is on the way to Hanoi and HCM City already,” Ngoc recalled.
He believes that Vietnam needs is strengthen cooperation with the US to turn Vietnam into a vaccine, treatment drug and medical equipment production base.
The US, during US Vice President Kamala Harris’ visit to Vietnam in August, and inaugurated the CDC regional office. This marked an important turning point.
The two countries have been supporting each other. In April 2020, Vietnam provided medical equipment and supplies, and now the US provides vaccines to Vietnam.
Vietnamese Ambassador to Belgium Nguyen Van Thao
“I believe that this is a good foundation for us to enhance cooperation in the future. Being self-sufficient in vaccines is the most important thing,” Ngoc said.
Reopening with confidence
In 2020, Europe was seriously hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. However, Europe had its own approach – quickly increasing vaccination coverage and opening the doors very early. European countries have strengthened anti-pandemic measures amid the appearance of Omicron, but they don’t close the doors.
Thao said with the great efforts by the Government and diplomatic agencies, Vietnam has had a relatively large vaccination coverage and it can confidently open its door.
‘Opening’ doesn’t only mean to foreign travelers, but also removing bottlenecks for exchange of goods.
During the pandemic, the biggest obstacle to goods exchange between Vietnam and the world and the EU is the sharp increase in container transportation fees of 5-10 times. This is caused by sailors needing a long quarantine after returning, and a shortage of empty containers.
Long closure of the economy will have heavy impact on socio-economic development.
Talents should be treated well
Ngọc said there are 200,000 Vietnamese intellectuals in the US, accounting for half of total overseas Vietnamese intellectuals. This is a highly educated community in the US compared to other immigrant communities. There are many famous intellectuals in the US, especially in basic sciences, physics and information technology.
Ngoc proposed that central agencies set practical measures to attract overseas Vietnamese intellectuals, set policies to reply to initiatives and recommendations. Meanwhile, local authorities need to create attractive environments and policies to encourage and promote talents. He suggested that the encouragement should address modern fields such as high technologies.
“There should be working environments attractive enough for them (talents) to work. And it’s necessary to respect them,” he said.
Foreign investors want to come to Vietnam to do business but they need to know about contacts and where they can seek input materials, according to Vietnamese Ambassadors to the UK and Austria.
In the relentless efforts to control the epidemic, vaccine diplomacy has become a key factor.