Global Insider: Vietnam-Philippines Relations
By The Editors | 11 Nov 2011Philippine President Benigno Aquino and Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sangsigned an agreementlastmonth to allow the two countries’ navies and coast guards to better monitor foreign incursions in thewaters around the disputed Spratly Islands. In an email interview,Carlyle A. Thayer, an emeritus professorat the University of New South Wales at the Australian Defense Force Academy, discussed Vietnam-Philippines relations.
WPR: What is the recent trajectory of Vietnam-Philippines diplomatic and trade relations?
Carlyle A. Thayer
: Vietnam and the Philippines were on opposing sides during the Vietnam War. Theyexchanged diplomatic relations in July 1976, but political and economic ties remained minimal even afterVietnam joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1995. Two-way bilateral tradestood at only $541 million in 2000.Relations began to develop after adoption of the “Framework on Bilateral Cooperation in the NextQuarter Century and Beyond” in 2002. Bilateral trade reached $1 billion in 2005 and $2.2 billion in 2008.The trade balance is weighted heavily in Vietnam’s favor. The Philippines imports 2 million tons of riceannually in addition to coffee and electronic components. The Philippines exports chemical fertilizers,minerals, oil and gas and electronic components.Investment is extremely modest. In 2009 the Philippines ranked 26th on Vietnam’s investment ladder, with43 projects and a total capitalization of $300 million. Vietnamese investment in the Philippines isnegligible.
WPR: How have the disputes over the Spratly Islands and the South China Sea impacted relations?
: Vietnam and the Philippines have overlapping territorial claims in the South China Sea. In 2005,when the national oil companies of China and the Philippines reached agreement to undertake a jointseismic survey, Vietnam initially protested. Vietnam later joined in, but the trilateral agreement lapsed in2008.The two countries have been brought closer together in the face of increasing Chinese assertiveness in theSouth China Sea. This year, Chinese civilian maritime enforcement ships have been involved in a numberof aggressive assertions of sovereignty, including interfering in the lawful commercial activities of Philippine and Vietnamese exploration vessels operating in their own waters. The Philippines was soangered that it officially renamed the South China Sea the West Philippine Sea and lodged a protest withthe United Nations.Both the Philippines and Vietnam lodged complaints with China but to no avail. Both countries thenmoved to shore up their bilateral relations.
WPR: What are the main areas of potential cooperation moving forward, and what are some of the obstacles to closer ties?
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