A strategic alliance between two of Southeast Asia’s fastest growing frontier markets is anticipated to be forged later this month. The Philippines and Vietnam have been looking to set up this partnership for some time now and according to analysts as well as official reports, the pact should be finalized in a matter of weeks at the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) leaders’ summit in Manila.
The timing is auspicious as 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of bilateral relationships between the two countries and there would be no better time to show new ties between old friends.
The idea of Vietnam and the Philippines forging a partnership has been around for a while now. According to the records, it started about a year and a half ago, when leaders of the two countries publicly expressed their desire for a stronger relationship. In May 2014, the Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Filipino President Benigno S. Aquino III voiced their support and wishes to see stronger ties formed between the two countries.
Ever since these public declarations, the two countries have taken actions to make it a reality. Led by each country’s Foreign Secretary, both parties have taken part in drafting up a joint agreement so far.
Economic and Political Benefits for Vietnam and the Philippines
A strategic partnership between the two countries naturally makes sense due to a number of reasons.
First of all, they share a long history. Despite being on the opposite sides of the cold war – Vietnam with the Soviet Union and the Philippines with the US – bilateral ties can be described as friendly. In fact, before this, the two countries have inked agreements about security and tourism which were part of the Philippine-Vietnam Action plan 2011-2016 Framework.
In addition to that, both countries have looked for ways to resist the growing assertiveness of China, especially with regards to the South China Sea. This sort of agreement would bring the countries closer together and hopefully make them less affected by the mighty Asian powerhouse. They are also looking to strengthen the ties that bind the countries of ASEAN and boost their economies.
There have been many meetings held to put this into place, the last of which was just a little over a week ago on October 21. One of the main items on the agenda was the soon to be signed agreement to reinvigorate ties, along with the review of the results from the agreements made in the last meeting two years ago and suggestions of new measures.
Bilateral Trade to Enjoy Huge Boost
On the economic side of the discussions, Vietnam and the Philippines agreed on an ambitious US$3 billion target for two-way trade by 2016. The two countries were also looking to sign, according to local media, a pact on rice trade during this month’s APEC.
On the security side, things were more serious as the range of topics were wide and included many controversial ones including but not limited to, cybercrime and piracy, search and rescue operations, United Nations Peacekeeping operations, terrorism, and handing over of prisoners.
Co-chairs of the meeting, Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario and his counterpart Pham Binh Minh, agreed that since the focus of the meeting was to establish future partnerhsips, the soon to be signed agreement was one of the most important matters.
According to Mr. Minh, “Upgrading the Vietnam-Philippines relationship to a new height will not only push forward more bilateral ties, but it will also make a positive contribution to peace, co-operation and development in the region, as well as unity within ASEAN.”
The signing does look to happen before the end of this year and the initiation of the ASEAN Economic Community if all goes well. However, it will be good to note that there have been many times in which deadlines between the two have failed.