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The Flourishing Partnership Between Turkey and Vietnam by Selcuk Colakoglu - USAK Center for Asia Pacific Studies
Ngày đăng: 11/10/2011

The Journal of Turkish Weekly

Saturday, 24 September 2011 

Selcuk Colakoglu

USAK Center for Asia-Pacific Studies.

Although it has gone unnoticed in the busy and rapidly changing atmosphere of Turkey’s agenda, a new partnership is taking shape, with slow but determined steps taken by Turkey and Vietnam. Whilst one cannot talk about a very intimate relationship between the two countries, both political and economic relations are increasingly gaining strength. It is also necessary to indicate that at this point, both sides express a strong will to develop bilateral relations.

Vietnam, with a population of around 90 million and a rapidly growing economy, is one of the promising countries in Southeast Asia. The revitalizing of relations between Turkey and Vietnam is a very recent process. Although Turkey had set up diplomatic relations in 1978 after the annexation of South Vietnam by North Vietnam, bilateral relations remained feeble for a very long period. Whilst Turkey had opened its Hanoi Embassy in 1997, Vietnam opened the İstanbul Consulate General in 2001 and the Ankara Embassy in 2003.

Bilateral trade relations also started to flourish throughout the 2000s. The bilateral trade volume that reached only 29 million dollars by 2000 has increased to 857 million dollars as of 2010. Vietnam seemingly ranks very low from the perspective of Turkey’s general trade volume. However, when the rapidly developing economic potential between the two countries is considered it is expected that this figure will exponentially increase. Together with this, Turkey, as with all other South Asian countries, has a serious current deficit in its trade with Vietnam. As of 2010, the amount of imports from Vietnam has reached a total worth of 751 million dollars while the figure for exports stood at 106 million dollars. Therefore, Turkey’s priority item on the agenda during the development of bilateral relations will be conducting more well-balanced trade.

Regarding the developing trade relations between Turkey and Vietnam, direct flights between the two countries has been the priority item on the agenda of businessmen during the 2000s. Taking into consideration the fact that there were no direct flights between Turkey and Vietnam in addition to the two countries being geographically very distant, the two countries turned out to be unattractive markets for each other regarding touristic or business visits. An important step has been taken to resolve this problem of transportation through Turkish Airlines’ initiative to launch direct flights from Istanbul to Ho Chi Minh City, the financial capital of Vietnam.

The mutual senior level visits conducted between the two countries are noteworthy. Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu had conducted the most senior level visit in 2010. Foreign Minister Davutoğlu had first been hosted by President Nguyen Minh Triet on July 22, 2010, and later by Vietnamese Foreign Minister and Deputy Prime Minister Pham Gia Khiem during his participation in the ASEAN summit which was held in Vietnam.

In February 2011, Deputy Prime Minister Bülent Arınç had also visited Vietnam as a part of his official visits. During this visit, the question of how bilateral political and economic relations could be strengthened had been elaborately evaluated. A couple of months after this visit, on May 2011, Vietnamese Vice President Thi Doan conducted an official state visit to Turkey. It is also planned to secure a prime ministerial or presidential visit to further help bilateral relations gain speed. In September 2011, the two capitals Hanoi and Ankara became sister cities. The delegation led by Hanoi Mayor Ngo Thi Doan Thanh, who came to Ankara in order to sign the agreement, was hosted by Ankara Mayor Melih Gökçek.

During the recent years, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand, and Malaysia have gained more prominence as Turkey’s trade partners in Southeast Asia. From this perspective, the ASEAN Regional Forum can become a platform to expand contacts with Southeast Asian countries with which Turkey has traditionally not quite had relations with. Turkey became the 28th member of the ASEAN Regional Forum with the regional cooperation agreement signed on July 24, 2010. The fact that historical and cultural ties between Turkey and Vietnam are negligible, alongside the fact that the two countries are very distant geographically, appear to be the biggest obstacles in the way of developing bilateral relations. Turkey’s strengthening of institutional links with ASEAN, besides improving bilateral relations, will contribute to the process of establishing stronger connections between Ankara and Hanoi.


The Journal of Turkish Weekly