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U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian Public Affairs Christopher Hill says the U.S.-Vietnam relationship has expanded in an impressive number of areas since the U.S. re-established diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1995.
"Overall, we have made broad progress where our interests have coincided, and we have also been able to engage candidly on issues where we differ." In testimony before a U.S. Senate subcommittee, Assistant Secretary Hill said Vietnam had undergone a dramatic transformation since the 1990s, when the country's leaders introduced a policy called 'doi moi' or renovation, aimed at boosting economic growth. They turned away from central planning in favor of efforts to promote the private sector, said Mr. Hill.
Mr. Hill highlighted rapid gains in trade and investment ties between the United States and Vietnam, as well as expanded cooperation on economic governance reforms. He also noted that if Vietnam can continue to effectively implement more market reforms, it has the economic potential to catch up with the advanced economies of Asia.
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U.S. cooperation with Vietnam has expanded in recent years to include new areas such as HIV/AIDS and Avian influenza education, and
regional and security issues, including at the United Nations Security Council, where Vietnam is serving a two-year term. Mr. Hill also noted continuing improvements in Vietnam's religious freedom situation. Problems remain, however, in the area of human rights:
"People cannot freely choose their government, and risk detention for peaceful expression of political views. The government continues to maintain significant restrictions on freedom of the press, on speech, on assembly and internet content."
Protecting human rights, said Mr. Hill, is in Vietnam's own interest, and expanding political participation would make the country stronger. Assistant Secretary Hill said the United States wishes to remain involved with Vietnam's transformation as a partner, and when needed, as a constructive critic.