In pursuit of a foreign policy of openness, multilateralization and diversification of foreign relations, Vietnam has been actively integrating itself into the region and the world. Having become a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in July 1995 and being aware of the potential for cooperation in investment, trade, science and technology, and human resources development between Asia and Europe, Vietnam has made contribution to giving birth to Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and was one of the 26 founding partners of the process at the inaugural Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM 1) held in Bangkok, Thailand in March 1996.
Since then, Vietnam has joined efforts of ASEM partners in putting ASEM process in the orbit of the initial objectives and bringing the Asia-Europe partnership into new depth with higher effectiveness and practicality for the development of our two continents. Not only actively implementing agreements reached at the previous four ASEM Summits in three areas of political dialogue, economic cooperation and cooperation in other fields, Vietnam proposed initiatives, helping diversify ASEM cooperation activities. At ASEM 2 (in London in April 1998), Prime Minister Phan Van Khai presented Vietnam�s initiative on "Combination of Traditional and Modern Medicine for Public Health Care", and a joint initiative with France on "Protection and Promotion of Cultural Heritage in ASEM countries". The two initiatives were later approved at the second ASEM Foreign Ministers� Meeting in March 1999. In pursuance of these initiatives, Vietnam successfully organized the first ASEM Experts� Meeting on Cultural Heritage in January 1999 and the Seminar on Combination of Traditional and Modern Medicine in March 1999. At ASEM 4 in Copenhagen in September 2002, Vietnam and Germany put forward a joint initiative on "Building Market Institutions in the Context of Globalization" which is being implemented.
Besides these initiatives, Vietnam has organized numerous activities like the 3th ASEM Economic Ministers� Meeting (Hanoi, 2001), Asian ASEM SOM (Ho Chi Minh City, 2001), the �Seminar on Cultural Heritage and Tourism� (Hanoi, 2001), ASEM Consultation on the Doha Development Agenda (Hanoi, 2003), the Asia-Europe Young Leaders Symposium (Ho Chi Minh City, August 2003).
Vietnam has assigned representatives to Board of Governors of the Asia-Europe Foundation, the Asia-Europe Vision Group, the ASEM Investment Expert Group, ASEM Task Force for Closer Economic Partnership. These representatives have worked closely with other ASEM members� representatives to come up with practical recommendations to enhance ASEM cooperation.
Vietnam has also enjoyed the practical results of ASEM cooperation. ASEM Trust Fund has been established, helping Asian members to emerge from the financial crisis that griped the region, and 15 projects, with total capital of US$ 10 million, have been approved for Vietnam. Among these, 11 projects have been implemented including those on �Banking reform and development�, �Support for the operation and monitoring of the social safety net for redundant workers�, �Accelerating equitization and commercialization of state owned enterprises in transport sector�, �State owned enterprise reform in Vietnam�, �Banking sector restructuring�, �Provision of health care services for the poor� and �Training on corporate governance for leaders and managers�.
Since October 2000, Vietnam has assumed the role of an Asian coordinator among four coordinators of ASEM. In this position, Vietnam has done a good job of coordinating ASEM activities and made concrete contributions to addressing important issues of ASEM of which ASEM members have been highly appreciated. For this reason and in order to well prepare for the ASEM 5 Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam has been requested to continue the job till the end of October 2004, though a coordinator�s term is just two years.
The most active contribution of Vietnam to ASEM is to host the Fifth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM 5) on 8-9 October 2004. This is an important event as it marks nearly a decade of ASEM development and presents the opportunity for leaders of ASEM partners to map out measures to further revitalize and substantiate the process. In preparation for this significant event, in April 2004, the Prime Minister of Vietnam decided to establish a National Committee for ASEM 5 under the chairmanship of Deputy Prime Minister Vu Khoan and Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien serves as Vice Chairman. To date, preparations in terms of substance and logistics are well underway.
In order to create an atmosphere of Asia-Europe unity, cooperation and friendship on the threshold of the ASEM 5 Summit, from March to October 2004, Vietnam will organize a series of activities across the country such as the 9th Asia-Europe Business Forum (AEBF), Asia-Europe Youth Forum, the third Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership Meeting (ASEP III), trade fairs and exhibitions, Asia-Europe Film Festival and other cultural activities.