In 1993—with the cold war finally over—Jerusalem and Hanoi first established diplomatic relations. Alon Levkowitz takes stock of what the ensuing economic and security ties have wrought:
Vietnam is a member of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an organization of ten states and almost 650 million people . . . that has developed into an important economic player in Southeast Asia over the years. Diplomatic and economic relations with Vietnam allow Israel to improve trade not just with other ASEAN members with which it has diplomatic relations, but also with states with which it does not. Vietnam has become a channel through which Israel can trade with the Muslim world in the region without facing political and ideological barriers. Improving trade with Vietnam will also help Israel gain access to other states beyond Southeast Asia with which Hanoi has diplomatic relations. . . .
Current trade between Israel and Vietnam is around $1.1 billion, with the potential to reach $1.5 billion. Vietnamese officials estimate that in the coming years, trade between Israel and Vietnam could double to $3 billion. Trade between Israel and Vietnam is not limited to the civilian sector. The two states cooperate in the defense sector as well. The Israeli defense advantage offers valuable solutions to the security challenges Vietnam faces.
This is one of the reasons why Israel and Vietnam are negotiating a free-trade agreement. . . . Last year, Israel’s President Reuven Rivlin visited Vietnam with a large delegation of Israeli businessmen, a strong indicator of the importance Israel places on relations with Vietnam. Hanoi recently sent a delegation to Israel to learn how Israel’s “start-up nation” ethos could be implemented back home. Israeli-Vietnamese relations have huge economic and diplomatic potential that should be exploited, including in the more complicated and delicate political-diplomatic arena.