Vietnam was divided into a Communist North and anti-Communist South under the Geneva Accords of 1954. Throughout the 1960s, US economic and military aid to the South grew in an attempt to strengthen governmental power, culminating in the Vietnam War. US armed forces withdrew following a cease-fire agreement in 1973. Two years later, the North Vietnamese forces took control of the South to reunite the country under Communist rule. Despite the return of peace, for the next decade the country experienced little economic growth due to conservative leadership policies, and international isolation and mass persecution and departure of its citizens. However, since 1986, the Vietnamese government has committed to modernizing the economy in part through the development of more competitive, export-driven industries.
The global financial crisis will present challenges to the country’s ability to create jobs and further reduce poverty. In 2009, Vietnam’s export-oriented economy has already experienced a decline in profits.
Since 2001, Vietnamese authorities have further reaffirmed their commitment to international integration. Vietnam’s membership in the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and entry into the US-Vietnam Bilateral Trade Agreement in December 2001 has led to some changes in its trade and economic policies. Vietnam’s exports to the US increased 900% from 2001 to 2007. Vietnam joined the WTO in January 2007 following over a decade of lengthy negotiation processes. In January 2008, Vietnam assumed a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2008-09 term.
Vietnam continues to experience some small-scale protests from various groups, mostly over land-use issues and the lack of official and unbiased methods for resolving disputes. Various ethnic minorities, including the Montagnards of the Central Highlands and the Khmer Krom in the southern delta region, have also staged protests.