Vietnam and Indonesia Reach Agreement on EEZ Boundaries

Posted by Written by Mark Barnes Reading Time: 2 minutes

Vietnam and Indonesia have reached an agreement on the boundaries of their exclusive economic zones (EEZs), paving the way for greater collaboration between ASEAN states on overlapping territorial claims.

The agreement was announced Thursday after Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc met with the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo in Indonesia.

The boundary between the EEZs of the two nations has long been a point of contention. Indonesia has taken action against Vietnamese fishermen, on a number of occasions, that it claims have been fishing in the disputed waters illegally. This has included confiscating and destroying their vessels.

On one occasion, the Vietnamese coast guard even detained an Indonesian officer after the Indonesians attempted to escort Vietnamese vessels out of the disputed area.

Notably, this is not the first agreement the two nations have reached regarding their overlapping claims. In 2003, they signed an agreement on their continental shelf boundaries. An agreement on EEZs, however, has been somewhat more challenging with 12 rounds of negotiations taking place before last week’s announcement.

This is just one small step, however, in a much bigger issue.

There are currently a number of outstanding overlapping claims in the region. These claims have been put forward by the governments of Brunei, China, Taiwan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Vietnam, and are mostly located in the South China Sea (SCS).

China’s claim, which covers an area dubbed the nine-dash line, has been a key concern of the ASEAN states whose boundaries border the SCS.

In 2016 the Permanent Court of Arbitration found in favor of the Philippines in a dispute raised by the archipelago against China. China, however, refused to recognize either the court or the ruling and instead has insisted that agreements should be made bilaterally between the parties involved.

With Indonesia and Vietnam signing this most recent agreement a united front against the Chinese claims may be one step closer. It also serves to strengthen ties between Vietnam and Indonesia–two nations often competing for foreign investment.

Indonesia and Vietnam have a long history as trading partners in the region. Bilateral trade between the two nations hit almost US$12 billion in the first 11 months of 2022, a record for trade between the two countries.

This is likely to grow much bigger in the next decade as the region becomes more heavily integrated.

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