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New French Ambassador sets priorities

Released at: 07:31, 29/10/2016

New French Ambassador sets priorities

Photo: French Embassy

Newly-arrived Ambassador of France in Vietnam, H.E Bertrand Lortholary, tells VET about his priorities in the years to come.

by Hai Van

■ What are your priorities during your term as French Ambassador in Vietnam?

I have identified the first priority as being to cement the guidelines identified by French President François Hollande during his visit to Vietnam in September, which include promoting multi economic relations in balance with good political relations between Vietnam and France. France is Vietnam’s fifth-largest trade partner and Vietnam is the leading ASEAN exporter to France. French enterprises have the capacity to satisfy Vietnam’s development requirements, including in urbanization, infrastructure, climate change, and health. I hope that in the future there will be more Vietnamese enterprises trading with France, to strengthen the bilateral relationship.

The second priority is promoting cooperation in climate change. Vietnam must cope with the damaging effects of climate change, so France will provide support through the Agency of French Development (AFD). From 2006 to 2015 the AFD deployed 17 projects in Vietnam, totaling 525 million euro ($570.7 million). France will support Hanoi in monitoring its air quality by sharing its experience in this field. We will analyze Hanoi’s air quality every day and transfer technology regarding sustainable urban development. The French Government will also support Vietnam in other environmental projects, including saltwater intrusion and coastal erosion projects in northern Ninh Binh and north-central Ha Tinh provinces and Can Tho city.

The third is promoting defense cooperation. France will work with the Vietnamese military in two pillars: training officers and producing army equipment. In the past, cooperation activities have mainly related to army medical corps and training high-ranking officers. In the future, France will support Vietnam in taking part in UN peacekeeping operations. France has modern army technology, and we can help Vietnam in producing such technology.

We also want to connect Vietnamese youth with France, providing opportunities for Vietnamese students to study in France and offering student exchanges. The French Government also plans to establish French studies at Vietnamese universities, initially at Can Tho University. Moreover, we will promote the teaching of the French language at secondary schools in Vietnam and hold a variety of seminars to help students gain more knowledge about France. There are now 7,000 Vietnamese students in France; the second-highest number in the country.

■ Can you tell us more about the air quality management project in Hanoi and the project to upgrade the capital’s Long Bien Bridge?

Leaders at all levels in Vietnam are concerned about air pollution. France has companies with testing that is recognized around the world. The first stage of this project is the signing of the service contract and the long-term aim is to control Hanoi’s air quality and petition for the introduction of a government policy in this regard.

We are involved in two infrastructure projects in Vietnam. I would like to mention the Metro railway line in Hanoi firstly. This is a major French project in Vietnam. In order to fully deploy the project we have divided it into small contracts. Some parts of the project have been carried out and achieved specific results, which we can see in the construction stage. We have announced that there are important projects on signal systems and locomotives. Both governments are in discussions about these and we hope that contracts will be signed in the near future.

We view Long Bien Bridge as a symbol of Vietnam-France relations, an historic memory of the past. We are ready to work with Vietnam on the Long Bien Bridge project and other infrastructure projects and to share modern technology.

■ Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc told the ongoing National Assembly (NA) meeting that the government has set an economic growth target for this year of 6.3 to 6.5 per cent. What are your thoughts on this?

France decided in the past to develop economic relations with Vietnam, which were based on an evaluation of Vietnam’s economic potential and growth rate. We therefore wish to cooperate in Vietnam’s economic development as well as with ASEAN. In order to promote economic cooperation between enterprises in Vietnam and France, to bring into play Vietnam’s economic strengths, we must encourage the signing of contracts between the two countries. During President Hollande’s visit there were many major contracts signed, which promote economic relations between the two countries.

■ At the NA meeting the Prime Minister also asked authorities to inspect the environmental impact of thermal power projects. What do you think about this problem and could France’s experience help resolve it?

Energy is a sector in which the French Government really takes an interest. France has leading global energy companies operating around the world. When thinking about French energy, nuclear energy often comes to mind, which has been developed in France for a long time, But France also has new energy resources, including solar and hydropower. We have already shared technology and experience with Vietnam in these fields.

■ The Mekong Delta has felt the effects of climate change and this has had a serious impact on Vietnam’s economy. You have mentioned climate change cooperation between France and Vietnam. What type of support is being and will be offered to Vietnam?

There is a supportive project in the Mekong Delta being carried out under funding from the French Government. When I first took office I visited Can Tho city and met with city leaders. We agreed that in the future we will work together to resolve the problem in Can Tho city and address other problems relating to climate change.

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