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Vietnam Today

Rock solid partners

Released at: 13:59, 07/10/2018 Vietnam - Japan Relations

Rock solid partners

Photo: VET Magazine

Relations between Japan and Vietnam are becoming stronger in all facets.

by H.E. Umeda Kunio / Ambassador of Japan to Vietnam

H.E. Umeda Kunio, Ambassador of Japan to Vietnam

Japan and Vietnam celebrate the 45th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations this year with more than 120 events organized in both countries. In the spirit of the “Extensive Strategic Partnership”, this  relationship has been developing in a solid manner in all fields: politics, security and defense, economics, investment, and culture, sports and tourism. The major features of the Japan-Vietnam relationship can be summarized as follows:

Firstly, the two sides have a strong intimacy. Japan and Vietnam are similar in culture. The close affection that Vietnam offers to Japan, as well as the trustworthiness of the Japanese, are rare in the world. Japanese people also have a close affection for Vietnam. One of the factors contributing to this sentiment is the sharing of similarities in Mahayana Buddhism and culinary culture. There are many Japanese people that have contributed a great deal to Vietnam’s development, such as Mr. Sugi Ryotaro, supporting orphanages and a school for the blind), Dr. Hattori Tadashi (a doctor of cataract surgery), Dr. Natsume Nagato (a doctor of cleft lip surgery), and Mr. Honna Tetsuji (a conductor of symphony orchestras), among others.

Secondly, exchanges between leaders and the people of the two countries are becoming increasingly intimate. Since last year, exchanges between leaders have continually and regularly taken place. The two countries have witnessed a range of such events, such as the State visit to Vietnam by Their Majesties the Emperor and Empress of Japan, the mutual visits by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Prime Minister Abe’s attendance at the APEC Summit in Da Nang and visit to nearby Hoi An ancient town, and the State visit to Japan by State President Tran Dai Quang and his spouse. Through these events, the trustful relationship between the two countries’ leaders has been further strengthened.
About 800,000 Japanese people visited Vietnam last year and about 300,000 Vietnamese went to Japan, and this year the number of visitors both ways has increased steadily. In addition, the number of Vietnamese living in Japan is currently 260,000; a five-fold increase over the past five years and the third-highest number of foreigners living in Japan (as per country). Human resources from Vietnam play a huge supporting role for Japan in the context of the country facing an aging and declining population and labor shortages. However, along with these changes, new problems have arisen such as increases in crime. 

Thirdly, the two countries share many strategic interests. Japan and Vietnam share the same basic views on issues such as freedom of navigation, respect for the rule of law, the peaceful settlement of disputes, free trade, and the TPP. Based on the view that Vietnam’s “sustainable development” and “enhancement of national security and defense capabilities” are important to the stability and prosperity of the whole region, Japan has been promoting the strengthening of links with Vietnam. The cooperation based on “the Free and Open Indo-Pacific Strategy”  proposed by Japan is also underway. In the context of international changes, the links between the two countries share many strategic interests, becoming increasingly important.

Fourthly, close cooperation in the field of economic and investment cooperation. Vietnam’s economy is growing optimally, at 6.8 per cent last year and over 7 per cent in the first half of this year. Vietnam’s growth, however, has historically been heavily dependent on foreign currency and low labor costs, so in order to achieve sustainable growth and avoid falling into the “middle income trap” it is necessary to establish a new growth model. Within the limits of the public debt ceiling (of less than 65 per cent of GDP), improvements to Vietnam’s infrastructure, industrial development, the privatization of State-owned enterprises (SOEs), and improvements in labor productivity are major challenges.

During Vietnam’s development over recent years, Japan has focused on improvements to infrastructure, the legal system, the investment environment, and the training of human resources through overseas development assistance (ODA). FDI capital from Japan to Vietnam last year reached its highest-ever level, of $9.1 billion, while the figure for the first half of this year was a record $6.5 billion. In February, the number of membership of the Japan Business Association in Vietnam became the highest in out of all countries in Southeast Asia.
In order to help Vietnam overcome new challenges and achieve sustainable development, the Japanese Government as well as Japanese businesses are looking for ways to strengthen links with Vietnam.  

Seventh phase of Vietnam-Japan Joint Initiative underway

Vet staff

The Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI), the Embassy of Japan in Vietnam, and the Vietnam-Japan Economic Committee under the Japan Business Federation signed a memorandum of understanding in Hanoi on July 31 kick-starting the seventh phase of the Vietnam-Japan Joint Initiative (VJJI). According to Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung, the VJJI is an important policy dialogue between Japanese businesses and Vietnamese government agencies, through which practical proposals and recommendations have been made over the past 15 years that have greatly assisted improvements in the local business climate. 

The plans of action, to be carried out over 17 months from August to the end of 2019, will cover ten groups of issues, including those left over from the previous phase as well as new content. Such issues include regulations for foreign investors in Vietnam as prescribed in the laws on investment, enterprises, land, and others, the reform of State-owned enterprises and the stock market, support industry development policies, labor and salaries, the legal framework for public-private partnerships (PPP), the legal framework for the construction of gas pipelines, and the establishment of companies and the opening of branches in the services sector. 

The new action plans will work on policies for keeping incentives approved in the aforementioned legal documents while amending Article 13 of the Law on Investment towards adding more subjects given legitimate rights.

Launched in April 2003 as a result of the special cooperation between the two governments, the VJJI has been implemented in six phases with a total of 473 plans of action. Over the past 15 years it has contributed significantly to increasing Japanese investment in Vietnam while helping Vietnamese agencies fine-tune laws and policies.

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