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Vietnam & Belgium pledge to step up cooperation

Released at: 18:13, 17/10/2018

Vietnam & Belgium pledge to step up cooperation

PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc (2nd from right) and PM Charles Michel (2nd from left) at their talks in Brussels on October 16 (Photo: VGP)

PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc in Brussels on October 16-19 before attending 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit.

by Long Van

At a joint press conference following their talks in Brussels on October 16, Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel announced that they had agreed to promote cooperation between the two countries in multiple fields, according to a report from the Vietnam News Agency (VNA).

The State-run news agency quoted the two Prime Ministers as expressing their agreement to bolster ties in agriculture, education and training, culture, transport, and the facilitation of business and investment, especially with the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) to be signed soon.

Prime Minister Phuc told the assembled media that many Belgian-invested projects in Vietnam have been successful, adding that Vietnam is making constant efforts to improve its investment environment.

Belgium has agreed to push for the signing of the EVFTA, he went on, thus facilitating trade and investment between the two countries.

Prime Minister Michel said that besides many important issues to bolster the two countries’ economic partnership, especially in trade and investment, the two sides also considered collaboration in education and training and examined the framework to promote the EVFTA.

Belgium supports Vietnam’s candidacy as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for 2020-2021, he said. The two countries will work together for peace and security in the East Sea, and raise their voice to protest unilateral actions that violate peace and international law.

He added that Belgium wants to work with Vietnam in agriculture, helping the country develop clean agriculture and procedures to ensure food safety.

The two Prime Ministers said they had agreed on the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security and safety of navigation and aviation in the East Sea. Disputes should be addressed by peaceful measures, in accordance with international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), they said.

Following their talks, the two leaders witnessed the signing of cooperation documents between agencies and businesses of the two countries, covering agriculture, food safety, seaports, and other spheres.

They include a strategic partnership agreement on agriculture between the two governments, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on improving food safety and hygiene between the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and the Belgian Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain, and another MoU on establishing a bilateral political consultation mechanism between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Belgian Federal Public Service Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation.

An MoU on cooperation in the research of smart ports in the northern port city of Hai Phong between Vietnam’s Hateco and the Rent-A-Port Group from Belgium and another MoU on cooperation in research into seaport investment and development between Vinalines and Rent-A-Port were also inked on this occasion.

In an interview with VNA correspondents in Brussels ahead of Prime Minister Phuc’s tour from October 16-19, Vietnamese Ambassador to Belgium and Head of the Vietnamese Mission to the EU, H.E. Vu Anh Quang, said the visit has three main purposes.

First, the Prime Minister will pay an official visit to Belgium from October 16-17. During his stay, he is expected to meet with King Philippe, Prime Minister Michel, President of the Chamber of Representatives Siegfried Bracke, Minister-President of Flanders Geert Bourgeois, and Minister-President of Wallonia Willy Borsus.

He will next attend the 12th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit on October 18-19, which will be attended by heads of state and government of 51 member nations.

Vietnam attaches special importance to the role of ASEM, Ambassador Quang said, adding that, at the summit, Prime Minister Phuc will deliver a speech at the first session, highlighting Vietnam’s proposals to intensify Asia-Europe cooperation. The Prime Minister will also meet with participating leaders to boost bilateral relations.

Thirdly, Prime Minister Phuc will have talks with President of the European Commission Jean-Claude Juncker, meet European Parliament President Antonio Tajani, and get together with Chairperson of the European Parliament’s Committee on International Trade (INTA) Bernd Lange, the ambassador added.

Regarding Vietnam-Belgium relations, Ambassador Quang said the visit takes place with the two countries celebrating the 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties and the bilateral relationship developing in all fields.

Belgium is Vietnam’s seventh-largest trading partner in the EU, with two-way trade reaching $2.7 billion last year. As at August, Belgium’s investment was valued at $900 million this year.

On Vietnam-EU relations, the ambassador said the two sides ratified a Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation (PCA) in late 2016 and completed negotiations on the FTA and an investment protection agreement (IPA). They are working towards the signing and ratification of the two agreements.

Prime Minister Phuc’s meetings with EU leaders are of great significance, helping to push the signing and ratification of the FTA and IPA, Ambassador Quang added.

The EU is Vietnam’s second-largest trade partner and export market, with bilateral trade surpassing $50 billion in 2017 and predicted to hit $63 billion this year. The bloc is Vietnam’s fifth-largest investor, with total capital of $44 billion.

Once the FTA and IPA become effective, two-way trade between Vietnam and EU member states will surge and there will be a new flow of investments from EU countries to Vietnam, the ambassador predicted.

Earlier, during his official visit to Austria from October 14 to 16, Prime Minister Phuc called on Austrian businesses to invest in a wide range of areas in Vietnam while addressing the Vietnam-Austria Business Forum in Vienna on October 15, the VNA reported.

He suggested Austrian enterprises invest in high-tech agriculture, processing and manufacturing, especially agricultural product processing, high-tech zones, infrastructure development, and tourism.

Vietnam will also create optimal conditions for Austrian investors to buy stakes in State-owned enterprises, the Prime Minister was quoted by VNA as telling the Austrian businesses.

Prime Minister Phuc briefed participants, including representatives from 60 Vietnamese businesses and over 100 Austrian companies, on Vietnam’s economy which has grown continuously and is expected to expand by about 7 per cent this year.

“Vietnam will strive to maintain the growth pace to create favorable conditions for investors in the country,” he said.

Vietnam is a large market with a population of almost 100 million, and 65 per cent of the country’s workforce is young and the middle class is on the rise, the leader said, adding that the increasing number of internet and smartphone users has also opened up great opportunities for e-commerce development.

He stressed that Vietnam has signed or plans to ink 16 new-generation FTAs, including the EVFTA.

“Vietnam is committed to making continuous reforms and facilitating foreign investment in the country,” he pledged.

He pointed out that although trade turnover between Vietnam and Austria is projected to hit about $4.5 billion this year, the flows of investment capital in each other’s market remained modest, standing at only around $200 million.

Given this, he urged Vietnamese and Austrian enterprises to step up investment and cooperation, for mutual benefit, economic development in each country, and a stronger bilateral relationship.

Mr. Harald Mahrer, President of the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber, as quoted by VNA, told the forum that Austrian firms have clearly recognized Vietnam’s development over the past years, which, he said, would open up great opportunities for investors.

Vietnam is one of the countries enjoying the fastest development in Asia and the world, with a trained young workforce and an increasing number of newly-established enterprises and startups, especially in IT and digital technology, he said.

He affirmed that Austrian businesses are interested in the Vietnamese market, which will have a population of nearly 100 million and with GDP growth forecast to double in the years to come.

Highlighting Vietnam as a big market for Austrian exports, he said that the Austrian Federal Economic Chamber has decided to open a representative office in the country.

At the forum, Prime Minister Phuc and representatives of agencies and businesses of the two countries witnessed the signing of cooperation agreements in such areas as energy, credit, manufacturing, and healthcare equipment.

Austria was the first stop on the Prime Minister’s trip to Europe, during which he will also pay official visits to Belgium and Denmark, make a working visit to the EU, and attend the 12th ASEM Summit (ASEM 12) and the Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030 Summit (P4G), according to VNA.

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