Viet Nam News
On occasion of the King’s Day in Belgium today (November 15), Việt Nam News presents an article written by Belgium Ambassador to Việt Nam, Jehanne Roccas.
Belgium and Việt Nam from cooperation to partnership
Today – November 15 – we celebrate King’s Day in Belgium. At our Missions around the world we seize this occasion – at a less hot and humid moment than our National Day July 21 – to invite our main contacts and to celebrate the relations between our countries. Therefore, we will offer to a select audience a concert of the Belgian jazz prodigy Jef Neve tonight at the Temple of Literature. However, this year we did not want to keep our celebrations restricted, and we decided to reach out. What better way to strengthen our relations than by furthering exchanges between Vietnamese and Belgian people?
The number of Belgians exploring Việt Nam does not cease to grow, and more and more Vietnamese are finding their way to our country, enjoying our ancient cities, nature and culinary traditions. Our scholarship programme has resulted in a diverse and enthusiastic community of Vietnamese alumni of Belgian universities. In addition, Belgium has been a faithful development partner of Việt Nam over the past decades, contributing a total of over 500 million euros (US$545 million). Currently, both partners are working on a 58 million euros ($63 million) development programme concentrating on governance, water management and sanitation in the central provinces of Ninh Thuận, Bình Thuận, Nghệ An and Kon Tum. In addition, Belgium assisted Việt Nam in drafting the 2015 Public Investment Law. Also, three provinces receive Belgian assistance to adapt to climate change and support green growth. Moreover, Việt Nam is one of the main partners of our academic cooperation, and the Belgian government also financially supports NGO’s that aid the most vulnerable parts of Vietnamese society.
In short, our economic relations are ever expanding. In 2015 Belgium was one of the 29 markets amounting up to $1 billion of export revenues for Việt Nam, and the total trade between the two countries surpassed $2 billion. Also, Belgian investments in Việt Nam are on the rise. At the end of 2015, they amounted up to more than $523 million, and by mid-June 2016 they had increased to $724 million. Belgians invested in Port of Hải Phòng logistics, where they are responsible for the attraction of one third of total FDI. They also invest in the agro-alimentary sector – opening of one of the first AB Inbev breweries in Southeast Asia in 2015 – and in the cocoa sector. Also, the Vietnamese insurance, mining and high end tourism sectors have recently attracted Belgian financing. In addition, the Belgian government has a concessional ODA financing programme that finances Belgian companies’ projects, especially in the environment and health sector.
These achievements are the building blocks for our outreach through the “.be Belgium day” at ECOPARK, a first public event targeted at families. Last Sunday, we welcomed hundreds of adults and children, who were able to enjoy the very “well-known Belgium” by tasting our beers and savouring our chocolates. We also introduced them to our high-ranking universities, showcased our technological know-how and used interactive activities to raise awareness about our supported projects in Việt Nam.
Looking back, we find that we are gradually entering a new stage of relations, a more mature one, a source of strength in learning from each other. We therefore see a lot of value in our academic exchanges. Recently a seminar brought together Belgian and Vietnamese health professionals. They discussed how to introduce early cancer detection methods into the Vietnamese health care system. Another recent area of cooperation is food safety. In May 2016, specialists from our Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain participated in a seminar for Vietnamese professionals, and our universities are organising targeted and meaningful exchanges on the issue. Belgian companies follow on the same track. The Belgian company Rent-a-Port Haiphong offered a wealth of know-how that has proven its course in Belgian ports. The practices have been adapted here, thereby introducing higher environmental standards and top-of-the-line services. Puratos Grand-Place has spent many efforts educating cocoa farmers to produce the highest quality of beans. It also invested in the rest of the supply chain so that in the future Việt Nam is able to produce delicious and high quality Belgian-style chocolate. Also, AB Inbev’s brewery is one of the most high-tech ever built.
We really feel the future for our collaboration is looking bright, and many more avenues are to be explored by all partners. Next year we celebrate 40 years of development cooperation. Also the Belgian presence in Hải Phòng will have amounted up to 20 years, and in 2018 it will have been 45 years ago that Belgium and Việt Nam began bilateral relations. These events are all milestones. In between, we have to work together make many of the past encounters concrete. Today, however, we will just celebrate what exists. Therefore, we want to wish you all a happy King’s Day! —VNS