Việt Nam, Belgium enjoy fruitful 50 years of ties: diplomats

March 23, 2023 - 08:05
Despite its small population of just over 10 million, Belgium has proven to be a valuable partner with tremendous potential for collaboration.
Prime Minister of Belgium Alexander De Croo welcomes PM Phạm Minh Chính during his visit to Belgium last year. VNA/VNS Photo Dương Giang

BRUSSELS — For the past five decades, Việt Nam and Belgium have forged a fruitful partnership spanning politics, diplomacy, economy, culture and people-to-people exchange, said Vietnamese Ambassador to Belgium and Luxembourg, Nguyễn Văn Thảo.

Despite its small population of just over 10 million, Belgium has proven to be a valuable partner with tremendous potential for collaboration.

As the hub of Europe, Belgium has provided Việt Nam with a gateway to the European Union (EU).

Ambassador Thảo highlighted that Việt Nam and Belgium are members of the International Organisation of the Francophonie (IOF) and share numerous cultural similarities, providing a favourable foundation for strengthening their friendship.

Additionally, the two countries have consistently exchanged high-level delegations.

Agriculture is one of the successful cooperation areas between the two countries, said the diplomat, noting that the two sides set up their strategic agricultural partnership in 2018.

Belgium is one of the two strongest European countries in agriculture, making it a great partner for Việt Nam to build and develop an agricultural economy, he told Vietnam News Agency on the 50th anniversary of the countries’ diplomatic relationship.

In terms of economy, after the EU-Việt Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) took effect, two-way trade surged 60 per cent in 2022 to over 6 billion euros (US$6.46 billion) from 3.9 billion euros in 2021.

Located in the centre of Europe, Belgium is a hub for high technologies, including those for semiconductor chip production.

In a recent visit to Belgium by Prime Minister Chính, Việt Nam and Belgium signed a cooperation agreement on semiconductor chip research and production in Việt Nam, which is expected to become a bright spot in the bilateral partnership, he said.

The diplomat said that a green, digital and circular economy is also a promising area for bilateral cooperation.

An industrial zone of DEEP C, a Belgian developer and operator of an Industrial zone and port infrastructure cluster in Hải Phòng City and Quảng Ninh Province. Photo

​At the same time, cultural cooperation has also drawn great attention from both countries, helping connect the localities of the two countries.

Thảo said Namur of Belgium and Huế of Việt Nam have set up twin relations and regularly conducted exchanges in culture, art and heritage conservation.

In April, the Mayor of Namur will lead an art delegation to the Huế Festival, while a Vietnam Day will be held in Belgium to introduce the Vietnamese cultural identity to Belgian friends, said the ambassador, holding that promoting cultural exchange will help people of the two countries deepen their mutual understanding, paving the way for the development of ties in other fields.

The diplomat also pointed to other promising areas of bilateral cooperation, including education and training.

In addition, Việt Nam and Belgium have maintained close coordination and cooperation within multilateral organisations. Both countries have been elected to the UN Human Rights Council in the 2023-2024 tenure, Thảo noted, expressing a belief that cooperation between the two sides within the council will contribute to the development of human rights in the world as well as the growth of bilateral ties.

Ambassador Thảo said that this year, to celebrate the 50th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations, about 50 activities will be held in Việt Nam in many forms, including several high-level visits and those to boost cultural, trade, investment and tourism collaboration.

The visit of Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính to Belgium last December was a great start to the series of events.

Regarding measures to further bolster the Việt Nam-Belgium relations, Ambassador Thảo said that proper preparations and appropriate investment are needed to optimise cooperation potential with Belgium in all fields, especially agriculture and high technology, ensuring benefits for all parties.

According to President of the Belgium-Việt Nam Friendship Association (ABV) Pierre Gréga, over the last 50 years, relations between the two countries have developed from pure humanitarian cooperation into an increasingly effective economic partnership.

Bilateral cooperation has been developing diversely, with economic and trade ties covering a large proportion aside from political, cultural, scientific, and training connections, he told Vietnam News Agency.

He noted that cooperation had been promoted at both the governmental and local levels, elaborating that the Flanders and Wallonia regions, along with the French-speaking community of Belgium, have been implementing many projects assisting Việt Nam.

The two sides also boast much potential for tourism and healthcare cooperation, Gréga said.

Concerning politics, he touched upon the collaboration in settling war consequences in Việt Nam, including the Agent Orange (AO) issue.

In their recent visit to Việt Nam, an ABV delegation had a working session with the Việt Nam Peace Committee and the Việt Nam Union of Friendship Organisations (VUFO). It said that many projects would be carried out, especially those assisting AO/dioxin victims.

He said that the ABV pledges to support Trần Tố Nga, who is struggling against chemical companies in the US to seek justice for AO/dioxin victims in Việt Nam, adding that the association is liaising with a company in Belgium to implement a dioxin detoxification project in Đồng Nai Province.

Describing economic cooperation potential as huge, Gréga said that at a workshop held at the Hà Nội-based Foreign Trade University on February 23, a brewery in Hainaut Province of Belgium managed to connect with a Vietnamese firm to form a partnership.

He also expressed his intention to connect friendship associations in European countries such as France, Germany, Switzerland, the UK, Spain, and Hungary with Việt Nam to increase exchanges within both bilateral and multilateral frameworks.

The ABV will join the Việt Nam-Belgium Friendship Association to step up people-to-people exchanges and assist each other to fulfil their role in helping foster bilateral cooperation, Gréga added. — VNS

50 years of cooperation Việt Nam and Belgium officially established diplomatic ties on March 22, 1973, just two months after the Paris Agreement was signed to end the war and restore peace in Việt Nam.Over the past five decades, bilateral partnerships have flourished in various spheres, particularly politics-diplomacy, trade, agriculture, education-training, science and technology, and development cooperation at the federal, regional and community levels.Belgium always attaches importance to relations with Việt Nam and has established itself as an international partner, substantially contributing to the Southeast Asian country’s successes via development cooperation programmes. The two sides have also actively coordinated with each other at multilateral forums, especially the United Nations, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and ASEAN-EU frameworks.In recent years, economic and trade links between the two countries have been thriving and increasingly strengthened. Belgium is the sixth largest EU trading partner of Việt Nam, which in turn was the 15th non-EU importer of Belgian goods in 2021.Bilateral trade has increased sharply, from US$1.8 billion in 2013 to $4.5 billion in 2022.Belgium has not only actively promoted the signing and ratification of the EU-Việt Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) but has also taken the lead in implementing the EVFTA. It also ratified the EU-Việt Nam Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA) early.Regarding investment, as of February 2023, Belgium had 87 valid investment projects worth more than $1.1 billion in Việt Nam, mainly in logistics and infrastructure development–two fields that are the strength of Belgium. This ranks Belgium 23rd among 142 countries and territories and sixth among 25 EU members investing in Việt Nam.Another highlight of bilateral relations is cooperation in education and scientific research. Since 2003, the Belgian Government has granted about 40 scholarships for Vietnamese students in post-graduate training courses each year. It has also provided around 2 million euros ($2.1 million) in aid for education and training via cooperation programmes between the two sides’ universities and research institutes.Both countries have been cooperating closely in science and technology, transport, and defence-security while expanding ties to settle global issues, especially climate change and non-traditional security challenges.Cultural ties have also flourished with art troupe exchanges, exhibitions, and film weeks held frequently in both countries, including regions and localities of Belgium.People-to-people exchanges have also been bolstered thanks to contributions by people’s organisations such as the Việt Nam-Belgium and Belgium-Việt Nam friendship associations and the Belgian-Vietnamese Alliance partly. — VNS