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Viet Nam, Middle East, North Africa seek to tap strong co-operation potential

Update: November, 05/2013 - 09:06
Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung attends the international forum for economic co-operation between Viet Nam, Middle Eastern and North African partners, which kicked off in Ha Noi yesterday. — VNA/VNS Photo Duc Tam
HA NOI  (VNS) — Viet Nam and Middle Eastern and North African countries have great potential for effective multifaceted co-operation, said Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung at the first forum for economic co-operation between Viet Nam and its Middle East and North Africa partners, held in Ha Noi yesterday.

The country's location in the Asia Pacific – a dynamic region currently leading the global economy – as well as its stable socio-political environment, large market of about 90 million people and abundant labour force made it an ideal investment destination, the PM said.

He also highlighted the strategic position of the Middle East and North Africa, which connect Asia to Europe and Africa and boast rich natural resources, especially oil and gas.

Viet Nam has established 12 diplomatic missions in Middle East and African nations, while 15 African nations have opened their representative offices in the country. Two-way trade has increased by 878 per cent in the past decade, from US$889 million in 2002 to $7.4 billion last year.

Middle Eastern and African businesses have invested in Viet Nam's oil and gas industry, seaports and real estate market, according to the PM. Some Vietnamese businesses have been developing oil and gas projects in Algeria invested by the Viet Nam National Oil and Gas Group.

Nearly 26,000 Vietnamese people have worked under contract in Middle East and North African nations.

However, PM Dung said the achievements were not up to the two sides' great potential and expectations, as bilateral trade accounted for only 5 per cent of Viet Nam's total import-export turnover last year despite a rapid growth rate. In turn, capital from the Middle East and North Africa poured into Viet Nam accounted for a small percentage of the region's overseas investments and only 0.3 per cent of international workers in the Middle East and North Africa were Vietnamese.

Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (centre) and the delegates — VNA/VNS Photo Duc Tam

The PM said Viet Nam has been implementing its socio-economic development strategy with a view to 2020 and is currently focusing on finalising its institutional and legal system, developing modern infrastructure and generating quality human resources, along with restructuring the economy and renewing its growth model for rapid and sustainable development.

The country has joined negotiations for key Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) including a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, Trans-Pacific Partnership and FTAs with the European Union and the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

These agreements would provide co-operation opportunities for not only Vietnamese businesses but also foreigners doing business in the country, he said.

"We are committed to creating the best possible conditions for foreign investors to do efficient, long-term business in Viet Nam," he said. "Your success is ours."

Also at the forum, deputy minister of Transport Nguyen Van Cong said that infrastructure development would help Viet Nam reform its economic institutions.

Cong said that the Middle East and North Africa region would provide preferential credits for Viet Nam's infrastructure development projects.

The ministry welcomed partners for co-operation in the transport sector, he said.

Cherif Chikhi, Ambassador of Algeria to Viet Nam, welcomed the idea of co-operation in the sector with Viet Nam. He affirmed that Algeria had rich potential, especially in gas, while Viet Nam had high demand for energy.

Algeria's five-year plan for the 2010-14 period focused on diversifying its economy and developing modern infrastructure, he said. The country is currently building a 1,200-kilometre highway from East to West with the participation of several Vietnamese experts.

Yesterday President Truong Tan Sang also received delegation heads from the Middle East and North African countries attending the forum.— VNA/VNS Photo Nguyen Khang

Viet Nam and Algeria have rich potential to improve two-way trade, though the trade turnover between the two sides is low, he said.

Participants also highly valued co-operation in labour, agriculture and tourism.

Hossein Al Vandi Behineh, ambassador of Iran to Viet Nam, said he expected that two-way trade between Iran and Viet Nam would increase, although it was at the modest level of $200 million last year.

Iran's private businesses expected to receive support from the Vietnamese Ministry of Planning and Investment as well as the two governments.

During the two-day event, policymakers and business executives from Viet Nam, Middle East and North African nations are scheduled to examine the investment and business environment on both sides and the possibility of greater cooperation in energy, trade, infrastructure development, labour, agriculture and tourism.

Several bilateral meetings among ministries, businesses and exhibitions on the products and cultures of the regions took place and various agreements between the sides as well as among businesses were expected to be signed.

Yesterday President Truong Tan Sang also received delegation heads from the Middle East and North African countries attending the forum.

Hailing the guests' participation, Sang lauded the robust and growing trade value between Viet Nam and the countries in the region over the past decade, saying there were ways for the two sides to extend two-way trade value past the current figure of nearly $8 billion. — VNS

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