|Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung left Ha Noi yesterday for European tour. — Photo caffef.vn
HA NOI (VNS) — Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung left Ha Noi yesterday, beginning an European tour that includes official visits to Belgium, the European Union (EU) and Germany, attending the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM 10) in Italy, and a visit to the Vatican.
The week-long tour is being made at the invitation of Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo, European Commission (EC) President Manuel Barroso, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, and Pope Francis.
Prime Minister Dung is accompanied by Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh; Minister and Head of the Office of the Government Nguyen Van Nen; Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang; Minister of Information and Communication Nguyen Bac Son; and other senior officials.
During his visit, the PM will discuss ways to strengthen cooperation between Viet Nam and European partners.
He will lead the Vietnamese delegation at the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting in Italy on October 16-17, which will focus on "Responsible Partnership for Growth and Security."
During his official visit to Belgium, the two sides will seek measures to foster bilateral co-operation in various fields, including seaports, logistics, green growth and hi-tech industries.
Since Viet Nam and Belgium established diplomatic relations on March 22, 1973, the two sides have enjoyed growing ties and closer coordination at multilateral forums, especially the United Nations and the framework of ASEM and ASEAN-EU cooperation.
Bilateral trade has increased rapidly, reaching US$1.2 billion in 2010 from $395.4 million in 2000. The figure hit $1.8 billion last year, up 17 percent year on year, and $1.3 billion in the first seven months of this year.
Belgium is now the sixth largest export market for Viet Nam among European Union (EU) members, consuming mainly footwear, apparel, seafood, coffee, handbags, plastics and rubber. Meanwhile,Viet Nam imports from Belgium machines and spare parts, steel, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
As of August this year, Belgium had 15 projects worth $155 million in Viet Nam, ranking 35th among 96 countries and territories investing in the country.
Viet Nam is also the only Asian country to receive official development assistance from Belgium with about $78 million for the 2011-15 period.
Visiting the EU as guest of European Commission President Manuel Barroso, the Prime Minister is expected to discuss with the bloc specific future directions for partnership between both sides and urge an early conclusion to negotiations for an EU-Viet Nam free trade agreement (EVFTA). He will also call for stronger co-ordination between the two sides at multilateral forums.
Viet Nam and the 28-member EU established diplomatic relations in 1990. The two sides signed a framework Partnership and Co-operation Agreement and EVFTA negotiations are underway.
Viet Nam has set up strategic partnerships with six EU members – the UK, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, France and Italy.
Trade is a pillar of ties between the two sides, with the EU being the second largest trade partner and top export market for Viet Nam.
From 1990-2013, two-way trade increased over 100 times from $295 million to $33.7 billion. In this year's January-July period, the figure hit $20.5 billion, a 7.33 per cent rise over the same period last year
Viet Nam has enjoyed an average trade surplus of $3-5 billion with the EU over the past decade, equivalent to 50 percent of its exports.
As of August, 23 of the EU's 28 members had invested in 1,503 projects totalling $18.55 billion. The EU and its members are the second ODA (official development assistance) and leading non-refundable aid providers for Viet Nam. It has also committed investments of EUR400 million for Viet Nam in the 2014-20 period, up 30 per cent over the 2007-13 period.
PM Dung's official visit to Germany will identify ways to implement the Viet Nam-Germany strategic plan of action as well as fostering bilateral cooperation in labour, vocational training, education and other joint projects.
The two sides will also discuss celebration of the 40th anniversary of the Viet Nam-Germany diplomatic ties in 2015.
After opening their diplomatic relaltionship on September 23, 1975, the two countries upgraded it to a strategic partnership in October 2011 during Chancellor Angela Merkel's visit.
Bilateral trade has by around 10 per cent a year of late, reaching $7.7 billion last year, a year-on-year rise of 18 per cent, and $4.9 billion in the first eight months of this year.
As of August 2014, Germany had 232 projects with a total investment of $1.25 billion in Viet Nam, mostly in manufacture, energy, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.
Germany also pledged $100 million in ODA for Viet Nam for 2014-2015, focusing on environmental protection, energy and vocational training.
At the Vatican, the Vietnamese Prime Minister will request Pope Francis to continue guiding followers of the Viet Nam Catholic Church to act as good Catholics and good citizens.
He will deliver the introductory keynote speech at the plenary session on global issues at the 10th Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Milan, Italy. He will also attend a dialogue between Asian and European businesses under the framework of the 14th Asia-Europe Business Forum.
Viet Nam is expected to propose several initiatives for Asia-Europe co-operation, focusing on implementation of the Millennium Development Goals, vocational training and human resources development, water resource management, natural disaster response, and fostering the Mekong-Danube cooperation.
Viet Nam has participated in the ASEM for the last 18 years as proactive responsible member. It hosted the fifth ASEM in 2004 as also five ministerial meetings in economics, science-technology, foreign affairs, education, and labour.
Notably, Viet Nam's initiatives at the ninth ASEM in Laos in 2012 on water resources management and green growth as well as climate change response have been applauded by other members and became a regular activity of the forum.
Ambassador and Head of the EU Delegation to Viet Nam, Franz Jessen, said that the country had been an active member of ASEM, and as a co-ordinator of the ASEAN-EU relations, worked hard to integrate ASEAN's interests within the inter-continental agency. — VNS