Cuban ambassador to Việt Nam Lianys Torres Rivera. — VNA/VNS Photo Dương Giang
Cuban ambassador to Việt Nam Lianys Torres Rivera lauded the special fraternal relationship between Việt Nam and Cuba in an interview with the Vietnam News Agency to mark the 60th anniversary of bilateral ties (December 2, 1960 – December 2, 2020)
Việt Nam-Cuba ties can be considered an exemplary model of international co-operation. What do you regard to be the factors that have lent strength and depth to these relations?
Historical context and mutual support at all times have shaped the special relationship between the two countries.
Cuba and Việt Nam established ties on December 2, 1960, after Cuba’s Triumph of the Revolution on January 1, 1961. The solidarity between the Cuban and Vietnamese in our struggles against imperialism and later efforts in nation-building was nurtured partly thanks to the early foundation of our relations. And since then, Cuba and Việt Nam have managed to build a model friendship characterised by comprehensive co-operation across all spheres from politics, socio-economic to science and technology.
In the bilateral relationship, it’s important to point out the historic leading role played by the two countries’ leaders, President Fidel Castro and President Hồ Chí Minh, in promoting the fraternal solidarity between the two nations.
The two countries are facing common enemies and challenges. We have both chosen to pursue the path of socialism, by implementing the reforms and updating the economic and social mechanisms to suit the characteristics of each country.
The exchange of experiences and theoretical and practical issues related to Việt Nam’s đổi mới (renewal) and the updating of Cuban socio-economic model demonstrates the mutual trust between the two communist parties, two states and two governments.
Việt Nam has always supported Cuba in the fights against the irrational economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the US in the past 60 years.
We highly appreciate the message by the General Secretary of the Communist Party of Việt Nam and President Nguyễn Phú Trọng calling for the removal of unilateral sanctions that hurt the development of nations, especially the embargo against Cuba, which was delivered within the framework of the High-level General Debate of the 75th session of the United Nations General Assembly.
We understand that our bilateral ties can still expand in terms of trade and commerce based on the closeness of our special political relations.
General Secretary of the Communist Party of Việt Nam Nguyễn Phú Trọng and First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba Raúl Castro Ruz on the aircraft to visit Santiago de Cuba on March 30, 2018, during the Vietnamese leader's official trip to Cuba. — VNA/VNS Photo Trí Dũng
What initiatives have Cuba and Việt Nam been implementing to foster co-operation, especially during these challenging times?
In enumerating the special events in our relations, we have to mention Việt Nam’s participation as the honourable guest at the 29th edition of the Havana International Book Fair. Trương Thị Mai, Politburo member and Chairwoman of Việt Nam-Cuba Friendship Association, led the Vietnamese delegation at the various activities held during the fair. The fair was a wonderful opportunity for Cubans to learn about Vietnamese culture, strengthen two-way co-operation in publishing and enabling exchanges between the two countries’ writers and authors.
It must be said that the occurrence of the COVID-19 pandemic has forced changes to the way activities are held to commemorate the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Việt Nam and Cuba, as well as to scheduled delegation exchanges in several fields.
However, the pandemic has highlighted the close fraternal relations between Việt Nam and Cuba. The Communist Party of Việt Nam, the Government of Việt Nam, the Việt Nam-Cuba Friendship Association, and many Vietnamese businesses, individuals and organisations have donated money, food, and medical items to assist Cuba in the fight against the pandemic. These are important material support for us, especially as Cuba’s economy suffers a great deal both from US-imposed embargo and COVID-19.
Cuba also donated to Việt Nam a batch of drugs that produce antibodies to fight SARS-CoV-2, aiding in the treatment of patients in central provinces and cities of Việt Nam when a resurgence of the virus occurred in these areas in late July. The two sides have also had numerous discussions related to the issue.
We have celebrated the 60th anniversary of our ties in a meaningful time for both countries. Việt Nam is currently the second-largest trade partner of Cuba in Asia and in the 20 largest on a global scale.
The Việt Nam-Cuba Free Trade Agreement (FTA) signed during Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel’s visit to Việt Nam in 2018 had started to take effect in April, contributing to the promotion of trade between the two countries. The agreement allows expansions and diversification of bilateral trade, facilitates import and export of goods, and makes it easier for the two countries’ products to penetrate each other’s markets.
It is expected that bilateral trade will reach US$500 million by 2025.
The implementation of the FTA serves as an important milestone during the two countries’ economic co-operation agendas in 2020-25 that have been adopted by the Governments.
What do you see as the potential fields of co-operation for Việt Nam and Cuba?
Strengthening economic-trade co-operation is one priority objective in Việt Nam-Cuba relations.
We have the inter-governmental Committee on Economic and Science-Technology Cooperation to develop projects in fields such as agriculture, health-biotechnology, finance-treasury, construction, transportation, science and technology, information technology and communication.
There is also huge potential in other important fields such as tourism, culture, pharmacy, agriculture, food industry and energy.
Cuba is always ready to provide support for Vietnamese in its search for investment opportunities and implementation of projects in Cuba.
To date, many Vietnamese companies specialising in the production of construction materials and necessities have set up shop at Cuba’s Mariel Special Development Zone (ZEDM).
Commenced in November 2018, Việt Nam’s ViMariel Economic Zone is Cuba's first administrative concession project granted for a 100 per cent foreign-owned enterprise in the ZEDM.
The Cuban government is constantly improving the country’s business environment, focusing on perfecting legal mechanisms to optimise attracting foreign investment, including setting up the One-Stop Shop Mechanism for investors. We hope these changes will encourage Vietnamese companies to get more and more involved in Cuba’s economic development.
Most recently, the Cuban government has passed two decrees on commercial mortgage and guarantee to attract foreign businesses, including Vietnamese.
There are mutual efforts in place to increase Vietnamese products’ presence in Cuba, as well as Cuban biotechnology and medicine products to be available more widely in Cuba, along with a team of Cuban experts.
With the coming 60th anniversary of bilateral ties, Việt Nam and Cuba have clearly displayed their appreciation of the relationship and are committed to continuing to grow the relationship in a more comprehensive manner based on the solid foundation of the political closeness. — VNS
Cuban Prime Minister Fidel Castro (right) and Vietnamese former Prime Minister Phạm Văn Đồng met during a rally of Quảng Trị Province's people to welcome the delegation to the National Liberation Front of South Việt Nam-controlled area on September 15, 1973. — VNA/VNS Photo