Vietnamese getting richer, want to holiday in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka’s economy could take off if there was an increase in exports, which was only 17 percent of GDP, the Vietnamese Ambassador to Sri Lanka Ton Sinh Thanh said.
The Ambassador told The Island in an interview that Vietnamese exports amounted to 90 percent of its GDP and he saw no reason why Sri Lanka could not do the same.
"Aquatic products is one of our success stories. Last year, we exported US$ 6.2 billion of aquatic products, accounting for eight per cent of total exports. I think Sri Lanka can do better than us, because you have more potential and better conditions such as a larger sea area, many rivers, lakes and lagoons," he said.
The Ambassador said that Sri Lanka and Vietnam should strive for a comprehensive economic partnership marked by bigger trade volumes and mutual investments. "If your incentives are attractive and a sustained promotional campaign is carried out in Vietnam, I am sure our investors will come. Vietnamese companies have invested more than US$ 10 billion abroad, mainly in countries such as Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Russia."
Tourism,was another area that had a lot of potential for cooperation. Many Vietnamese are getting richer and they would like to spend their holidays abroad. The Sri Lankan government and tour operators should join hands to organize promotional campaigns in Vietnam to create awareness of their country’s beauty, he said.
Commenting on the state of bilateral relations between the two countries, Thanh said that the link began a hundred years ago with the exchange of Buddhist Monks. "During the struggle for independence, the people of our two countries stood side by side. History has recorded that Ho Chi Minh, the Great Leader of Vietnam, visited Sri Lanka at least thrice,in 1911, 1928 and 1946. Many Sri Lankans joined the demonstrations against the American war in Vietnam in the 1960s. We, have been supporting each other in the international arena, including in the Non-Aligned Movement and United Nations. A consular relationship was established in 1964 and diplomatic relations at ambassadorial level in 1970. Sri Lanka opened its Embassy in Hanoi in 2003 and Vietnam reopened its Embassy in Colombo in 2011. Relations have been developing rapidly, especially after Sri Lanka’s victory over the LTTE terrorist forces.President Mahinda Rajapaksa visited Vietnam in 2009 and the Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang returned the gesture in 2011.We, have signed 25 agreements and MoU’s, forming a good legal corridor for cooperation.Useful mechanisms such as the Joint Commission and political consultations have also been established.The first consultation between the two Foreign Ministries was successfully held in Colombo in May. The third meeting of the Joint Commission was conducted in Hanoi earlier this week. We believe that there will be another big leap forward in relations this year with many more interactions. Mutually beneficial cooperation has expanded in many areas. In the first half of this year, our Justice Minister visited Colombo, followed by the Sri Lankan Ministers of Culture and Fisheries going to Vietnam."
Q – What is the balance of trade between Vietnam and Sri Lanka?
A - Trade is the most important area of cooperation between us and an agreement was signed in 1994. The Chambers of Commerce and Industries have also finalised some MoUs. Trade volumes increased from US$ 53 million in 2007 to US$ 113 million last year, surpassing the target of US$ 100 million set by the Second Joint Commission Meeting.Sri Lanka increased its exports to Vietnam from US$ 14.9 million in 2007 to US$ 29.9 million in 2011. Vietnam increased its exports to Sri Lanka from US$ 38.8 million in 2007 to US$ 83.4 million in 2011. Among the 40 products exported from Vietnam to Sri Lanka last year, there were only two that had an export value of more than US$ 10 million and 14 valued more than US$ One million. These included machinery, equipment, clinker, fertilizer, chemicals, plastic products, fiber, textile, rubber, seafood and cashew nut.
Sri Lanka is also faced with the problem of a very poor range of exports to Vietnam. Last year, among the 14 products exported to Vietnam, there were only two that were valued at more than US $ 1 million. As the living standards of the Vietnamese people improve, I believe they would love to buy more products from Sri Lanka. Dilmah tea is very famous in our country. However, you need to do much more to promote your other products.
It will be very difficult for the Sri Lankan economy to take off, if you cannot improve exports in a big way. Sri Lanka’s exports is only 17 percent of GDP, a very low level in comparison to the 90 percent achieved by Vietnam. I think Sri Lanka can expand their export volumes. For example, if you plan to develop aquaculture, you may become a big fish exporter in a few years’ time. The export of aquatic products is one of the success stories of Vietnam. Last year, we exported US$ 6.2 billion of aquatic products, accounting for eight percent of total exports. I, think Sri Lanka can do better because you have more potential and better conditions such as a large sea area, many rivers, lakes and lagoons.
Q- How do you plan to improve economic, trade and tourist ties?
A-We should strive for a comprehensive economic partnership with not only bigger trade volumes but also mutual investments.Vietnamese companies have invested more than US$ 10 billion abroad namely, in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar, Russia. If your incentives are attractive and a sustained promotional campaign is carried out in Vietnam, I am sure our investors will come.
Tourism is another area that has a lot of potential for cooperation. Many Vietnamese are getting richer and they would like to spend their holidays abroad. The Sri Lankan government and tour operators should join hands to organize promotional activities in Vietnam to create awareness of its beauty. We, also intend highlighting Vietnam’s attractions such as Ha Long Bay, the war-time relics and museums, restaurants, souvenirs etc. If six million foreign tourists are satisfied with their visits to Vietnam last year, we believe that Sri Lankan visitors will feel the same.
Last modified 22-07-2012