Viet Nam-Europe friendship and cooperation strengthened
Ha Noi (VNA) - National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Van An will visit Italy, Belgium, the European Parliament (EP), Britain and Switzerland from March 11-25 at the invitation of the leaders of parliaments of these countries and the EP.
Chairman An's trip aims to further Viet Nam's foreign policy of independence, openess, and diversification and multilateralisation of international relations, and active integration into the region and the world.
The trip is expected to raise Viet Nam's prestige in the international arena, boost Viet Nam's relations with important partners in Europe and promote its friendship and multifaceted cooperation with the parliaments and people of these European countries.
Relations between Viet Nam and the EU as well as EU member countries have seen strong steps of development in politics, economy, culture, social affairs and other areas, particularly since the signing of the EU-Viet Nam framework agreement in 1995.
The EU is now Viet Nam's biggest trade partner. Two-way trade value has been increasing by 15-20 percent annually and reached 7.3 billion USD in 2004. Bilateral trade is expected to increase sharply in 2005 with the abolition of the quota on Viet Nam's textile and garment exports to the EU. The EU now has 445 investment projects in Viet Nam with a combined capital of 6.8 billion EUR.
In 2002, the European Commission (EC) signed with Viet Nam a cooperation strategy for the 2002-2006 period with a budget of 162 million EUR and another cooperation programme for the 2002-2004 period capitalised at 101 million EUR, which focused on poverty reduction, healthcare, education, economic reform and internationally economic integration in Viet Nam. The EU concluded its bilateral negotiations for Viet Nam's joining the World Trade Organisation (WTO) in October 2004, and supported Viet Nam's bid for non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council for the 2008-2009 term.
Viet Nam and the EU also share the same viewpoint on some important matters such as supporting equality and democracy in international relations in conformity with international laws, the promotion of multilateral institutions; respecting cultural diversity and identity; boosting sustainable development; and increasing economic development while maintaining social equality and protecting the environment.
Former NA Chairman Nong Duc Manh's visit to the EP in 1995 and the EP members' visits to Viet Nam have created a foundation for cooperative ties between Viet Nam's legislative body and the EP.
Bilateral relations have been maintained and strengthened through meetings between the two sides at inter-parliament forums such as the ASEAN Inter-Parliament Organisation or get-togethers between Asian and European young parliament members. The frequent exchanges of visits by Viet Nam's and European Union's parliament members have provided both sides with opportunities to share their experiences in legislative activities and helped contribute to enhancing the friendship between the Vietnamese and EU people.
Many projects and agreements, signed between Viet Nam's and some EU members' parliaments, have been carried out effectively, helping to increase the management capacity and human resource development for Vietnamese legislative bodies.
Italy established diplomatic ties with Viet Nam in 1973, becoming the first southern European country to resume relations and develop cooperative ties with Viet Nam after a period of interruption. The two sides have exchanged many high-ranking visits and signed numerous bilateral agreements, which have created a legal foundation for expanding bilateral co-operation in all areas. Last year, bilateral trade between Viet Nam and Italy reached 700 million USD and it is expected to increase steadily in the future.
Belgium and Viet Nam established diplomatic ties in 1973 and the two sides signed a framework agreement on economic, industrial and technical co-operation in October, 1977, which paved the way for a further development of the two countries' multi-faceted cooperative relations.
The two countries have also signed many other important agreements, which have created a firm legal foundation for them to develop sustainable bilateral ties on the basis of mutual trust and stability. So far, friendship and cooperation between the two countries have been lifted to a new height of development. The relations have been expanded from the central to the provincial levels, and in all areas, from politics, economics, national defence, development cooperation to culture, education, training and sci-tech.
Belgium was one of the first foreign countries to help Viet Nam pay off its debts to other countries and international organisations. It also supports Viet Nam's bid to join the WTO, and placed Viet Nam high in its development cooperation policies.
Viet Nam is one of the 18 countries in the world and the only in Asia to receive the Belgian Government's development assistance.
Belgium is also an important trading partner among EU countries, with bilateral trade value reaching 633 million USD last year, three times the level of 1996. Viet Nam exports to Belgium mainly aquatic products, footwear, garments, leather products, potteries, plastics, jewelleries, glass and rubber, and imports from it machinery, equipment, gemstones, chemical and pharmaceutical products and steel. However, 21 Belgian-invested projects in Viet Nam, capitalised at 53 million USD, have failed to match the two countries' potentials.
Recent Belgium visits by high-ranking Vietnamese officials, as well as the visit by NA Chairman An are aimed at encouraging Belgian investors to increase their investment in Viet Nam.
The UK has an important role in the EU and is one of Viet Nam's most important partners in the EU. Since the UK and Viet Nam established diplomatic ties in Nov. 1973, the bilateral relationship has been broadened in politics, economics, education, national defence and other domains.
The two countries have signed a number of framework agreements. Viet Nam is expected to become one of the UK's biggest official development assistance recipients in the region at more than 100 million USD a year from 2005. The UK has committed to supporting Viet Nam in gaining WTO membership and a non-permanent seat on the United Nations Security Council during the 2008-09 term as well as in developing the latter's relations with the EU.
Two-way trade between Viet Nam and the UK reached 1.2 billion USD in 2004, the highest figure among EU members. There are currently 138 UK trade representative offices and business branches in Viet Nam. UK companies entered Viet Nam early, mainly investing in the oil and gas industry. By April 2004, the UK had 53 valid projects totalling almost 1.2 billion USD, ranking 11th among 61 foreign and third among EU investors in Viet Nam. Large-scale projects include a project on gas exploiting and the Nam Con Son gas pipeline construction and the Prudential life insurance project, which is the UK's most successful in Viet Nam.
Since 1992, the UK Government has continued to grant development aid to Viet Nam with steadily increased budgets. It has directly supported Viet Nam's national poverty reduction and hunger elimination programme.
The UK grants between 25 and 30 scholarships to Vietnamese students each year. Present in Viet Nam at the end of 1993, the British Council (BC) has held free English language courses for more than 1,000 Vietnamese public employees. The UK Government has helped Viet Nam in English language training and provided short-term scholarships to Vietnamese public employees through the BC.
Since Viet Nam and Switzerland established diplomatic ties in 1971, the bilateral relationship has blossomed in politics, economics, trade, culture and other fields.
The two countries have exchanged high-level visits. Switzerland has always supported Viet Nam's development in building a market-oriented economy, environmental protection, and the sustainable management of natural resources. It has recently pledged to help Viet Nam in banking, finance, training and help Viet Nam join the WTO.
At present, Switzerland is ranking third among European countries and 15th among countries and territories investing in Viet Nam with 28 projects worth 626 million USD. Bilateral trade ties has developed steadily since the two countries signed an economic and trade cooperation agreement in 1993. In 1994, Switzerland listed Viet Nam in a group of countries for preferential treatment in trade. Additionally, Switzerland has helped Viet Nam in its international economic integration./.
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