NA Chairman begins tour of Eastern Europe
VOV - National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Phu Trong left Hanoi on April 22 to pay official visits to Russia, the Czech Republic and Belarus. The trip aims to further strengthen the traditional friendship and multifaceted and mutually beneficial cooperation between Vietnam and these European countries.
The relationship between Vietnam and the former Soviet Union and now Russia has developed well since they first established diplomatic ties in 1950. Both countries are building up the Vietnam-Russia strategic partnership which was agreed upon during the then Russian President Vladimir Putin’s visit to Vietnam in 2001.
Between 1991-2007, about 50 documents were signed between Vietnam and Russia, laying the legal foundations for increasing bilateral cooperation. The two countries share similar views on many regional and international issues, and work closely with each other at international forums such as the United Nations, the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation Forum (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF).
Two-way trade has increased significantly in recent times, reaching more than US$1.6 billion in 2008 from just US$350-400 million in the middle of the 1990s. Vietnam mainly exports seafood, garments, rubber and footwear to Russia and imports coal, steel, fertilizer and oil & gas.
Many Russian economic groups and big companies have visited Vietnam to seek out opportunities for cooperation and a number of contracts were signed during these visits.
At present, Russia ranks 23rd among 81 foreign investors in Vietnam. Energy, including oil and gas, is a traditional and effective area of cooperation, generating huge revenues for both countries. They are expanding joint initiatives in oil and gas not only in their own countries but also in third countries. They also work together in other areas including science-technology, education-training and culture.
Cultural exchanges have been conducted regularly, including the holding of Vietnamese Cultural Days in Russia and Russian Cultural Days in Vietnam.
The number of Russian visitors to Vietnam has annually increased by more than 30 percent to reach 40,000 so far. On January 1, 2009. Vietnam granted visa exemptions to Russian visitors who stay less than 15 days.
Russia remains one of Vietnam’s top suppliers of human resources. Every year, it grants more than 250 scholarships to Vietnamese university graduates and post-graduates to attend its universities. In addition, the number of self-financing Vietnamese students in Russia has now exceeded 5,000.
Vietnam-the Czech Republic
The Czech Republic has maintained its traditional relationship with Vietnam since it was separated from the Czech and Slovak Federal Republic in 1993. Both countries have conducted high-level visits and supported each other in many regional and international forums.
After assuming the presidency of the European Union on January 1, 2009, the Czech Republic announced that it will continue to help Vietnam develop its relations with the EU, considering the Southeast Asian nation a leading trading partner.
Despite being poor in natural resources, the Czech Republic developed its industries very early on, specialising in machinery and automobile manufacturing, metallurgy, petro-chemistry, medical equipment and beer production. It is known worldwide to be successful in building small-sized hydro-electric and medium-sized thermal power plants, treating environment pollution, developing information technology and producing medical equipment.
Two-way trade has increased quite rapidly in recent years, but has yet to match the two countries’ full potential. Vietnam mainly exports farm produce, seafood and garments, and imports machinery, glass and medicines from this EU member country.
Czech businesses have so far injected US$35 million into glass, crystal, beer, electrical equipment, kaolin and building material projects in Vietnam. Future areas of cooperation include energy, transport and mechanical engineering as the Czech Republic specialises in producing locomotives, buses, trams, agricultural machinery and irrigation equipment.
During a visit to the Czech Republic in September 2007, the two business communities signed 7 economic contracts valued at US$3.5 billion, of which the US$3 billion Tra Vinh thermal electric power plant project was the biggest.
They also signed deals worth US$2.5 billion during the Czech Prime Minister’s reciprocal visit to Vietnam in March 2008, focusing on energy, transport, mining, machinery, finance-banking, tourism, medical services, aviation, education-training and the environment.
The Czech Republic was one of the aid donors and the first East European nation to have constantly provided official development assistance (ODA) to Vietnam. In 2007, it provided US$2.1 million in aid and raised the figure to US$2.8 million to help Vietnam with medical services and environmental protection.
The two countries are currently enhancing exchanges to facilitate bilateral cooperation in economics, trade, investment, education-training, labour, culture, sports, tourism and agriculture.
Relations between Vietnam and Belarus have grown and flourished since they established diplomatic ties at ambassadorial level in 1992.
Both countries have exchanged high-level visits and signed agreements on cooperation in aviation, science-technology and education.
However, two-way trade remains modest, standing at US$150 million. Belarus mainly exports Kali fertilizer (which makes up 85.6 percent of its total export value to Vietnam), motorcycles, lorries, tractors and machinery. It mainly imports seafood from the Southeast Asian nation, which represents 71 percent of the export value to Belarus.
Belarus has great potential for developing mechanical engineering, electronics, optics, chemicals, fertilizers, wood, paper and rubber industries. Meanwhile, Vietnam - a large market of more than 80 million consumers - is an important partner for Belarus in Southeast Asia with high economic growth in the context of the global economic crisis.
Strengthening the traditional friendship and cooperation between the two countries will help to promote development in both countries and improve their people’s living standards.
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