Belgium strengthens economic cooperation with Vietnam

14:31 | 15/09/2015 Cooperation

(VEN) - In a talked with Vietnam Economic News’ Nguyen Huong, Ms. Jehanne Roccas – new H.E Ambassador of Belgium to Vietnam said: “As for my term here I have vowed to advance economic ties by - in cooperation with the Belgian regional actors - being there for our businesses and assisting them wherever I can”.

Belgium strengthens economic cooperation with Vietnam

Ms. Jehanne Roccas H.E Ambassador of Belgium to Vietnam

As the new Ambassador of Belgium to Vietnam since this September, could you tell me your primary feeling about Vietnam? What is the reason why you choose Vietnam as your destination for your mission?

This is not the first time I am in Vietnam. The country has been very much on my mind these past three years during which I was the Director of the Asia Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. I had to travel here on many occasions and came to love Vietnam a lot. I am especially charmed by the warmth of its people.

Vietnam and Belgium established diplomatic relations in 1973. Vietnam has been a long standing partner of Belgium’s development cooperation and has up till now been granted over 500 million euros. Between 2015-2019 a program of €40M will be implemented with focus on Green Growth and Climate Change. With this Belgium currently is one of the most important donors. Now gradually the relationship is changing. I felt it was an interesting time to come here and facilitate a more mature partnership between our countries.

So many ties exist that I am looking forward to a very full and fulfilling term. In addition, it is very interesting to serve in a vivid and rapidly growing nation. Personally, I am very interested to follow how ASEAN will further evolve and what the creation of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) at the end of 2015 will mean for foreign business interests.

How do you predict the economic cooperation between the two countries, especially when FTA between Vietnam and EU be signed?

Trade between Vietnam and Belgium has been soaring over the past years and more and more Belgian companies are also investing in Vietnam.  Belgium is – though its relative smaller size – the sixth exporter to Vietnam within the European Union and the 8th client of Vietnamese goods. We hope that the trade agreement can advance our trade relations. Today over more than 956 Belgian companies are exporting to Vietnam, but 1987 have declared their interest for the market.

A Belgian strength I would like to highlight and were we could expand cooperation is the environment sector. Building forth on what our aid has achieved over the past decades, I feel that our businesses have developed a wide range of tailor-made and highly technical environment services and products that could suit the needs of the Vietnamese business sector. A lot of Belgian companies are already active in Vietnam - with or without the support of Belgian government loans - but the scope for expansion is huge. I feel that the Vietnamese government is fully aware that protecting the ecology of its stunning country is key to its further development.

There is also the logistics part. Belgium with its huge ports and freight airports, its central position in Europe, top quality infrastructure and logistic services, serves as an excellent entry point into the European market. As such our country’s facilities stand ready to welcome more Vietnamese goods. As we are strong in logistics we also have a lot to share with Vietnam. Today our companies have invested in Haiphong Port and also in Southern Vietnam Molenbergnatie for example invested in an state of the art terminal that is handling agricultural goods.

In your opinion, what should we do to make the relation between the two countries more effective and comprehensive?

Our aid-donor relationship is gradually coming to an end and we feel that it is time to evolve to a mature partnership and search for a common strategic approach. This could encompass economic cooperation but should also involve cultural and educational exchanges as to forge the ties between our peoples.

To me ties between people are equally important as political bonds. There are around 2000 Vietnamese benefitted from scholarships to study in Belgium. Vice-versa also more and more Belgian students are coming to Vietnam nowadays to study. These alumni act as important facilitators. I feel that keeping in touch with these communities will prove to be very fruitful for our ties.  

What is your plan in your term to promote the cooperation between Vietnam and Belgium?

As for my term here I have vowed to advance economic ties by - in cooperation with the Belgian regional actors - being there for our businesses and assisting them wherever I can.

I feel we have a lot to offer but that sometimes Belgium is too modest in its promotion. In addition, I feel the Embassy has an important facilitating role by bringing people together through events and high level visits.

Another important issue I want to further is tourism. Vietnam is currently receiving around 10.000 Belgian tourists a year. I would love however that more and more Vietnamese discover Belgium in the coming years. Today only 20% of our visa are issued for tourism. I am very proud to announce that the first organized tourist group is currently touring my country and I would love to see many more follow suit. In addition, I want to further strengthen the academic exchanges. Currently, 200 Vietnamese students a year leave for Belgium.

Thank you very much!