17:03 | 30/07/2016 Cooperation
(VEN) - On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of Vietnam-Thailand diplomatic ties (August 6, 1976 – August 6, 2016), Vietnam Economic News’ Ngoc Thao interviewed Thai Consul General in Ho Chi Minh City Ureerat Ratanaprukse.
How do you assess the enormous achievements from bilateral economic, political and cultural cooperation between Vietnam and Thailand over the past four decades?
The relationship between Thailand and Vietnam is very close and cordial and dated back even before we established official relations in 1976. The overseas Vietnamese and Thais with Vietnamese blood, in several Northeastern provinces of Thailand are the living proof of how close we really are and how special our relationship is. For a few years before independence, President Ho Chi Minh resided in Nakorn Panom Province of Thailand, leading to the establishment of the Thai-Vietnamese Friendship Village as well as the recent inauguration of the Memorial Site of President Ho Chi Minh in Nakorn Panom Province, as initiated by General Secretary of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong.
In modern history, the close ties between our two countries cover a wide array of cooperation and was elevated to a strategic partnership in 2013, making Thailand and Vietnam very special among countries in the region. Who would have thought that our two countries had overcome the ideological differences during the cold war and reached the comfort level to embrace each other strategically. Today, Thailand and Vietnam have several mechanisms: Joint Cabinet Retreat, Foreign Ministers Retreat, Joint Commission for Bilateral Cooperation, and Political Consultation Group.
On the economic front, against the backdrop of the world economy’s slowdown, trade and investment between Thailand and Vietnam remain robust and play a vital role in tightening the bonds between our two countries. In 2015, our bilateral trade reached US$12 billion, ranking Thailand among Vietnam’s top trading partners. Thailand is also one of the top foreign investors in Vietnam with 428 projects totally capitalized at US$7.8 billion.
With regard to people-to-people relations, which I strongly believe is the solid foundation of any countries’ relations, we have witnessed regular exchanges at all levels in various areas, such as culture, tourism, sports and education. As of today, there are 14 friendship cities established between our two countries. Thai Center at the University of Social Sciences and Humanities (USSH) was established last year for the Vietnamese to learn more about Thailand, and in 2015, approximately 750,000 Vietnamese visited Thailand and 210,000 Thais visited Vietnam. In addition, the Royal Thai Consulate-General for several years now has organized the exchange of youths between our two countries.
Therefore, I can say with confidence that our bilateral relations are at an excellent stage and will continue to be strengthened in the years to come.
Vietnam and Thailand are important members of the ASEAN Community, so how have the two countries contributed to building a solid and sustainable ASEAN?
As one of the founding members of ASEAN, Thailand attaches great priority to ASEAN in our foreign policy and is keen to work closely with ASEAN friends, including Vietnam, to push forward agendas which serve the interests of regional peoples.
The establishment of the ASEAN Community on December 31, 2015 provided a platform for both Thailand and Vietnam, as well as the rest of its members, with a US$2.6 trillion single market with over 600 million consumers. As key exporters of two major agricultural commodities, rice and rubber, both Vietnam and Thailand could cooperate in exchanging information and technology know-how. With regard to rubber, Thailand wishes to see Vietnam join the Rubber Consortium with other ASEAN members to stabilize rubber prices.
I believe that Thailand and Vietnam share one common objective that their strategic partnership is not only for bilateral gains but also for regional integration and prosperity. Our development and economic integration within the ASEAN Community will contribute greatly to the community building in the region.
What you think the two governments as well as business communities need to do to achieve the US$20 billion bilateral trade target set for 2020?
As decided by our leaders at the Third Joint Cabinet Retreat in Bangkok last July, the two sides will increase bilateral trade to US$20 billion by 2020. Given the fact that the number of our bilateral trade has been increasing every year, I am certain that this target is not far from reaching.
E-commerce could help creating more trade between us. In addition, both Vietnam and Thailand should make full use of our strategic locations in the region and realize the connectivity through Laos and Cambodia, especially R8, R9 and R12 as well as coastal shipping routes, linking Trat Province of Thailand with Vietnamese provinces of Kien Giang and Ca Mau, to promote further trade, investment as well as tourism cooperation.
While the governments of both sides play a significant role in facilitating trade and investment by removing obstacles hindering the potential of our business communities, especially small and medium enterprises (SMEs), the private sectors of the two countries are also important. In this regard, I am pleased to see the revival of the Thailand-Vietnam Business Council and the Vietnam Business Council and look forward to their active roles in promoting trade and investment between our two countries.
Thailand currently ranks 11th among countries and territories investing in Vietnam. What do you think our government needs to do in terms of investment environment, infrastructure, manpower, and so on, to attract more Thai investment?
Vietnam has become one of the top destinations for foreign investors including Thailand due to many reasons, including economic stability and potential, an abundant workforce, and a favorable business environment created by the Vietnamese government. Among Thailand’s neighboring countries, Vietnam ranks highest in Thailand’s investment. Thai companies doing business or investing here are very committed to the Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) because we value Vietnam as our partner and would like to give back to society.
But of course, there is always room for improvements. On our part, the Royal Thai Consulate-General, in cooperation with the private sector, is in the process of launching a handbook showing Thai businesses how to do business and invest in Vietnam.
Vietnamese investment in Thailand is still modest. Do you have any advices for Vietnamese businesses to increase investment in your country?
At the moment, Vietnamese investment in Thailand is still modest and we wish to see more investment from Vietnam in Thailand. Vietnamese investors could consider taking advantages from Thailand’s special economic zones, which offer foreign investors many incentives. The Royal Thai Consulate-General in Ho Chi Minh City is more than pleased to provide information and facilitation for those who are interested.
In addition, the Royal Thai Government is considering opening a Board of Investment office in Vietnam. Once opened, this office would help promoting and facilitating Vietnamese investment in Thailand.
Could you share your feelings and experiences about Vietnamese people as well as life in Vietnam, especially in Ho Chi Minh City?
It is my honor to be appointed as Consul General of Thailand in vibrant Ho Chi Minh City, which is an economic center of Vietnam. This position offers a lot of opportunities for me to further strengthen the relations between Thailand and Vietnam, especially in provinces under my consular responsibility.
For me, Ho Chi Minh City is a great place to live and work in. What I love most about this city is its friendly people, its livelihood, its culture in food, coffee, and many more. I really feel at home living here.
As this year marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between our two countries, the Royal Thai Consulate-General, together with the Thai community in Vietnam, plans to organize a series of activities to celebrate this auspicious occasion as well as to reflect our close bilateral relations, which have lasted for 40 years, to the Vietnamese public.
To this end, I am committed to working closely with my Vietnamese counterparts to deepen the multi-faceted relations between our two countries and peoples.