Impetus for Vietnam-Belgium warm relations
Ambassador Karl Van Den Bossche made the above statement in an interview with a VGP reporter on the threshold of the official visit.
Could you share with us your assessment on the upcoming official visit of Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to the Belgium?
Ambassador Karl Van Den Bossche: Heads of state and government from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the European Union (EU) will meet in Brussels in Belgium for a Commemorative Summit on December 14, 2022.
The Summit provides for the vital connection between the two blocs but can only thrive thanks to the exceptional bilateral relationships that exist between each member state.
It testifies of the warm relationship between our two countries.
The official visit comes in the context that the two countries will mark the 50th founding anniversary of the Viet Nam-Belgium diplomatic ties and the fifth anniversary of the strategic partnership agreement on agriculture in 2023.
Among the member states of the European Union, Belgium is Viet Nam's sixth largest trading partner. Every year, the number of trade exchanges between the two sides is increasing, a sign of additional economic development.
In 2021, Viet Nam was the 15 biggest non-EU importer in Belgium, which is a very high ranking. The EU-Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) has yet been operational for a few years only, but shows the mutual trade flows are benefiting from it.
Could you share with us the key cooperative sectors and priorities between the two countries in the upcoming time?
Ambassador Karl Van Den Bossche: We want to cooperate in a smart way, to enhance the further development of Viet Nam. It means we listen carefully to the needs of the government in the field of agriculture, logistics, climate change, cleantech, healthcare and others.
We have agreed to further deepen our existing Strategic Partnership Agreement in Agriculture, that will soon turn 5 years.
Now is the time to enhance our cooperation and provide Viet Nam with the necessary technology and know-how, to increase agro-industrial production, processing, cooling, transportation and shipping to foreign destinations.
The biggest common challenge we face is the fight against climate change. We clearly hear the appeal of the Vietnamese Government for technology transfer and investments in clean- and greentech. Belgium answers the call but also hopes that the laudable ambitions to become carbon neutral in 2050 can be translated in concrete investments.
Besides the economic cooperation, people-to-people contacts are extremely important.
We need to foster the exchange of officials, tourist and businessmen through close cooperation in the field of visa and legal migration. We are finding ways to avoid human trafficking, through well-organized agreements.
Finally, our cooperation does not stop at the bilateral level. We want to work together on the multilateral scene of the United Nations, be it in the Human Rights Council, where we have been elected simultaneously, or when defending the Rule of Law and the principle of territorial integrity.
The biggest subcategory is medicines: Pfizer and GSK vaccines made in Belgium have helped Viet Nam to control the COVID19 pandemic.
We continue to provide these essential medicines while also looking into fostering local healthcare initiatives.
Wallonia Brussels has many projects in this regard. We are looking into working together with the WHO in Viet Nam, to further support the Vietnamese development of essential medicines.
A pilot project of cool cabins in the Mekong Delta turns out to be a major success and will be scaled up in Can Tho. Flemish agro-industry and logistics have top-notch know-how. Our dredging companies provide for the necessary port infrastructure and DEEP C has created the biggest eco-industrial zone in North-Vietnam, generating US$5 billion of investments.
Walloon companies are at the front of bio-engineering. The Brussels based global leader Solvay provides innovative solutions for conservation of fruits and vegetables, and for the clean and healthy production of shrimp in the Mekong Delta.
Puratos Grand Place is the biggest B2B chocolate producer in Viet Nam, taking 70 percent of the entire Vietnamese cacao production and turning it into delicious chocolate for the Vietnamese bakeries and patisseries. Meanwhile, they foster a fair and sustainable development of the cacao farmers. The Belgian NGO Rikolto supports a decent living for 4000 cacao farmers.
The ultimate goal is to provide better Vietnamese produce and products with higher value that can be exported to the markets of Europa, USA and elsewhere.
But we also support the Vietnamese energy grid, through the know-how of Brussels-based Elia Grid International and its longstanding cooperation with EVN. DEME develops the first offshore wind energy project of Viet Nam, in the South. Together, these companies will provide solutions for the future energy needs of Viet Nam.
The Belgian pharmaceutical sector is one of the biggest in Europe and provides essential medicines and is willing to further invest in Vietnam. As you can see, there are numerous examples that go beyond the pure agro-industrial sector and help to support the goal to become a higher middle-income country in the next years.
What do you have any plan to organize activities to celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries in 2023?
Ambassador Karl Van Den Bossche: The exchange of delegations is an important element to celebrate the 50th anniversary between the two countries in 2023.
Trade delegations from Flanders and Wallonia will visit Vietnam and political missions are being considered at this stage.
Likewise, we would be very honored to have a State Visit by HM the King and HM the Queen of Belgium to Viet Nam. We work closely together with the Vietnamese authorities to identify the best possible scenario.
We associate our Beluxcham and our commercial counsellors to this exercise as well. It's important these activities underline our close and long relationship, while looking to the future and giving attention to our mutual interests.
Could you brief the cooperation between the two countries and Belgium's expectation for the ASEAN-EU Commemorative Summit scheduled on December 14, 2022 in Brussels?
Ambassador Karl Van Den Bossche: This Summit is quite exceptional and reconfirms the importance both groups attach to close contacts. We hope this Summit will provide the necessary building blocks for further dialogue and concrete cooperation. The geopolitical situation is such, that in a multipolar world we need to ensure stable relationships are still possible.
The EU and ASEAN therefore have a shared interest in deepening their relation. It enables us to work together on horizontal issues such as fight against climate change and security questions.
In this regard, the EU Global Gateway Initiative focuses on smart, clean and secure links in digital, energy and transport. It also aims to strengthen health, education and research systems across the world. We are looking forward to discussing this also with the ASEAN members.
We were also very happy to see the Young Leaders Forum was taking place over the past year. They will present a set of strategic policy recommendations to the EU and ASEAN leaders, and we look forward to their ideas.
Thank you so much!
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