|French Ambassador to Vietnam Bertrand Lortholary
This year has been significant for the bilateral ties as it marks the 45th anniversary of their diplomatic relations and the fifth year of their strategic partnership, said Bertrand. Both countries’ leaders have been looking forward to many events celebrating this occasion, he added.
General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Central Committee Nguyen Phu Trong paid an official visit to France in March. Vietnamese Minister of Health Nguyen Thi Kim Tien and Chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee Nguyen Duc Chung also visited France earlier this year.
The two sides are gearing up for more high-profile visits between 2018 and 2019, the ambassador revealed, referring to French President Emmanuel Macron’s visit to Vietnam planned for next year and Vietnamese Minister of National Defence Ngo Xuan Lich’s visit to France at the end of this year.
The diplomat moved on to say that economic cooperation has been a key pillar in the two nations’ relations, with around 300 French enterprises now doing business in Vietnam. He expected that when the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement takes effect, economic and trade exchanges between Vietnam and France, and Europe at large, will grow significantly.
He said the business presence of France is seen in most of the sectors in Vietnam, notably infrastructure and transport, and that he was happy to see that consumer goods, foods, pharmaceuticals, and cosmetics imported from France are popular in Vietnam, while Vietnamese products are also favoured by the French. Farm produce from Vietnam is very well-received at Rungis International Market – the largest wholesale food market in France and Europe – in Paris, he noted.
Speaking of education, Bertrand emphasised that France’s priority is being given to intensifying the teaching of the French language and other programmes taught in French at schools and universities in Vietnam as “young people are a treasure we are blessed to have”.
For this reason, France has been providing French-language education for Vietnamese students from elementary school and French bilingual classes are available in all cities and provinces across the country, he explained. About 7,000 Vietnamese students are pursuing their study in France at present and he hoped that the number will increase in years to come.
The French ambassador viewed decentralised cooperation as quite an important area in the two countries’ relations. He cited the fact that about 30 Vietnamese and French organisations have set up partnership with each other, which will improve following the 11th France-Vietnam locality cooperation conference taking place in Toulouse in 2019.
Economic and cultural ties between Vietnamese and French localities have experienced strong development with successful cooperation seen between Ho Chi Minh City and Lyon; Yen Bai province and Val-de-Marne; and the cities of Hue, Lao Cai, and Aquitaine, he said.
The relationship between the capital city of Hanoi and the French region of Ile-de-France was bolstered during a visit by Chairman of the Hanoi People’s Committee Nguyen Duc Chung to Paris earlier this year. It became a foundation for many joint projects between the two sides, such as the Hanoi Metro or air quality monitoring projects, he stressed.
Ambassador Bertrand also said he is particularly impressed with the Vietnamese people’s love for football and affirmed he is a fan of the country’s national U23 players who won second place at the AFC U23 Championship in China in January. French players are receiving enthusiastic support from Vietnamese fans during the ongoing World Cup in Russia, according to the ambassador.
“I am looking forward to Vietnamese and French football fans potentially celebrating the victory of France on July 15, a day after the French National Day”, he said.
Vietnam and France established diplomatic ties on April 12, 1973, and lifted their relations to a strategic partnership in 2013.
France is now a top partner of Vietnam in Europe, ranking third among the European nations and 16th among the 114 countries and territories investing in Vietnam. It also tops the European donors in official development assistance for Vietnam.
The bilateral trade between the two countries has seen positive growth, with Vietnam having enjoyed continuous trade surplus since 2010.
In 2017, bilateral trade exceeded US$4.6 billion, up 11.6 percent from the previous year. The figure included US$3.3 billion worth of Vietnamese exports to France and US$1.3 billion worth of imports from the European country, both increasing by over 11 percent year-on-year.
Vietnam’s key export staples to France were footwear, garments and textiles, household appliances, agro-forestry-aquatic products, gemstones, jewellery, electronics, mechanical tools, pottery, rubber, coal, plastic products, and rattan and bamboo handicrafts.