Trade ties tighten amid leader visits

In a week of international visits, Vietnam has upgraded its ties with Canada to a comprehensive partnership, while further strengthening its relations with Chile, China, and the US.

Vietnam welcomed Canada’s Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Chile’s President Michelle Bachelet on November 8-9, China’s President Xi Jinping on November 11-12, and US President Donald Trump on November 11-12.

During Trudeau’s official visit to Vietnam, the two countries lifted their ties to a comprehensive partnership, paving the way for them to expand their trade and investment co-operation.

A joint statement was signed last week by Vietnam and Canada to raise the two countries’ relations to a comprehensive partnership during last week’s official visit to Hanoi by PM Trudeau.

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“Canada and Vietnam have decided to enhance their co-operation and friendship towards a comprehensive, substantive, effective, stable, and sustainable relationship – both bilaterally, regionally, and internationally – to meet their interests and to contribute to maintaining peace, stability, co-operation and development in the Asia-Pacific region and the world, based on respect for the Charter of the United Nations, basic principles of international law, and their respective national laws,” read the statement.

Such a new partnership refers to both countries further strengthening their bilateral co-operation in many sectors, including politics and diplomacy, trade and investment, education and training, national defense and security, and science and technology. 

The partnership also covers both countries’ increased collaboration in international and regional forums including the UN, APEC, and the Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie. 

In terms of trade and investment, Canada and Vietnam are committed to reciprocal trade and investment as an important driver of their relationship. Both countries will continue to maintain their interest in each other as important markets and promote bilateral trade and investment in key sectors, according to the statement.

Canada and Vietnam will also facilitate trade transactions and promptly resolve issues that may arise in the trade and investment relationship based on a principle of equality, mutual benefit, and co-operation; and enhance collaboration in multilateral economic, trade, and financial co-operation mechanisms including the World Trade Organization, APEC, the International Monetary Fund, and the World Bank, according to the statement.

Notably, amid ongoing discussions on the fate of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) by the remaining 11 nations - Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam, “Canada and Vietnam will examine the potential for a Canada-ASEAN free trade agreement and promote implementation of the TPP,” said the joint statement.

Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc stressed that with the new co-operation framework, Vietnam and Canada will have more specific mechanisms to further increase trade and investment.

According to Ralf Matthaes, vice president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, PM Trudeau had a round-table meeting at the Ho Chi Minh City stock exchange with delegates from prominent Canadian and Vietnamese businesses, in addition to hosting another meeting with 100 key Canadians and business partners together with Kyle Nunas, Canadian consul-general in Ho Chi Minh City.

“In his opening speech, he noted that Canadian and Vietnamese relations are growing stronger and pointed out that the relations will continue to grow as Vietnam is showing excellent economic growth and has a vibrant and young population. This bodes well for future trade relations with Canada,” Matthaes told VIR.

Among the guests were firms such as Vinacapital, Manulife, and Sun Life Financial as well as representatives of Highlands Coffee, Kido Group, the Canadian International School, and The Canadian Chamber of Commerce.

Currently, Canada has 161 valid investment projects in Vietnam registered at US$5.1 billion. Canadian investment in Vietnam is exclusively   in the form of 100% foreign investments (93.4%), joint ventures (6.1%), and joint stock companies (0.5%).

A Canadian investor has also put US$260 million into building Dai An Vietnam-Canada International Hospital in the northern province of Hai Duong, which was licensed in February 2014. Furthermore, a US$74.4 million wind power project in the south-central province of Ninh Thuan was also funded by a Canadian investor.

Stewart Beck, president and CEO of the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, said that there is also an opportunity to connect Canadian businesses with new and like-minded partners in APEC economies such as Vietnam, where Canadian companies will find opportunities in sectors such as agri-food, education and training, information and communication technologies, clean tech and financial technology, as well as other services.

According to the Vietnam General Customs Department, both countries’ two-way trade turnover hit US$4.14 billion last year and US$770 million in this year’s first quarter – up 20% year-on-year.

Meanwhile, during Chilean President Michelle Bachelet’s state visit to Vietnam, the two countries vowed to direct ministries and agencies to effectively implement agreements reached between the two countries to bolster their trade and investment partnership, especially in processing, seafood, and climate change response.

Vietnam asked Chile’s leader to create favourable conditions for Vietnamese farm produce – especially mango, lychee, and longan – to access the Chilean market. 

PM Phuc said that Vietnam will import more Chilean products, and stands ready to transfer rice cultivation techniques to Chile. Vietnam also supports and co-operates with Chile in organizing APEC 2019, he stated.

According to Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to Vietnam  shows the great importance attached to Vietnam by China, especially after China just organised its 19th Party Congress. The visit is also aimed to further strengthen the two countries’ comprehensive strategic partnership.

Meanwhile, it is expected that during US President Donald Trump’s state visit to Vietnam, the two countries will discuss ways to increase trade and investment. It is likely that firms from both countries will ink co-operation deals worth about US$3 billion.


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