PM Chinh's France visit expected to deepen strategic partnership

VOV.VN - Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh's visit to France from November 3 to November 5 is the vivid manifestation of growing relations between Vietnam and France since both sides signed a strategic partnership in 2013, thereby opening up new opportunities to take the relationship to new heights.

Strategic partnership sees positive development

Back in 2013 the country and France signed a strategic partnership agreement to bring the bilateral relationship to new heights and affirm the mutual respect of the two countries, along with their important roles and positions in Southeast Asia and Western Europe, respectively.

Since that time, joint relations have continuously progressed, with this being most evident in the strategic trust that both nations’ leaders place on each other through high-level visits over the past few years. This can be seen in visits to France in 2018 and 2019 by Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and former National Assembly Chairwoman Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, along with a visit to Vietnam by French Prime Minister Édouard Philippe in late 2018.

According to Vietnamese Ambassador to France Dinh Toan Thang, PM Chinh’s visit to France from November 3 to November 5 is viewed as an important step in the implementation of Vietnamese foreign policy in Europe.

France is the first European nation that PM Chinh has paid a bilateral visit to, showing that the Vietnamese side appreciates France's position and role as a major partner in the region and around the world. The trip is anticipated to bring the strategic partnership between the two countries to a higher level.

Priority given to discussions on medical co-operation for COVID-19

During the visit, along with promoting traditional co-operation in politics, economics, defence-security, as well as science and technology, according to Ambassador Thang, healthcare co-operation will be a major priority discussed by PM Chinh with French senior leaders. This comes amid both sides managing to overcome the COVID-19 pandemic for economic development.

Regarding the mutual relationship over the past few years, with the foundation of the Strategic Partnership Agreement signed in 2013, the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) becoming effective from 2020, as well as traditional decentralised co-operation between both nations’ localities, Senator Catherine Deroche, chair of the Committee for Social Affairs in the French Senate, said the visit by PM Chinh will open up new areas of strategic co-operation. This will focus on aspects that the two countries can continue to strengthen, especially in terms of health care and the environment in a joint effort to overcome an array of current challenges.

“We hope that the links and mutual understanding will help the two countries overcome these challenges, especially when Vietnam is facing huge environmental challenges. Overall, there are a lot of aspects of the partnership that we wish to further develop in the ahead,” he said.

With regard to healthcare co-operation, Senator Deroche also said that equitable access to COVID-19 vaccines should be a priority for numerous governments to take action aimed at helping developing countries, including Vietnam, enjoy broader and more rapid access to vaccine resources.

Great prospects ahead for economic co-operation

In terms of economic co-operation, one of the pillars of mutual relations, many economic experts continue to highly appreciate the prospects of economic relations between the two countries, especially since the EVFTA came into effect from August, 2020.

France has always been one of the top Vietnamese trade partners in the EU, with two-way trade expanding by 15.7% annually on average during the 2011 to 2019 period. As a result, France is now the nation’s fourth largest importer in the EU, with a share of nearly 10% of the country’s exports to the region, according to a representative from the Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Department of the European-American Markets. 

Due to the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, two-way trade dropped by 10% annually in 2020 to US$4.8 billion. Vietnamese exports to France also hit US$187.9 million in September and  US$2.25 billion in opening nine months of the year, an annual fall of 9.9%. The majority of exports came in footwear, apparel, household appliances, agro-forestry-fisheries, gemstones, jewelries, electronics, mechanical engineering tools, rubber, coal, plastics, bamboo, and rattan items.

As a means of strengthening the presence of Vietnamese agro-fisheries in France, experts have suggested outlining strategies aimed at attracting consumers as well as specific action programmes which can build trust and prove product quality.

According to the Vietnam Trade Office in Vietnam, there are major opportunities ahead for Vietnamese goods to gain entry into the French market, although its requirements are also high. Therefore, suppliers must continue maintaining product quality, or invite French experts and skilled workers to the country to inspect quality.

As a means of elevating bilateral trade to new heights, experts have suggested that the country request the EU and France to work closely together with the nation to take full advantage the EVFTA.

Expert Jean-Philippe Eglinger, who has many years of experience in the business-investment and environment and strategic consultation in the Vietnamese market, said that the EVFTA has created a very good framework for both sides’ businesses to boost trade exchanges.

However, he also assessed that the recent impact of the pandemic can be seen as an opportunity for both sides to move towards a new model of more diversified and flexible development co-operation, particularly with the involvement of small and medium sized enterprises aimed at developing new investment channels.

For Fabien Roussel, national secretary of the French Communist Party, the solidarity between the two countries has developed strongly in the recent anti-pandemic period.

During the first pandemic wave, the nation sent valuable shipments of face masks to support the French people. In addition, recent times has seen campaigns from political parties and associations result in France also providing the Vietnamese side with COVID-19 vaccines.

Roussel went on to express his confidence that PM Chinh's upcoming visit to France in the new post-pandemic context will be an opportunity to reaffirm the historic and close-knit relationship ties with Vietnam that the French Communist Party always respects and protects. “We hope that the cooperation between France and Vietnam will flourish and grow as strongly as possible,” he added.

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