50 years of French relations

January 23, 2023 | 09:00
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In 2023, France and Vietnam will celebrate the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations and 10 years of strategic partnership. This is a good opportunity to look back and assess what our two countries have accomplished in trade and investment and reflect on ways to further develop our economic exchanges.
50 years of French relations
Nicolas Warnery, French Ambassador to Vietnam

France was among the first Western countries to support Vietnam’s reform and opening up in the 1980s and ranks among Vietnam’s main providers of development assistance. Our trade has continuously grown, reaching nearly $7.45 billion in 2021, and it could top $8.5 billion for 2022. At one point, many products sold in France were processed in Vietnam.

Our bilateral trade, however, remains unbalanced. In 2021, France’s trade deficit with Vietnam stabilised at $4.57 billion but looks set to increase to over $5.32 billion for 2022. French exports to Vietnam reached $1.27 billion in 2021 and stabilised last year too. In contrast, French imports from Vietnam have remained very dynamic: they reached $5.85 billion in 2021 and amounted to around $7.45 billion in 2022.

I believe that more can be done to increase and rebalance our trade. We can see a real demand for French products by Vietnamese consumers, and vice-versa. France has been a strong supporter of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement. In line with Vietnam’s commitments to the agreement, market access for European and French agricultural products and pharmaceuticals, which are very popular in Vietnam, should be further eased and streamlined following the new rules. This is a business issue that will significantly benefit Vietnamese consumers and patients.

Business France works with small- and medium-sized French enterprises (SMEs) to help them find export opportunities in Vietnam in industrial equipment, agri-food, consumer goods, and technological solutions.

In terms of investment, France is a key player in Vietnam, ranking third among European countries that have invested in the country. Overall, France is Vietnam’s 16th largest foreign investor, with a cumulated stock of $3.6 billion. All but five of France’s 40 highest-valued companies on the Paris stock exchange have set foot in Vietnam.

Vietnamese people can see these companies in various fields, such as infrastructure projects like Hanoi’s metro line 3, which benefits from French government financial support. These projects are never easy and they can suffer lengthy delays, but we are proud of what they are achieving and convinced they have much more to offer.

Numerous French entrepreneurs have also set up successful companies in Vietnam, with Vergers du Mekong, Annam Gourmet, Aden Services, and Saint-Honoré as prime examples and proof of Vietnam’s attractiveness.

As the Vietnamese economy is getting increasingly sophisticated, many French companies are starting to see Vietnam as a base to design new products or conduct research and development. Others also set up offices to support the country’s digitalisation and tap into its pool of IT talent. I believe these trends will only continue to grow. Our embassy is following those trends closely to better support innovative French SMEs.

Some Vietnamese companies have invested in France - among the latest to set up a subsidiary in our country are household names such as Vietnam Airlines, FPT Software, Viettel, and VinFast. I believe this is another related aspect where things can go even further. France boasts a dynamic market and privileged links to other markets, like Africa. Tech companies also praise their innovation ecosystem.

We stand ready to help Vietnamese companies internationalise by setting up plants and research centres on our territory. Our embassy plans to visit more Vietnamese groups in the coming months to discuss these opportunities and see how we can assist them better.

Our two countries have developed long-term partnerships in numerous fields, including infrastructure, transportation, energy and space. On sustainable mobility, the aforementioned Hanoi metro line 3, funded largely by French public development aid, and implemented by several French groups, is our flagship project. We hope to see its elevated section open to the public in 2023 to celebrate 50 years of diplomatic relations.

Some administrative hurdles have yet to be cleared for this to come true. As has always been the case, our embassy is working with Vietnamese authorities to help facilitate those administrative procedures.

In the past, France and Vietnam have extended their cooperation in health, sustainable development, environmental protection, digital economy, education and research, and defence and security – and these sectors remain in our future. Investing in such fields strong evidence of the growing mutual trust between our two countries at the political level. Through our everyday dealings with Vietnamese officials here at the embassy and by facilitating the organisation of calls and high-level visits between our leaders, we hope to further strengthen this trust to deepen our relationship.

Our two countries have important ambitions in the coming years. We share certain principles and values. We will be stronger together to face the many daunting challenges worldwide, such as international crises, attacks against multilateralism, climate change, transforming the agricultural systems, and fighting disease. Our embassy is engaging Vietnamese officials and companies daily to find standard solutions to these critical issues for the future of our planet and its people.

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By Nicolas Warnery

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