Assessing Belgium-Vietnam bilateral cooperation in press development

September 27, 2021 | 09:00
On the occasion of VIR’s 30th anniversary, Etienne Mahler spoke with H.E. Ambassador to Vietnam Paul Jansen about the newspaper’s role for Belgian businesses and investors and the bilateral cooperation in the press development of the two countries.
Assessing Belgium-Vietnam bilateral cooperation in press development
H.E Belgian Ambassador to Vietnam Paul Jansen

As the ambassador to Vietnam, how do you evaluate the role of local business newspapers like VIR in the support of diplomatic and business activities between the two countries?

Economic newspapers are always very useful for me and my colleagues, especially because Belgium has regional trade offices here in Vietnam. So, the newspaper is very valuable to be acquainted with what’s happening in the country, especially today as we meet less and less people physically.

Likewise, aside from a source to gather information, VIR is also very important to spread information that we would like to publish. And of course, as VIR is in English, it is easier for me and my colleagues to use than Vietnamese-language counterparts.

I would like to thank VIR because of the many interviews I’ve seen with people from Deep C and other Belgian companies. It’s very interesting for us to see that foreign businesspeople here in Vietnam receive a voice in printed media, especially this one.

In a nutshell, I think VIR is crucial for the business and diplomatic communities in dealing with business and investment. It’s a very important tool for us.

In a nutshell, I think VIR is crucial for the business and diplomatic communities in dealing with business and investment. It’s a very important tool for us.

How can a media agency such as VIR support the Belgian and other foreign businesses and investors in Vietnam with its news and analyses best?

Information is crucial, and we would like to continue using VIR and other newspapers to publish information, business opportunities, and receive some kind of return from the Vietnamese business community.

So far, the relationship has been very good. We have had a very fruitful exchange through VIR and other media with the local business community, such as the Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce, among other organisations.

So, we would like to keep using this cooperation in the coming months. But hopefully, we’ll also be able to meet people physically again. In the meantime, I thank VIR for providing us with the link to the local business and investment community.

From a Belgian point of view, articles concerning Deep C and the logistics sector in general are very important to us. Currently, there is another project in the pipeline for Belgium, the Netherlands, and Vietnam, called the Project Smart Logistics Centre at Ca Mep Ha.

It’s a project worth almost €1 billion ($1.17 billion), which will not only be useful for Belgian and Dutch companies but also for Vietnamese enterprises, especially those in the agricultural sector.

With this platform, Vietnamese fruit and vegetable exporters could increase their business in Europe. So far, China remains the only consumer of those products, so China can dictate the price.

Within the project, we will install cooling units close to the fields where the fruit and vegetables are produced. With a chain of these fridges, we will enable the transport to Rotterdam and Antwerp as the main ports in Europe.

Thus, this is a very promising and interesting project, which was also discussed during the visit of National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue to Belgium at the beginning of the month and during the online meeting of our countries’ prime ministers two weeks ago. So, hopefully this endeavour will materialise in the coming months and be accompanied by VIR.

Apart from the logistics sector, in which other sectors could Vietnam and Belgium increase their cooperation?

The project at Ca Mep Ha is part of our wider partnership with Vietnam on agriculture, in which I would also like to see a stronger focus on another commodity – cocoa.

Vietnamese cocoa is of top quality, and all chocolate makers in Belgium and Europe say that this is one of the best-quality cocoa in the world. Unfortunately, the production is too low because the farmers don’t receive good prices for their produce. So, they prefer to grow coffee, vanilla, and cashew nuts, but not cocoa.

We would like to see increased production in this area. But at the moment, Vietnam is not even a member of the World Cocoa Foundation (WCF), possibly because the responsible people think it may be expensive. However, it is not. Thus, I think Vietnam should become a member to speak for and promote its excellent cocoa.

There are, of course, also other aspects of our strategic partnership like in academics, but I would say logistics and cocoa are the most important areas for us at the moment.

What kind of bilateral exchange and training programmes and scholarships exist between the two countries and how do these contribute to improving local journalists’ skills and know-how about the craft as well as the European media system?

As Belgium is a federal country, education and press are dealt with by the communities, such as the Flemish community, the French-speaking community, and the German-speaking community.

For the French-speaking part, Wallonie-Bruxelles International has an office in Vietnam for cooperation in education and information. Together with the French TV channel RTBF, Belga News Agency, and the University of Brussels, they have a programme to help promote the French press and French-speaking journalists of Vietnamese news agencies.

This programme is focused on helping French-speaking journalists in Vietnam to improve their knowledge of the French language and the way of dealing with information.

The programme started in 2019, with the first few Vietnamese journalists travelling to Belgium for a few months. But unfortunately, after the first iteration, the pandemic broke out and so we’re now waiting for the programme to be able to resume.

As for scholarships, we don’t have a national federal scholarship programme anymore. The programme stopped in June 2019 as Vietnam graduated to a middle-income country and our focus lies on development cooperation in poorer nations.

So, we base our cooperation with Vietnam now more on academics and business partnerships. However, many individual universities offer scholarships and have cooperation programmes with Vietnamese counterparts.

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