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|By Wojciech Gerwel - Poland's Ambassador to Vietnam|
As Ulysses Grant once put it, “I can better trust those who helped to relieve the gloom of my dark hours than those who are so ready to enjoy with me the sunshine of my prosperity.” Polish-Vietnamese relations have strengthened during the pandemic and have revealed an extraordinary potential for close and friendly cooperation. There are many dimensions to this cooperation, but in this special sharing to Vietnam Investment Review, I wish to discuss two of them.
Polish-Vietnamese relations have strengthened during the pandemic and have revealed an extraordinary potential for close and friendly cooperation. There are many dimensions to this cooperation, but there are two crucial ones that should be brought to attention.
Over seven decades of cooperation, Poland and Vietnam have developed traditionally friendly relations that today draw on a rich tapestry of historical, economic, and interpersonal ties. In the past, countless mutual gestures of friendship and solidarity gave this relationship special character and depth. It is noteworthy that our cooperation during the pandemic constitutes another important milestone in this vein and sets the stage for even closer bilateral cooperation for years to come.
At the beginning of the pandemic, Poles experienced many spontaneous gestures of support from the Vietnamese community in Poland. At the time of supply shortages, its members and volunteers provided hand-sewn masks, medical gloves, and disinfectants to Polish medical facilities and staff.
Vietnamese restaurants cooked meals free of charge for Polish doctors, nurses, and paramedics. And Vietnamese alumni of Polish universities delivered some COVID-19 tests and protective suits to Poland. It was perhaps not a large-scale aid overall in terms of volume, but it was heartfelt and spontaneous and has become a symbol of the special bond between the two nations.
|Wojciech Gerwel - Poland's Ambassador to Vietnam and Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh|
In Poland we have not forgotten this invaluable support and, as Polish Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Paweł Jabłoński recently pointed out, we felt obliged to show similar solidarity once the epidemiological conditions in Vietnam worsened significantly. In response to the Vietnamese authorities' call for support, Poland decided to donate 501,600 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine to Vietnam.
The vaccines arrived in Hanoi on August 21, exactly one month after Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s letter to Prime Minister of Poland Mateusz Morawiecki. The Polish government will also deliver medical equipment to Ho Chi Minh City, including much-needed respirators, cardiac monitors, and personal protective equipment worth about $3.6 million. Poland also plans to deliver to Vietnam further doses of vaccines based on non-profit resale.
Vietnam is the first country in Southeast Asia to receive such support from Poland. I believe that the vaccines and medical equipment we are providing will save many lives, speed up the local vaccination process, and contribute to a faster recovery in Vietnam.
|Poland donates 501,600 AstraZeneca COVID-10 vaccine doses, and would transfer another three million to Vietnam|
The second positive development in Polish-Vietnamese relations in the context of the pandemic concerns bilateral trade. Despite the global economic crisis, there has been remarkable growth in trade between the two countries in recent years. In 2020 the bilateral turnover reached $3.7 billion, while only in the first half of 2021 it surpassed $2.3 billion. By comparison, prior to the pandemic, it reached $3.5 billion in 2019 and $3.3 billion in 2018.
The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement has decisively enhanced economic cooperation opportunities between Poland and Vietnam. When the agreement entered into force in August 2020, it instantaneously removed 65 per cent of Vietnamese customs duties on goods imported from EU member states and 71 per cent of customs duties on Vietnamese goods sent to the EU. What is more, over the next 7-10 years 99 per cent of customs duties between the EU and Vietnam are scheduled to be removed. Such a trade liberalisation is set to greatly facilitate trade between Poland and Vietnam across many economic sectors, including the agro-food sector.
Poland is famous for the excellent quality of agro-food products, which meet the highest standards of food safety and price competitiveness. No wonder that foreign customers, also in Vietnam, have appreciated Polish produce more and more. Since 2004, the value of Polish agro-food exports has increased more than sixfold. Only from January to May 2021, despite the pandemic, it increased by nearly 4 per cent on-year and reached $17 billion in total sales across all continents and 192 countries.
When it comes to Polish agro-food products that can be found on Vietnamese tables today, the most popular items are pork, poultry, fishery, and dairy products. Vietnamese businesses have taken more and more interest in importing these traditional goods, but they have also been increasingly attracted to the idea of introducing new Polish products to the Vietnamese market.
For instance, there is interest in Polish beef and extremely tasty highbush blueberries. Poland is also a recognised producer of top-quality sausages, bread, honey, chocolate sweets, and juices. Vegetables and fruit are also Polish specialities. Polish apples are already known and appreciated by Vietnamese consumers due to their natural taste, crunchiness, and intense aroma.
Polish-Vietnamese agro-food cooperation need not be limited to traditional trade in produce. Many opportunities are also offered by the Polish agri-tech sector and modern green technologies. For instance, Poland’s GreenEvo Program facilitates international technology transfer in sectors such as water and sewage management, energy saving, renewable energy sources, air protection, waste management, and low-emission transport technologies, including electromobility.
GreenEvo solutions are winners of highly competitive competitions, conquer international markets, and guarantee technological excellence and price competitiveness. Some of these solutions have already gained the attention of Vietnamese partners and can prove useful in Vietnam’s fight against climate change and environmental degradation.
When it comes to Poland’s high technologies, it is impossible not to mention medtech and ICT. These sectors have undergone tremendous growth in Poland in recent decades and today are able to deliver the most innovative and reliable solutions to customers. The classic solutions include, for instance, business systems supporting telecommunications and energy. Creative and well-educated Polish IT specialists implement numerous projects through technology startups, which successfully compete on international markets in areas such as industry 4.0, advanced AI, and new-generation digital marketing.
The development of the ICT industry in Poland has been largely due to the digital transformation of other sectors of the country’s economy. In fintech, Polish companies have played a decisive role in creating modern financial services based on cashless transactions, as well as exceptionally safe mobile telecommunications and multimedia services. Some of these highly innovative Polish solutions are already present in the Vietnamese market.
Poland also has a lot to offer in cybersecurity. For instance, the "Cyber Made In Poland" cluster associates innovative Polish companies and is one of only two organisations in Central Europe that are accredited to issue "Cybersecurity Made in Europe" certificates.
Polish-Vietnamese cooperation has been strengthened during the COVID-19 pandemic. As in many times in history, the two countries have proven to be loyal partners once again. The new economic circumstances have also made it evident that there are many promising fields for enhanced cooperation. I am confident that in the coming years Poland and Vietnam will take advantage of these opportunities and will thus raise the level of bilateral cooperation to new heights.