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The last days of March saw Vietnam’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Pham Binh Minh and his French counterpart Laurent Fabius agreed in Paris to make preparations for lifting the two countries’ relations to strategic partnership in 2013.
The agreement was underscored in a landmark joint announcement, which stated that: “Forty years after the two countries forged diplomatic ties and twenty years after French President François Mitterrand’s historical visit to Vietnam to open a new chapter in the two countries’ relations, and based on the importance of the two countries’ common historical relations, with confidence in the two economies’ ever-bigger development and with a desire for strengthened cooperation for the sake of peace, international security and a shared future, the two sides have agreed that it is time for them to work more closely to raise their bilateral relations to strategic partnership in the French Year in Vietnam [in 2013].”
One of the major focuses of the strategic partnership is to “strengthen bilateral economic-trade ties” in order to “facilitate investment and business activities of the two countries’ enterprises. This target will be implemented based on industrial and technological cooperation in sectors that are strategic to Vietnam’s development.”
Marie-Cécile Tardieu-Smith, economic counselor and head of the French Embassy to Vietnam’s Economic Section, also said such partnership would help “the two countries’ trade ties develop stronger, especially in such sectors that France has advantages and needed by Vietnam as health care, traffic, education and training, infrastructure, sustainable development and energy.”
According to the embassy, the establishment of the bilateral strategic partnership will create greater confidence in trade and investment ties and further facilitate bilateral trade via preferential tariff schemes.
Vietnam’s Vietnamese Ministry of Industry and Trade’s Department for European Market reported that Vietnam’s export-import turnover with France grew strongly from $1.67 billion in 2009 to $3.75 billion by late last year.
France’s exports to Vietnam rose from $356 million in 2002 to almost $1.6 billion last year, while France’s imports from Vietnam grew from $925 million in 2002 to $2.16 billion last year.
Vietnamese staples exported to France are mainly consumer goods such as shoes, clothes, furniture, jewelry, home appliances and electronic spare parts. Last year, Vietnam earned about $1.23 billion from exporting electronic equipment and mobile phones to France, up 19 per cent on-year. The next products with big export turnover from France included footwear ($635.2 million, up 7.9 per cent) and home appliances ($173.2 million, up 14.6 per cent).
Meanwhile, last year, France’s main exports to Vietnam included pharmaceuticals ($186.16 million, up 7.4 per cent), agro-products ($167.3 million, 27.1 per cent), chemicals, perfumes and cosmetics ($92.3 million, up 2.1 per cent), industrial and agricultural machinery and various machines ($72.54 million, up 24.8 per cent), and computer, electronic and optical products ($65.1 million, 43.7 per cent)
France is now the second largest European investor in Vietnam and the leading EU provider of official development assistance (ODA) for the country, which has amounted to 1.2 billion EUR so far, not to mention other aids and financial loans worth 840 million EUR, including those provided by the French Ministry of Economy and Finance.