Vietnamese and European Union (EU) officials gathered in Hanoi on October 9 to review bilateral relations and adopt measures to develop their comprehensive cooperation in preparation for the signing of a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement.

Since Vietnam and the EU established diplomatic ties in 1990, bilateral relations have developed strongly, particularly in economic cooperation. The EU is now one of the leading trade partners and the biggest ODA donor for Vietnam. Two-way trade value has increased by 7.4 times compared to 1995 when the two sides signed a bilateral cooperation agreement, reaching more than US$10 billion. Vietnamese commodities shipped to the EU now make up 18 percent of the country’s total exports. By September 2007, the EU has invested 640 projects in Vietnam with a combined capitalisation of US$8.35 billion, of which US$4.8 billion has been disbursed.

With 27 members and a population of 500 million, the EU accounts for 30 percent of global GDP, 41 percent of trade and 43 percent of investment.

In his opening speech, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem noted that over the past 20 years of implementing the Doi Moi (Renewal) process, Vietnam has made tremendous achievements and become a bright spot in Asia regarding economic growth and foreign direct investment attraction. The country has integrated actively into the region and the world and enjoyed an increasingly important position in regional and international forums.

Vietnam’s new position creates new opportunities and potential for cooperation. This is the reason for both Vietnam and the EU to recognise the need for a new agreement to replace the 1995 Framework Agreement, laying the legal framework for comprehensive and long-term relations between Vietnam and the EU on the basis of equality and mutual benefits,” said Mr Khiem.

For his part, Italy’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Massimo D’Alema affirmed that Vietnam is a key partner of Italy and the European Union in Southeast Asia.

Italy fully supports the strengthening of Vietnam-EU relations and negotiations for a new Partnership and Cooperation Agreement, which offers a great opportunity to give new impetus to our cooperation and build an appropriate framework for a renewed and more ambitious partnership,” said Mr D’Alema. “This agreement will help promote political dialogue including key issues such as human rights, the fight against terrorism and trans-national crime, migration, energy and environmental matters, research and technological cooperation and sustainable development.”

He reaffirmed Italy’s strong commitments to developing and broadening cooperation with Vietnam, which he said is “an emerging power in Southeast Asia and one of our most important partners in the region.” He added that the establishment of the EU-ASEAN Free Trade Area (FTA) will benefit relations between Vietnam and the EU.

“We believe that an ambitious agreement, proposed by the EU, will strengthen the regional integration process in Southeast Asia and boost trade and commercial flows,” said Mr D’Alema. He also expressed his belief that Vietnam, as a coordinator for ASEAN in the FTA negotiations, will play an active role in boosting the process.

Vietnamese and foreign delegates heard reports delivered by representatives from the Ministry of Planning and Investment, the Ministry of Education and Training, the European Commission, the Ministry of Industry and Trade.

Source: VOV