Lundi 22 Avril 2019  

N°124 - Quatrième trimestre 2018

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  S.E.M. / H.E. Chi Dung Duong

Towards a strategic partnership between France and Vietnam

Sharing close historical and cultural ties, Vietnam and France will celebrate in 2013 the 40th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations. With the prospect of establishing a strategic partnership, these celebrations will mark a new key moment for both countries, including in the economical field. Driven by one of the most dynamic growth in Asia, Vietnam shows without complex its ambitions to further industrialization and join the new emerging economies. Beyond the reforms implement towards these objectives by the Vietnamese government, H.E. Duong Chi Dzung, Vietnam’s Ambassador to France, tells us about the challenges of this development strategy and the scope for deepening of cooperation with France.

The Diplomatic Letter: Mr Ambassador, the general elections in May 2011 also marked the National Assembly of Vietnam’s 65th anniversary. Retrospectively, what is your analysis of that election and of efforts to build the rule of law in your country?

H.E. Duong Chi Dzung: Building and cementing the rule of law have been one of the Vietnamese State’s top priorities since the first general election. The National Assembly, which was elected directly by the people through universal suffrage in 1945, adopted our country’s first Constitution. Our Constitution is built on three pillars: it upholds the unity of the motherland, guarantees freedom and democracy, and enshrines the government of the people. The first article of the 1946 Constitution states that the full power of the State is in the hands of the people of Vietnam as a whole, irrespective of race, gender, fortune, class and religion.
That is the thread that ties it all together. The successive Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Congresses have consistently upheld the democratic values that spring from the first general elections and consistently reasserted their determination to build socialist rule of law, of the people, by the people and for the people, directed by the Communist Party.
The National Edification Programme during the transition to socialism, which was completed and enhanced in 2011, brought fresh momentum to the drive to hand over power to the people. The 1991 Programme stated that the people exert their power through directly elected bodies, namely the National Assembly and People’s Councils at various levels. The completed and enhanced 2011 programme, however, took a step further: it states that the people exert their power throughout the political system, including the State machinery and socio-political organisations, through direct and representative democratic channels (among which the National Assembly has a prominent role to play).
That was the spirit during the 2011 general elections. The new legislature’s job is to adopt the amendments to the current Constitution in order to cement this powerful, democratic rule of law. The measures in the pipeline to do so include pushing ahead with administrative reform, in particular streamlining State mechanism organisations and operations to make them more efficient, transparent, straightforward and consistent, pushing ahead with the legal system’s reform, and curbing corruption and squandering.

T.D.L.: Prime Minister Nguyên Tân Dung, who was re-elected by Vietnamese MPs for a second term in office on 26 July 2011, ranks job creation and social stability at the top of his agenda. What new measures is he planning to take, in particular as regards professional training? Corruption is a problem for society as well as the economy: what is your Government planning to do to thwart it more efficiently and effectively?

H.E.D.C.D.: During his New Year address just over two months ago, Prime Minister Nguyên Tân Dung stated that his main goals for 2012 would be to restructure the economy, shift our country’s growth model, and secure rapid and sustainable development. The Prime Minister believes that the next phase for our country’s development involves stepping beyond strong growth fuelled by investment and natural resources and towards harnessing scientific progress and modern management methods. That is the sort of development that contributes to creating jobs and social stability. One of the steps to achieve that is radically and entirely overhauling our education and training systems to provide a steady stream of qualified workers to upgrade our country’s economy.
Our country’s education and training system, and its scientific and technological expertise, still have several weak spots. So wholesale reform is the only way to go. The measures in the pipeline will involve rolling out consistent solutions to develop and improve the quality of education and training, updating teaching and testing methods, factoring families’ and society’s responsibility into coordination work with schools, investing efficiently to build world-class schools, and promoting training for excellence.
As regards professional training, our government is for tailoring courses around society’s requirements and for getting professional schools and employers to work hand in hand. It will be focusing particularly on isolated regions and vulnerable people (disabled people, women, etc). The State has provided incentives for tutors who agree to work in regions in difficulty. The Government is also asking society to contribute to investments in education and training.
Fighting corruption is one of a series of measures to improve State management. At the National Conference in Hanoi on 7 March 2012, Prime Minister Nguyên Tân Dung pointed out that the 11th CPV National Congress had reasserted that the Party, State and society as a whole were as determined as ever to push ahead on this front. That National Conference was an opportunity to assess achievements since the 10th CPV Central Committee’s 3rd Plenum Resolution to step up the Party’s efforts to prevent and fight against corruption and squandering, and legislation to prevent and fight against corruption.
The best way to tackle corruption is to enhance transparency. And powerful mechanisms, alongside a comprehensive legal framework, to prevent, detect and punish corruption, are also important. That is why our Government has recommended the mandatory creation of a special department in charge of preventing and fighting against corruption in the large civil-service offices. That is also why inspections have tightened in a variety of areas encompassing mineral resource extraction and management, land development, construction investment, finance, the budget, and banking. These measures are firmly in place in Vietnam today.

T.D.L.: Vietnam’s GDP growth since 2002 averages out at about 7% a year, ranking it as an economic superpower in the making. How will the Socio-Economic Development Strategy for 2011-2020, adopted at the 11th CPV Congress in January 2011, build that momentum over the long run? In your view, what are the next steps to open up to a market economy, five years after your country joined the WTO?

H.E.D.C.D.: The Socio-Economic Development Strategy for 2011-2020 aims to empower Vietnam to become an industrialised country, enjoying sustainable economic growth, with a stable society and stronger position by 2020. And it provides the principles we have to follow to achieve that, namely pushing ahead with sustainable development by basing growth on macroeconomic stability, the economics of knowledge, social progress and environmental protection; advancing the “Renovation” by focusing principally on cementing democracy and the rule of law; promoting human resources through training, protecting Human Rights and social welfare; and furthering our international integration by opening up our economy and harnessing our domestic resources.
The Strategy’s roadmap to achieve those objectives by applying these principles involves:
– Perfecting socialist oriented market-economy mechanisms by reforming the legal system, in particular as regards the budget, finances, business management and land management, and marshalling and harnessing human resources in order to achieve sustainable development;
– Developing a modern and competitive industry, by reorganising industry sectors, geographies and production capacity, in order to spur technological progress, create outstanding value and create jobs;
– Developing innovative, modern and sustainable agriculture, trying to increase productivity, applying scientific and technological breakthroughs, and building a solid network to market our farm produce, open up outlets and compete internationally, through sound land planning and environmental stewardship.
– Developing services, especially high-value services that will sharpen our competitive edge, such as tourism, sea and air transport, telecommunications, information technologies, health and financial services.
Vietnam has been honouring its pledges since it joined the WTO even though opening up its economy has faced its national companies with increasingly fierce competition. WTO membership has several advantages for our country: our exports, for instance, have been growing roughly 20% a year. The next steps will involve opening up our domestic market even further, in line with our commitments to the WTO (many products will be reaping the benefits starting in 2012), while strengthening our bilateral and multilateral economic relations. The goal will also be to help local businesses to bolster their competitiveness in order to tackle a new wave of imports, especially through technology transfer, training and management, and, lastly, by advancing administrative reform to provide sounder management, a friendlier business environment and a sharper competitive edge in Vietnam.

T.D.L.: Thu Thiem tunnel is only one example of your country’s vast investment programme to modernise its infrastructure. What sectors will that programme cover? What initiatives are you planning to take to boost the Vietnamese economy’s appeal among foreign investors? Given France’s expertise in sectors such as transport and nuclear energy, what opportunities can you see to intensify economic relations between France and Vietnam?

H.E.D.C.D.: Modernising infrastructure is one of the top priorities to build up our country’s industrial capacity, under the Socio-Economic Development Strategy for 2011-2020. And the top-priority sectors are transport (railroads, roads, airports and seaports) and energy (renewable energies and electricity).
Vietnam is constantly aiming to provide a friendly environment for foreign companies – including French companies – that want to do business there and harness its buoyant economic growth, political stability, competitive labour, transparent and increasingly open market, abundant natural resources and attractive geographic location in the region.
Foreign direct investment in Vietnam has actually increased considerably over the past few years, because the Government has focused particularly on attracting foreign investors.
To enhance its appeal, besides providing tax and other incentives for investors, the goal is to push ahead with economic restructuring, administrative reform and management mechanism overhauls in order to build trust. Improving the investment environment necessarily involves stabilising the macroeconomic situation, restructuring key areas (public contracts, State-owned companies and the financial sector), improving infrastructure, simplifying administrative formalities, and enhancing transparency. We also have to transfer more power to local authorities.
To answer your second questions, yes, transport and nuclear energy are two of the sectors where France has built an outstanding reputation. Transport infrastructure construction has been rocketing in Vietnam over the past few years, and the investment will add up to several hundred billion US Dollars by 2020. French investors with experience in this sector can get involved in projects to build roads, railroads and ports. The energy sector is another of France’s strong suits and French groups could invest in Vietnam through projects to supply equipment or as contractors.

T.D.L.: Vietnam has Southeast Asia’s third-largest population and deepening regional integration through ASEAN is one of its foreign policy’s top priorities. In light of the Bali Summit’s conclusion in November 2011, what is your analysis of progress towards creating the ASEAN Community? To what extent will the political situation in Burma promote cohesion on the regional integration process?

H.E.D.C.D.: The ASEAN leaders at the Bali Summit in 2011 reasserted their determination to actively follow the roadmap to build the ASEAN Community in 2015, and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity. To do that, they will be focusing primarily on effectively applying existing agreements and on rolling out key programmes and projects that will cement our ties and bridge gaps between regions.
As regards the Community construction process, the member countries have agreed to promote solidarity and unity within ASEAN and to make every effort to steer the differences that may stem from relations between them towards positive outcomes, applying the ASEAN Charter, based on the Association’s shared interests, and in a spirit of friendship.
Today, ASEAN is an important and even essential factor for peace, stability and development in Southeast Asia. It has built substantial momentum to promote dialogue and cooperation in East Asia and Asia Pacific.
ASEAN will have to push ahead in the same direction, focusing particularly on several issues:
– Firstly, concentrate efforts and harness solidarity to achieve the objectives in the plan to roll out the Roadmap to the ASEAN Community in 2015, at national and regional level;
– Secondly, continue to promote ASEAN’s active role in efforts to build a peaceful environment, security, stability and cooperation throughout the region, especially by effectively applying cooperation mechanisms and channels such as the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in South-East Asia which France is the first EU country to have signed, Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ), Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) to nurture dialogue, trust and the peaceful settlements of disputes, as per international law in general, and the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, United Nations Charter and ASEAN Charter in particular;
– Thirdly, continue to extend and deepen ASEAN’s relations with its partners, while strengthening its pivotal role in regional cooperation organisations working for peace, stability and development, and to effectively overcome the challenges today.
ASEAN’s development, in other words, hinges on solid cohesion within the regional integration process, and on each member country’s contribution to that process. Myanmar is a fully-fledged Association member, and is playing its full role. Any and all developments in that direction in Myanmar are therefore positive for ASEAN. That is why ASEAN has entrusted Myanmar with its rotating Presidency in 2014. I would also like to point out that Vietnam and Myanmar have very good relations and that our country is providing its full support on that front.

T.D.L.: The partnership between your country and China has been marked by recurring tension in relation to sovereignty over the Spratley and Paracels islands, and relations cleared a new milestone when both countries signed an agreement on the principles to resolve maritime issues in 11 October 2011. What exact measures does this agreement provide to settle that dispute and build bilateral strategic dialogue? In your view, how do Chinese plans to extract bauxite tally with your mutual contributions to economic cooperation between your two countries?

H.E.D.C.D.: Indeed, the agreement you mentioned involves holding alternating biannual meetings between the heads of the delegations in charge of negotiating border issues, and setting up a ‘red phone’ hotline at government level to exchange information in due course and thereby agree on satisfactory settlements for maritime problems.
I see three particularly important aspects in this agreement. The first one is the reference to international law when it discusses finding a long-term solution for the East Sea. Both parties have reasserted their commitment to international law and, in particular, the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which Vietnam and China have signed. The second one is the fact that it enshrines the Declaration of the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) as one of the linchpins to maintain peace and stability in that part of the world. ASEAN and China indeed recently signed the DOC byelaw and are working together to draft a Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea. This will no doubt bolster trust between the various parties working to find a long-term solution to these issues. The third and last one is that it has opened the door to multilateral settlements for non-bilateral disputes in the East Sea. This is exactly where multiparty dispute resolution is heading in international relations today.
As regards economic relations between China and Vietnam, it is important to point out that China has been Vietnam’s largest business partner since 2004, and that trade between our two countries is rocketing at a spectacular rate (from US$ 16 bn in 2007 to nearly US$ 30 bn in 2011). China has also become an important direct foreign investor in Vietnam (it invested over US$ 3.2 bn in 2011).
There is indeed one big challenge we have to tackle in our business relations with China: our deepening balance of trade deficit. Vietnam principally exports raw materials and imports machinery and manufactured goods from China. Besides Vietnam’s efforts to upgrade its industrial capacity and hence position on the global production chain – which will gradually enable it to grow beyond its place as a simple raw-material and farm-produce supplier –, it needs to take other measures at bilateral level to tackle this issue. China and Vietnam are enjoying the most impressive growth rates in this part of the world, and contributing to several regional agreements, and need to build more dynamic economic relations that will increase prosperity in both countries and throughout the region.

T.D.L.: Vietnams is a member of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and has been involved in Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) talks since 2010. What is your view on the strategic dimension of this agreement in the pipeline, beyond the strictly economic aspects? In light of the symbolic aspect of the joint military exercises that your country and the United States organised in the summer of 2011, what is your vision of the security ‘architecture’ in Southeast Asia? And, more generally, what are you expecting from the fresh relations between Hanoi and Washington?

H.E.D.C.D.: If the 20th century was the ‘Atlantic’ century, several analysts agree that the 21st century will see Asia-Pacific become the new strategic area. This new situation is gelling, and regional integration in Asia-Pacific – or, more specifically, open regionalism – is emerging as the predominant trend. It is also a sign of globalisation at regional level, where cooperation for development is the name of the game and prosperity is a more strategic issue than ever before.
We have seen a plethora of formulae, such as AFTA, ASEAN+China, and the China+Republic of Korea+Japan free trade area, to list only a few. The TPP is no exception. The fact that Vietnam is part of TPP, an important cooperation organisation that is opening up promising prospects in this region, will put it in a better position to seize the opportunities that will arise from the regional and global reshuffle. Entering into the TPP also means that our country will be able to take advantage of more propitious conditions beyond its borders to spur socio-economic development within its borders, and further its international integration agenda. There is no doubt in my mind that this will contribute to enhancing Vietnam’s position on the international scene. I believe TPP is an opportunity to open up international markets to exports from Vietnam and to open up Vietnam’s domestic market to even more foreign investments. However, TPP talks will need to accommodate Vietnam’s specific development stage at this point.
You also mentioned “joint military exercises”. Strictly speaking, they are not exactly military exercises: they are regular exchanges between the two parties to run humanitarian operations and share experiences, in particular on search and rescue operations.
As regards the security architecture in Southeast Asia, I have seen that dialogue and consultation between the countries in our region and the world’s superpowers is ramping up when it comes to our common ground, i.e. the risks associated with terrorism, epidemics, natural and environmental disasters, maritime safety, etc. I am thinking about the positive outcomes at the ARF, Shangri La Dialogue and the extended ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting (ADMM Plus), a mechanism that was introduced at Vietnam’s initiative when it served as ASEAN’s rotating President in 2010. It was the first time we managed to gather 18 Defence Ministers from ASEAN and partner countries around the same table to start thinking and talking about measures to protect peace, and cement mutual trust and cooperation. There are naturally other angles on Southeast Asia’s security architecture but, given this area’s characteristics, it makes sense to deal with this issue with every party it concerns and with all the countries that have interests in the region. Most importantly, it has to stem from the central role that ASEAN has always intended to play in all regional cooperation structures to promote peace, stability and development.
As regards our relations with the US, we are delighted to see that they are absolutely thriving. Our bilateral trade in 2011 totalled US$ 21 bn, which was 20% higher than in 2010, despite the huge economic difficulties due to the worldwide downturn. The encouraging results we have seen since we resumed normal relations are prompting Vietnam and the US to map out a variety of new measures to take cooperation to new heights in every area – i.e. economic and commercial cooperation, investment, and cooperation in education, training, technology, defence and security – as we speak.

T.D.L.: Your country’s seat on the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member in 2008-2009 is one example of Vietnam’s efforts to actively promote multi-party systems through its foreign policy. As the Non-Aligned Movement celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2011, how is your country planning to further contribute to amplifying South-South cooperation? What issues are you discussing with countries such as India or Russia?

H.E.D.C.D.: Since you mentioned the Non-Aligned Movement, I would like to say that Vietnam is still actively involved in this group, as a natural part of its independent, sovereign, multilateral and diversified foreign policy. It will work hand in hand with the other member countries to maintain international peace and security, and to create an environment that will foster development in each one of those countries, by promoting dialogue to avert and settle disputes in line with the UN Charter and fundamental principles underlying international law.
Vietnam will actively contribute to joint efforts to make international relations more democratic through reforms at the UN and multilateral institutions – in particular financial institutions, with a view to putting them in a position to tackle crises more effectively and serve their member countries’ interests (especially developing countries’ interests). Our country is also involved in efforts to strengthen South-South cooperation to provide global answers to global problems such as the consequences of the financial and economic downturn, climate change, access to drinking water, energy security and food security.
Our experience in agriculture and success curbing hunger and poverty have prompted our country to share its expertise with a large number of African countries (Senegal, Madagascar, Mali, Angola, Benin, etc.) over the past few years, with UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and countries in the North working on South-South-North cooperation programmes. These programmes involving mutual aid and pooling expertise will necessarily grow over the next few years.
Russia and India are prime partners for Vietnam, and we have set up very efficient and effective dialogue channels with both of them. They both see eye-to-eye with Vietnam on a number of important issues in several organisations such as the UN, ARF, ASEM, APEC, and so forth. There is no doubt in my mind that Russia and India are contributing to stability, peace, cooperation and development in Asia-Pacific. And both their economies are brimming with exciting growth potential, which could effectively contribute to efforts to modernise and industrialise Vietnam.
Our friendship with Russia goes back a long way, and has grown into an all-round strategic partnership. That partnership has considerable advantages for both sides. The remarkable complementarity between our two countries is a well-known fact. Russia excels in areas such as mining, petroleum, energy, steel, aviation, education and training, which Vietnam needs so much in order to develop. And Vietnam is a big exporter of farm produce, textiles, shoes and seafood to Russia. Our business exchanges are growing at a healthy pace, and will be near the US$ 2.5 bn mark in 2012 and at US$ 3 bn in 2013.
The all-round strategic partnership we set up with India in 2007 has been picking up momentum non-stop ever since. It is based on three pillars: politics and defence, the economy and trade, and human-resource training. India has already become one of Vietnam’s top-ten business partners: bilateral trade amounts to over US$ 3.5 bn and we are both aiming to put that figure at US$ 7 bn in 2015.

T.D.L.: The Vietnamese Cultural Centre that was inaugurated in Paris at the end of 2008 is the second worldwide and the first in Europe. In your view, does that mean that your country sees France as a springboard to strengthen its ties with the European Union? In that light, how do you feel about progress on negotiations on a free-trade agreement between Vietnam and the EU? Since UNESCO has listed the Ho Dynasty’s Citadel and Xoan singing as world heritage, how is Vietnam’s cultural status cascading down through its economy and diplomacy?

H.E.D.C.D.: Indeed, the decision to open the first Vietnamese cultural centre in Europe in France was never fortuitous. I think it is important to remember that opening Vietnamese cultural centres abroad is part of a drive to strengthen cultural diplomacy that we started working on several years ago. Cultural diplomacy is one of the three pillars of Vietnamese diplomacy, on a par with political and economic diplomacy.
The close cultural and artistic ties that we are building with France stem from two factors: our common history on the one hand and the French language, within the Francophonie (French-speaking community), on the other. These two factors explain France’s prominent role in Vietnam’s cultural endeavours abroad. And France – and Paris, a cultural capital city in the centre of Europe – is what I would call a ‘sine-qua-non’ gateway. That is why a large number of countries have established a cultural presence in France with cultural or language centres.
Another thing I would like to say about the active cultural diplomatic drive I mentioned a minute ago is that Vietnam has been ‘proactive’ and vigorous on this front over the past few years. The encouraging results we obtained – which you just mentioned – have done a lot to enhance our country’s position on the international scene. The fact that UNESCO has recognised the Ho Dynasty’s Citadel and Xoan singing as world heritage is contributing, among other developments, to cement Vietnam’s image. Our country’s cultural endeavours abroad have shown a new facet of Vietnam: a vibrant Vietnam that has wholeheartedly embraced its path to “Renovation”, integration and development, a Vietnam that has turned the corner after its years at war, enduring poverty and distress, and become a safe and attractive destination for foreign investors.
They have also had a big impact developing tourism and attracting foreign investments. In 2011, Vietnam welcomed 6 million foreign tourists, i.e. 20% more than in 2010. And, despite the fallout from the financial and economic downturn, Vietnam attracted foreign direct investments to the tune of US$ 14.7 bn in 2011. That is why talks about a free-trade agreement between Vietnam and the EU are good news. The EU as a whole has always been one of Vietnam’s top business partners. And a free-trade agreement that accommodates both parties’ specific features will be good news for Vietnam and the EU.

T.D.L.: French-Vietnamese diplomatic relations have always intertwined with the history that these two countries share and their strong cultural ties, especially within the French-speaking community – and will be celebrating their 40th anniversary in 2013. What will these celebrations mean to you? What steps do both countries have to take to set up a strategic partnership, in particular to spur business and investments? What cooperation projects – besides building the University of Science and Technology of Hanoi, are your two countries thinking about?

H.E.D.C.D.: 2013 will be a major milestone in our diplomatic relations. Both sides have agreed to organise France Year in Vietnam and Vietnam Year in France in turn, to celebrate this historical anniversary. It is very encouraging to look back at everything that has been accomplished over the past 40 years. We have come a long way together, not without a few difficulties and challenges, but our shared efforts and determination have built outstanding bilateral relations and we have every reason to be proud of them.
Besides our shared memories of the ups and downs that have marked the history of both our countries, my generation still remembers the events that cemented the traditional friendship between Vietnam and France. I am thinking about the 1980s, when France did so much to help us to rebuild ties with the international financial community via the Club of Paris. I am especially thinking about the reforms we refer to as Doi-Moi (Renovation), that France backed and that French companies in Vietnam have supported from the start. Now, the 21s-century Vietnam is keen on seeing France even closer at its side as it moves forward on its road to modernisation and active integration into the international community as a dynamic and responsible member. Today, we have about 15 bilateral treaties and agreements shaping our relations. That is what we have achieved over the past 40 years. But we can’t stop there.
We have to take the next step, working together to build a strategic partnership to harness the full potential on both sides. This preferential framework should lead to periodical consultation at the highest level. It should also bring a fresh boost to cooperation between France and Vietnam in the areas that they each rank as their top priorities, and address their respective requirements. There is a lot to think about: France only accounts for 0.9% of Vietnam’s foreign trade (against 3.6% on average worldwide). This means that we need to do more to attract French companies – especially SMEs, which are so few and far between in Vietnam.
I am also thinking about human-resource training, which is one of France’s comparative advantages. There are 6,000 Vietnamese students in France as we speak. That is an encouraging figure but we have to do more and do it better. You mentioned the University of Science and Technology of Hanoi project, which French Prime Minister François Fillon kicked off during his visit to Vietnam in October 2009. We would like to see similar projects across the country. Vietnam’s job market takes in 1.6 million new workers every year. Upgrading Vietnam’s status on the international job market, as you know, hinges heavily on the quality of its workforce.
Infrastructure (civil engineering, energy and transport) and the environment (water and waste management) are also, as I see them, two par-excellence areas for cooperation within French-Vietnamese relations. Vietnam’s eagerness to take in new technologies, and our country’s fast-paced urbanisation and modernisation drive, are opening up huge opportunities for French investors. And those are two fields where France has established a solid reputation for its world-class expertise. From that perspective, we need to ramp up the emblematic projects we are already working on, which will be in the spotlight in 2013, including the Hanoi metro, Long Bien bridge revamp and Hanoi teaching hospital.
Our two countries also have a duty to cooperate and provide joint answers to the challenges that the planet is facing, such as climate change and sustainable development, for instance. We have several strengths we can harness to do that: powerful bilateral cooperation and a wide variety of views on international issues are two of them. Another important factor is that France has played and is playing a prominent role in the EU’s efforts to emerge and assert its strong and responsible presence on the international scene. And Vietnam is working actively and responsibly as we speak to build the ASEAN Community by 2015. So it makes a lot of sense to use these exciting opportunities that our respective regional integration processes are opening up to push ahead and reap the benefits of our bilateral relations. Let’s make France a gateway for Vietnam in Europe and Vietnam a gateway for France in Southeast Asia.
Then, we will have to work on consolidating and enhancing the social foundation underlying French-Vietnamese relations. The ties between Vietnam and France ripple through a variety of areas in both countries’ societies and geographies. The people in both our countries share historical, sentimental, family and professional ties. We have built extensive cooperation between administrations, a large number of business partnerships and, especially, friendships and partnerships between associations, regions, towns, schools and people. The Vietnamese community in France is one of Vietnam’s largest overseas communities, and is also an important link in this chain. All those aspects are bricks that we can use to build French-Vietnamese relations. That is one of their distinctive features, and what will keep them lively and solid.     

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