Vietnam’s Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong paid official visits to Belgium, the European Union (EU) institutions, Italy, and the United Kingdom from January 17 to 24 with the aim to forge and reinforce economic and political relations. Among the others, Trong was accompanied by Vietnamese Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh.
During the state visit to Italy, Trong opened the long series of meetings, events and exhibitions that will be held during the year to commemorate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Rome and Hanoi, signed on March 23, 1973.
The Italian talks came after meetings in Brussels, where Trong was received by the Belgian prime minister Elio Di Rupo, the President of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy, and the European Commission’s President, Jose Manuel Barroso.
Before leaving Rome for London, Trong met Pope Benedict XVI in a private audience at Vatican City. The meeting was rare both because the Pope usually reserves private audiences for heads of state and because Tuesday is traditionally Benedict’s day of rest. “During cordial talks, themes of interest were touched upon and the hope was expressed that certain unresolved situations can be resolved,” the Vatican said in a statement.
The European trip was more significant than expected for the Vietnamese Party secretary and head of the Central Military Commission–the most highest organ of the party on issues of military policy. Talks in Brussels had a primarily economic character with both the Belgian prime minister and with the two European Union representatives: Herman Van Rompuy and Jose Manuel Barroso.
According to the Vietnamese media, Vietnamese Minister of Planning and Investment Bui Quang Vinh and Belgium’s Deputy Prime Minister cum Minister of Economy Johan Vande Lanotte “signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on construction of Dinh Vu port in Haiphong city, and another MoU under which Belgium would provide a non-refundable sum of 30 million euros ($39 million) for Vietnam.”
As for the relationship with the EU, Trong said that “Vietnam wanted to further develop a comprehensive, stable and long term partnership with the EU.” On the other hand, the EU vowed to increase financial assistance to Vietnam in the 2014-2020 period for the country’s course of industrialisation and modernisation. The EU also committed to strengthen cooperation with Vietnam in education and training, culture, and increase cooperation in such potential areas as economic structure development, supporting industry, high technology and green development. The official meetings were followed by a second round of negotiations for the establishment of a free trade area between the EU and Vietnam that could be finalized in the next three years.
General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong paid also an official visit to the UK on 22 and 23 January on invitation by the Prime minister David Cameron. This was the first ever official visit of a CPV General Secretary to the UK and as such marks the 40th anniversary of the establishment of Vietnam – UK diplomatic relations, the 20th anniversary of both the British Council’s and the Department for International Development’s operations in Viet Nam and the 3rd anniversary of the establishment of the Strategic Partnership between Vietnam and the UK.
During their talks in London both sides “highlighted their intention to work together to inspire, learn, and innovate in order to fully develop the potential of their two peoples,” according to a joint statement. Both sides stressed also full support for an early ratification of the Vietnam – EU Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and “the UK reaffirmed its support for efforts aimed at building the ASEAN Community by 2015 and ASEAN’s centrality in the evolving East Asian regional architecture [...] They further emphasised their continued commitment to achieving the targets of increasing bilateral trade to $4 billion and British investment in Vietnam to $3 billion by 2013. In particular the UK committed to support the process of negotiation and signing of the Vietnam – EU FTA, and early recognition of the Vietnamese economy’s market status while Viet Nam committed to working to further improve its investment environment, thus enabling British business to operate more effectively in Vietnam. Both sides welcomed Rolls-Royce’s intention to bid to supply engines for Viet Nam Airlines’ fleet of Boeing in 2013.”
According to the Vietnamese media, Hanoi received also the sympathy and support of the EU, Belgium, Italy and UK for its stance in solving the disputes in the East Sea by peaceful means on the basis of international law, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and in the spirit of the Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea (DOC) towards the early conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea.
Photo credit: consilium.europa.eu