In an exclusive interview with the Daily FT, Viet Nam President Truong Tan Sang who arrives in Sri Lanka today said that the Vietnamese people “always remember the great support of Sri Lanka for our past struggles and current development,” adding that this was why he chose Sri Lanka as one of the first countries to visit after being elected President.
The President expressed his desire to deepen the relationship between the two countries and expand cooperation to all areas, particularly economic, trade and investment ties.Following are excerpts:
Q: What prompted this historic first visit by a Viet Nam President to Sri Lanka? How do you feel about the impending visit to Sri Lanka?
A: I am very glad to be the first Vietnamese Head of State to visit Sri Lanka. Viet Nam enjoys a long-standing friendship and multi-sided cooperation with your country, in the past and at present.
The Vietnamese people always remember the great support of Sri Lanka for our past struggles and current development. Those are the reasons I chose your country as one of the first to visit after being elected by our National Assembly as the President of Viet Nam.
I hope that my visit to your country this time will deepen the relationship between Viet Nam and Sri Lanka, the mutual trust and understanding between two countries’ leaderships, and expand cooperation to all areas, particularly economic, trade and investment ties. The visit provides another opportunity for leaders from both countries to share their experience in national development and discuss international and regional issues, as well as the measures to further enhance our coordination in international and regional forums, for peace, stability and development.
Q: How does Viet Nam regard the current relationship between Viet Nam and Sri Lanka?
A: The friendship and cooperation between Viet Nam and Sri Lanka have been growing well. Politically, the two countries have increased their exchanges at all levels, including high-level visits.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Van Dong paid a visit to Sri Lanka in 1978; Sri Lankan Prime Minister Wickramanayake visited Viet Nam in November 2006 and President Rajapaksa in October 2009.
The two sides have closely worked with each other in the United Nations and the Non-Aligned Movement. Our economic cooperation has witnessed good development. The two-way trade volume increased from 30.1 million in 2000 to 93 million in 2010.
In terms of investment, Sri Lanka now has seven projects in Viet Nam with the total registered capital of US$ 13.5 million. However, the results of cooperation have yet to meet the potentials and catch up with our good political relationship.
I believe that the third Meeting of the Joint Committee to be held in Viet Nam will identify new measures to implement the agreements reached during this visit, helping to bring the relations between Viet Nam and Sri Lanka to a new height.
Q: What are your expectations on future bilateral ties between Sri Lanka and Viet Nam? What are areas in which Viet Nam and Sri Lanka could expand cooperation?
A: Viet Nam’s consistent policy is to respect and further strengthen the good, traditional friendship with Sri Lanka.
The political relations will continue to be developed through exchanging delegations at high levels and among ministries/agencies, and intensifying relations between the two Parties, States, Governments, Parliaments and people-to-people exchange.
Both sides will continue supporting each other in international and regional foray for peace, stability and development. The two sides can promote cooperation in anti-terrorism, organised crime, etc.
Both sides have realised that cooperation potential for economics, trade and investment remains huge and we should focus on both countries’ forte, including oil and gas, agriculture, fishery, aquatic products, animal husbandry, education, culture, tourism and construction.
Regarding trade, both sides have set a target of US$ 500 million achieved by 2015. Accordingly, Viet Nam can increase exports to Sri Lanka, namely agricultural products, commodities, agricultural machines, rubber, fishery, electronic equipment, construction material, etc., and import Sri Lanka’s good product.
Both countries can boost cooperation in agriculture, oil and gas exploration and development, telecommunications, mechanics and transport, etc. Viet Nam can participate in Sri Lanka’s projects on infrastructure reconstruction, telecommunication markets and construction.
Q: Can you comment on the current state of socioeconomic development in Viet Nam?
A: Viet Nam has recorded great socioeconomic achievements since the implementation of renovation (Doi Moi) in 1986. For many years, the economic growth has been constantly achieved with the average of 7.5% per year.
Given the global economic recession, the Vietnamese economy has maintained its moderate growth. It reached 5.32% in 2009, 6.7% in 2010 and 5.76% in the first nine months of 2011.
Viet Nam has been regarded as one of the most dynamic economies in Asia and a destination of international investors. Viet Nam has established economic and trade relations with over 220 countries and territories with the trade growth of more than 20%/year.
With the achievements in economic growth, the security and socio-political situation of Viet Nam have improved remarkably. Viet Nam is now ranked as an average income country and is greatly appreciated by the international arena in addressing social problems such as poverty reduction, job creation, human resource development, education – training, science – technology, healthcare and culture development, etc.
Viet Nam was recognised as a country completing most of the Millennium Development Goals ahead of schedule, in which poverty reduction achieved outstanding outcomes, making the poverty rate drop from 58% in 1993 down to 9.5 % in 2010 according to the international standard.
Viet Nam has rapidly integrated into the region and the world. Viet Nam is an active member of various regional and global organisations such as the UN, WTO, APEC, ASEM, ASEAN, etc.
Viet Nam undertook the role of the non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2008-2009 term, the Chair of ASEAN in 2010.
These events have marked Viet Nam’s efforts in integrating deeper into the global economic and political playground, thus contributing to enhancing the prestige and position of Viet Nam in the international arena.
Q: What are future goals of Viet Nam? What will Viet Nam do to achieve these goals? What does Viet Nam do to attract foreign direct investment? How is the private sector in Viet Nam and what is Viet Nam’s policy towards the private sector?
A: a) Regarding Viet Nam’s development goals, Viet Nam strives to basically become an modern-oriented industrialised country by 2020. In economic terms, we will strive to achieve an average GDP growth of 7-8% per year with per capita income reaching US$ 3,000 per year in 2020. We look forward to the rapid, sustainable, stable and environment-friendly economic development.
Viet Nam will maintain the foreign policy of diversification and multilateralisation, continue to integrate deeper into the world economy.
It is Viet Nam’s policy to consider domestic resources as the main force, at same time taking advantage of external resources for economic development. We attach great importance to continuing maintaining socio-political stability, improving the material and spiritual life of the people, addressing social security problems, etc.
To achieve this goal, Viet Nam will promote reform in which the focus is on strategic breakthroughs such as:
To improve socialist-oriented market economic regime, focus on creating an equal and competitive environment and administrative reform.
To develop human resources, especially high-quality human resources, focus on basically and comprehensively reforming national education; closely link human resource development with development and application of science and technology.
To develop a comprehensive infrastructure with modern projects, focus on major urban transportation and infrastructure systems.
b) Regarding foreign investment, we appreciate the role of foreign investors in developing the economy of Viet Nam. Businesses with foreign investment capital have contributed significantly to the total domestic product of Viet Nam, created more jobs, contributed to improving the social welfare and people’s life.
We always view foreign investment as an important factor to economic development, and strive to create favourable conditions for investors to invest and do business in Viet Nam for the success of investors is also the success of Viet Nam.
We have taken many measures to create favourable conditions for foreign investments such as: strong promotion of administrative reforms, improving the investment climate, development of transportation, electricity, telecommunications, and human resource and science and technology infrastructures; seriously realise international economic integration commitments, including WTO commitments.
Vietnamese leaders have engaged in frequent dialogue with foreign investors, assisted them in resolving bottlenecks, difficulties in project implementation in Viet Nam.
c) Private sector: The Vietnamese economy is a multi-sector economy which includes the private sector.
This private sector is currently developing robustly and dynamically, generating employment and value for society. There are currently about 550 thousand private enterprises, contributing roughly 40% to Viet Nam’s GDP. Many have become strong companies with high competitiveness in domestic and international markets.
We aim to improve our policies and mechanisms to support the growth of the private sector into an important driving force for the economy, promote the strong growth of the private sector in the majority of fields pursuant to national planning and regulations, encourage the growth of the private sector into economy of scale, to create the prerequisite conditions for the formation of private corporations and for the contribution of private capital to State-owned economic corporations.
We prioritise the development of small and medium enterprises, as well as household economy. If you have a chance to visit Viet Nam during this period, you will be able to witness the dynamic business activities in our country.
Q: As President of Viet Nam, is this your first visit to South Asia? How is Viet Nam’s relationship with other South Asian nations?
A: This is my first-ever visit to South Asia as President of Viet Nam. Viet Nam places much importance on the strengthening of relations with South Asian countries. We always remember and appreciate the material and spiritual support of South Asian countries including that of Sri Lanka rendered to the people of Viet Nam in the struggle for national independence in the past and the cause of national construction and development at present.My visit this time to South Asian countries is aimed to further deepen the already good friendship and cooperation between Viet Nam and the regional countries. I am very much optimistic about the prospect of our relations.
I firmly believe that my visit will help promote our close and trusty political relations, enhance our economic, trade and investment collaboration and open up new opportunities for cooperation in other fields. Viet Nam and South Asian countries have lots of things in common with respect to the views on international affairs. My visit therefore is also a chance to have in-depth and broad discussions on peace, development cooperation in the region and the world.