Viet Nam Foreign Minister highlights potential of economic activity with Sri Lanka

Saturday, 16 September 2023 00:41 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Viet Nam Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son had a bilateral meeting lasting nearly 60 minutes with Ambassador of Sri Lanka in Ha Noi, Prof. A. Saj U. Mendis at the Ministry Head Office. 

The primary objectives of the meeting with the Foreign Minister were to discuss and explore possibilities and avenues to enhance and aggrandise economic, commercial, investment, touristic and trade dimension and other concomitant foreign policy issues, particularly, in the context of multilateral and entry into the largest trading bloc, known as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), amongst others. 

Ambassador Mendis expressed appreciation to the Government of Viet Nam and to Minister Bui Thanh Son for the assistance and cooperation extended to Sri Lanka including her support at the Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Minister further stated that the bilateral relations in the context of political relations have reached basically the maximal plateau between the two countries and it is of intrinsic interest for both the countries to translate and transform the political utility to economic utility. 

Ambassador Mendis stated that, today, Viet Nam is amongst the fastest growing economies in the world and attracts and woos the largest percentage of FDI in comparison to the GDP. This is stated in the context that Viet Nam attracted $ 22 billion in 2022 and this year, Viet Nam anticipates FDI in the vicinity of $ 28-30 billion. In other words, this figure is over 6% of the GDP of Viet Nam, which is the highest percentage of FDI vis-à-vis the GDP of any country. Ambassador Mendis stated that many international economists and analysts have coined terms such as “Miracle on Mekong region”, “Mecca for FDI and manufacturing” and “China plus One” referring to the rise and profile of Viet Nam. 

The Foreign Minister explained that Viet Nam had to overcome three issues in order to advance its current status; firstly, infrastructure, secondly, developing soft infrastructure such as human capital and digital transformation and thirdly, formulation of foreign policy with reforms inside the country that support integration with other countries. Viet Nam wishes to exploit and leverage the potential of Sri Lanka on a myriad of sectors and realms. Since the trade between the two countries are at a modest level of around $ 350 million, both the countries should have a lucid and focused objective to advance it to $ 500 million within the next year, and then to reach $ 1 billion, in the foreseeable future, the Minister added.

He accentuated the vitality of tourism since Viet Nam is highly focused and is one of the most sought-after tourist destinations in the world attracting over 10 million tourists in a given year. In this scenario, the Minister suggested that Sri Lanka and Viet Nam could have bilateral tourism since very few Vietnamese travel to Sri Lanka despite the amazing and “riveting” natural beauty and fauna and flora, amongst others. In the context of air connectivity, the Minister stated that direct flights may be difficult to operate but could operate charter flights since both the countries have a large Buddhist population. He also added that in 2022, approximately 10 million Vietnamese have travelled out of the country, mostly to ASEAN, China, Japan and Europe and very few have travelled to Sri Lanka. The Ambassador added that if Sri Lanka could capture 0.2%, it would translate to 20,000, and the Minister too agreed of the increasing potential. 

The Ambassador discussed the augmentation of Viet Nam within a space of two decades primarily due to its 17 FTAs and Comprehensive/Strategic Partnership Agreements. In this context, Ambassador Mendis too echoed and resonated the sentiments expressed by the Sri Lankan Foreign Minister in Jakarta of the deep interest that Sri Lanka has in joining the 15-member RCEP. The Minister stated that Viet Nam would fully and unreservedly support the application of Sri Lanka to join the RCEP. Amb. Mendis also enunciated the interest of Sri Lanka to have an FTA with Viet Nam as both the countries would benefit with regard to bilateral trade. 

Mendis did underscore that both Sri Lanka and Viet Nam had exports amounting to around $ 750 million in early 1980s, whereas, today the exports of Viet Nam are in the vicinity of $ 370 billion and Sri Lanka is still hovering around $ 12-13 billion. The Minister was visibly and discernibly keen in enhancing and augmenting the bilateral trade as well as bilateral investments between the two countries. Both the Minister and Ambassador, along with the respective delegations, agreed to exert the efforts and labour in a concerted, determined and proactive manner, thus elevating and deepening, mostly, economic and commercial activity between the two countries.