Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung (Source: VNA)
Hanoi (VNA) - Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung will pay working visits to Belgium and the EU on December 2 to discuss measures to enhance bilateral cooperation in priority fields.

The visits will be made at the invitation of his Belgian counterpart Charles Michel and President of the European Commission (EC) Jean Claude Juncker.

During his stay in Belgium, PM Nguyen Tan Dung is expected to hold talks with PM Charles Michel with the aim to boost cooperation in economy, trade, investment, transport and aviation.

Two-way trade has seen sustainable growth, increasing to 2.3 billion USD in 2014 from 395.4 million USD in 2000. The figure reached 1.5 billion USD in the first eight months of 2015.

Belgium is currently Vietnam’s sixth biggest export market in the EU, mainly for footwear, garments, seafood, coffee and handbags.

The connection between Vietnam’s localities and organisations and Belgium’s Wallonia, Flanders and Brussels has been expanded.

The two countries signed an investment encouragement and protection agreement in 1991. By October, Belgium had run 59 projects worth 420 million USD in Vietnam, while Vietnam has invested in two projects in the European country.

At present, Vietnam is the only Asian country to receive development assistance from the Belgian Government. Since 1997, Belgium has provided nearly 300 million USD in non-refundable aid and loans for Vietnam to support cooperation programmes on water resource management, waste treatment, irrigation, administrative and educational reforms, agriculture, rural development and health.

On this occasion, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung will also meet the Presidents of the European Commission, the European Council and the European Parliament to discuss cooperation opportunities in the fields of energy, green growth and vocational training.

Vietnam and the EU officially established their diplomatic ties on November 28, 1990. A series of activities have been held throughout this year to celebrate the 25 th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic relations.

After the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) was signed, the bilateral political ties have experienced considerable development, which is reflected through regular exchanges of high-ranking delegations.

Trade is an important pillar in bilateral relations. The EU is Vietnam’s second largest trade partner, after China, and its second biggest importer, following the US. Two-way trade increased eightfold from 4.5 billion USD in 2001 to 36.8 billion USD in 2014. Turnover hit 30.8 billion USD between January and September, a year-on-year rise of 15.5 percent, of which 22.6 billion USD came from Vietnam’s exports.

Negotiations on the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement concluded on August 4, 2015. Once it comes into effect, the agreement is expected to have positive impact on both Vietnam and the EU – especially on their economies.

In terms of investment, as of September, 23 out of the 28 EU nations poured money in 1,718 valid projects with total registered capital of 21.53 billion USD in Vietnam. The Netherlands topped the list with 239 projects totaling 6.66 billion USD, followed by France, Luxembourg and Germany.

Meanwhile, as of June, Vietnam runs 57 projects in 13 EU countries with total registered capital of 152 million USD.

The EU is also one of the big ODA suppliers for Vietnam. Between 1993 and 2013, the EC and EU members committed to providing nearly 14 billion USD in ODA for Vietnam, accounting for 20 percent of the total amount committed by the international community.

Between 2014 and 2020, the EC pledged to provide 400 million EUR (423.5 million USD) for the Southeast Asian country, with a focus on sustainable energy and institutional affairs.-VNA