Enjoying a close relationship, Vietnam and Malaysia have had a lot of potential for mutual development, Vietnamese Ambassador to Malaysia Nguyen Hong Thao has said.

Speaking to Kuala Lumpur-based Vietnam News Agency correspondents on the year marking the 40 th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties in 2013, Thao noted that Malaysia was the first Southeast Asian country to establish the ties with Vietnam .

Malaysia was also the first nation to introduce Vietnam to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in 1995, he said.

The two countries have also held great potential in economic cooperation and are working together in negotiations for a Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which, once completed, will greatly benefit both.

Bilateral educational and cultural ties have been progressing with the number of Vietnamese students attending Malaysian schools and universities on the rise, he cited.

Two-way trade between the two countries has increased 25 percent annually on average, jumping from 6.5 billion USD in 2011 to 7.9 billion USD in 2012, according to the diplomat.

During President Truong Tan Sang’s 2011 visit to Malaysia , the two sides committed to bringing the figure to 10 billion USD in the 2015-2020 period, he said, adding that the target may be early reached.

Malaysia now ranks eighth in Vietnam’s foreign investor line-up, with more than 400 projects totalling over 10 billion USD. Meanwhile, Vietnamese investors are undertaking small-sized projects, especially in oil and gas, in Malaysia, he noted.

Besides cashew nut, coffee, pepper and aquatic products, rice can be Vietnam’s key export product to Malaysia – a market with demand for Vietnam likely reaching over one million tonne a year.

Malaysia mainly supplies Vietnam with animal and vegetable oil, petrol, fertilizers, chemicals and seafood, while importing crude oil from the country for processing.

The current development speed would allow the two countries to attain 12-15 billion USD in two-way trade in 2020, Ambassador Thao stressed.

The diplomat also expressed his strong belief that 2014 will see new progress in the two countries’ partnership.

Malaysia will assume the ASEAN Chair in 2015 when the association begins implementing its new Charter.-VNA