Belarus always considers Vietnam, a nation with influence in Southeast Asia, as a strategic partner and wants to foster cooperative ties with Vietnam, said Belarus Prime Minister Mikhail Myasnikovik.

The traditional friendship between Vietnam and Belarus was built on a firm foundation from the former Soviet Union period and ties have seen strong development, the Belarus Prime Minister said in an interview granted to Nhan dan (People) daily on the occasion of his first official visit to Vietnam from Nov. 28-Dec. 1, at the invitation of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

The two sides have not only expanded solid political ties and improved bilateral economic cooperation, but also cooperated in science and technology, education, culture, sports, defence and development cooperation between localities, he said.

During the past five years, two-way trade multiplied several times. In the first nine months of this year, bilateral trade increased by more than 20 percent against the whole year of 2010.

Belarus is willing to provide Vietnam with products such as fertiliser, trucks, special vehicles for the mining industry, machinery, engines and metal products. It wants to import rice, cashew nuts, pharmaceuticals, seafood, medicine, vegetables, rubber and coffee from Vietnam.

PM Mikhail Myasnikovich proposed to set up joint ventures on mechanical assembly, and production of milk products in Vietnam and build facilities to process traditional Vietnamese items, particularly seafood and coffee, in Belarus with a view to increasing bilateral trade.

Cooperation in oil and gas and mineral exploration is a direction for promising cooperation between the two countries.

More than 20 scientific and technological projects in fundamental study areas are being implemented. In 2012, an additional 10 projects are planned.

In education, Belarus wants to enhance exchange of students and expand cooperation between universities and colleges of the two countries.

According to the Prime Minister, parties in the Belarus, Russia and Kazakhstan Customs Union are considering signing a free trade agreement with Vietnam./.