General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam (CPV) Nguyen Phu Trong’s upcoming official visit to Belgium and the European Union (EU) from January 17 is expected to boost multi-faceted cooperation between Vietnam and its two European partners.

Since Vietnam and Belgium set up diplomatic ties in March, 1973, their friendship and multi-faceted cooperation have deepened in all aspects, especially in politics and diplomacy, economics, development cooperation, education and training.

Belgium has provided loans and non-refundable aid worth nearly 300 million USD to Vietnam since 1977. Cooperation programmes between the two sides focus on clean water supply, hygiene and waste management, education, agricultural and rural development, State management and health.

The country is Vietnam ’s fifth largest export market in Europe . Vietnam mainly exports garments, footwear, seafood, coffee and bags to Belgium while importing machines, equipment, steel, chemicals and pharmaceuticals.

The two countries have coordinated at multilateral forums, in particular the United Nations, the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and the ASEAN-EU Summit.

Trong’s visit to Belgium aims to strengthen political ties between both countries, paving the way for long-term cooperation in all fields, particularly economics, education, science and technology.

The two sides share their opinions on regional and international issues of mutual concern, and are considering the acceleration of bilateral ties in specific areas in the future.

In the last two decades, Vietnam-EU relations have rapidly developed, with leaders from both sides affirming to see multilateral cooperation equal their potential and status.

Currently, the EU is Vietnam ’s leading economic and trade partner, and became its most important export market in 2012.

In recent years, two-way trade between Vietnam and the EU has increased on average by 15-20 percent per annum. Total registered investment from EU member countries exceeded 18 billion USD as of August, 2012.

In terms of development cooperation, the EU is now the second largest supplier of ODA and the largest provider of non-refundable aid to Vietnam, accounting for 20 percent of all capital commitments from international donors.

The two sides recently signed a Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) and concluded the first round of negotiations on a free trade agreement (FTA).

Recognising Vietnam’s important role in the region, especially as coordinator of the ASEAN-EU relations from July, 2012, and ASEAN Secretary-General from 2013, the EU and its member countries hope to foster ties with Vietnam and strengthen relations with ASEAN.

The CPV Leader’s official visit affirms the value Vietnam places on its ties with the EU, and its commitment to step up bilateral relations with Europe in its role of coordinator between ASE AN and the EU. Regional and international issues of mutual concern will also be discussed during Trong’s visit.

Belgium and the EU is the first leg of Trong’s tour to Western Europe , which will be followed by State visits to Italy and the UK until January 24.

It marks the first trip by a CPV General Secretary to the region in many years.

The visits represent Vietnam’s foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation and development, diversification and multilateralisation of relations, and international integration to improve the country’s international position and environment for national construction, defence and development.-VNA