The Czech Republic always attaches importance to its relations with Vietnam and lists Vietnam among 12 trade priority markets during the 2011-2015 period, affirmed its Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg. FM Karel Schwarzenberg, who is on an official visit to Vietnam from March 21-23, made the statement during talks with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh, in Hanoi on March 22. The Czech FM expressed the wish to further promote his country’s trade and investment ties with Vietnam and pledged his support for Vietnam in cementing its comprehensive cooperation with the European Union (EU), including the early signing of a Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation (PCA) and urging the EU to recognise Vietnam as a market economy and starting negotiations for the Vietnam-EU free trade agreement (FTA). Karel Schwarzenberg highlighted the contributions by the Overseas Vietnamese community to the Czech Republic and affirmed that the Czech Republic will continue creating favourable conditions for the Vietnamese community to settle and do business in the country. FM Minh spoke highly of FM Karel Schwarzenberg’s visit, describing it an important milestone in consolidating and promoting the traditional friendship and all-round cooperation with the Czech Republic, especially economic and trade ties. Vietnam is ready to create favourable conditions for Czech businesses to invest and do business in Vietnam, the Vietnamese FM affirmed. Minh also asserted that Vietnam always supports the relationship of the Czech Republic and other EU nations with ASEAN, Southeast Asian and Asian nations. The two FMs agreed on raising the efficiency of multifaceted cooperation, particularly activities of the Inter-Governmental Economic Cooperation Committee. They agreed that the third session of the committee, slated for June in Prague, will focus on discussions around solutions to remove difficulties to speed up the implementation of agreements signed between the two countries, the disbursement of ODA capital and acceleration of the implementation of a number of key cement production and infrastructure projects in Vietnam. The two FMs also exchanged views on international and regional issues of mutual concern. After the talks, FM Minh and his Czech counterpart Karel Schwarzenberg signed a protocol on the amendment to the Vietnam-Czech Republic aviation transport agreement. Earlier in the day, Schwarzenberg also met with President Nguyen Tan Dung. The Vietnamese leader hoped that the Czech Republic would support Vietnam in its relations with other EU countries and increase the number of scholarships for Vietnamese students. The same day, a Vietnam-Czech Republic business forum was held within the framework of Deputy PM and FM Karel Schwarzenberg’s visit to Vietnam. Addressing the event, Vice President of the forum’s co-organiser, Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Doan Duy Khuong emphasised the importance of the forum for the two countries’ future economic and trade ties. He said two-way trade between Vietnam and the Czech Republic rose from more than 200 million USD in 2010 to almost 220 million USD last year. He said he hopes former Vietnamese students in the Czech Republic will help promote the two countries’ economic and trade ties. For his part, Czech Deputy Foreign Minister Tomas Dub said at the forum, Czech businesses will discuss cooperation with Vietnamese partners in services, investment, science and technology transfer and other fields. Meanwhile, Czech businesses involved in wine, construction, imports and exports, banking and renewable energy expressed their wish to find partners, transfer technology and cooperate in fields Vietnamese businesses are interested in.-VNA