President of the European Commission (EC) Jose Manuel Durao Barroso will pay an official visit to Vietnam on August 25-26, the second after his first visit seven years ago, with a view to fostering all-round cooperation with Vietnam, particularly economics and trade.

With the establishment of their diplomatic ties in 1990, Vietnam and the European Union (EU) have seen growing ties marked by the signing of the Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and the start of the Vietnam – EU free trade agreement negotiations.

Politically, both sides have facilitated regular visits by senior officials, notably the January 2013 and October 2010 visits by Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. On the EU side, President of the European Council Van Rompuy came to Vietnam in November 2012 and Vice President of the EC, high representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs & Security Policy Catherine Ashton made her arrival in August 2014.

Vietnam has set up strategic partnerships with six EU member countries, namely the UK, Germany, Spain, the Netherlands, France and Italy.

Trade is a key pillar in bilateral ties with the EU being the second largest trade partner and the biggest export market of Vietnam.

Two-way trade soared sevenfold from 4.5 billion USD in 2001 to 33.7 billion USD in 2013. In 2012, the EU beat out the US to become Vietnam’s biggest importer for the first time.

In the first half of this year, Vietnam’s trade with the EU valued at 17.5 billion USD, 13.1 billion USD of which was worth of exports, up 12 percent year-on-year while imports fell 4.6 percent annually.

The country earns mostly from apparel, footwear, coffee, seafood, wooden furniture, electronics and consumer goods while spending on machinery, tools and spare parts, computers, electronics, garment materials, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and transport vehicles.

Over the past 10 years, the Southeast Asian nation has run a trade surplus of 3-5 billion USD with the EU, equivalent to half of its exports.

As of this June, 23 out of 28 EU member states gained strong footholds in Vietnam with 1,471 projects worth a total 18.38 billion USD, predominantly in the processing and manufacturing industry; power, gas and water supplies, communications and media, and real estate.

Most of their projects were in Ho Chi Minh City, with 538 valued at 2.77 billion USD. Hanoi led the pack in inflows value, recording 3.06 billion USD in 341 projects. Coming next were the southern provinces of Ba Ria – Vung Tau and Dong Nai, and the northern port city of Quang Ninh.

For Vietnam, it poured some 115 million USD in 47 projects across Germany, the Netherlands, Poland, the Czech Republic, Belgium, Sweden, the UK, Italy, France, Greek and Bulgaria. The biggest worth 50 million USD was by Vietinbank, which opened a branch in Germany’s Frankfurt city – a financial hub in the bloc.

As the second biggest donor of official development assistance and the top supplier of non-refundable aid to Vietnam, the EU committed to another 400 million EUR to the nation between 2014 and 2020, up 30 percent from the 2007-2013 period.

Both sides have kept dialogues on human rights issue going in a constructive manner.-VNA