President of the European Commission Jose Manuel Durao Barroso is going to pay an official visit to Vietnam from August 25-26 at the invitation of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung. On the occasion, he granted Vietnam News Agency’s correspondent in Brussels an interview on the bilateral ties between Vietnam and the EU.

Following is the full text of the interview:

- Could you please tell us the purpose of your upcoming visit to Vietnam?

This is my second visit to Vietnam as President of the European Commission. Since I first came to Vietnam in November 2007, our bilateral relations have developed vigorously and comprehensively. The signature of the new generation EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement (PCA) in 2012, whose negotiations I launched and concluded together with Prime-Minister Dung, is a milestone in EU-Vietnam relations.

My visit to Vietnam (on 25 and 26 August) takes place in a context where the relationship between the European Union and Vietnam has never been so rich, creating new cooperation opportunities in all possible fields.

The purpose is therefore to consolidate the results achieved and to launch and reinforce new areas of political and sectoral cooperation, as well as to make progress in our next big project which is the finalisation of a Free Trade Agreement.

Our trade and economic relations are already very good. But we can do much more by completing the negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement, which we launched back in 2012. Together with the PCA, the FTA would be the second pillar of our relationship.

Such agreement, once concluded, will increase opportunities for Vietnamese businesses, granting preferential market access for Vietnamese exports to the EU. Negotiations are making good progress and we expect to conclude the negotiations in the near future.

Finally, I also come to Vietnam to reiterate our commitment with the country's political and economic reforms and its development.

- How do you assess the bilateral relations EU-Vietnam from the perspective of the negotiations of the FTA, and also in the future?

Our overall relations are excellent. In the economic and trade field, the EU is Vietnam 's largest export market and second largest two-way trade partner. Our two-way trade is growing by almost 20% year on year. In 2013 EU-Vietnam two way trade reached 27 billion EUR, or 37 billion USD.

The Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Vietnam , which is under negotiation, will boost and sustain our strong economic relationship while giving Vietnam a major perspective in the global economy.

The EU and its Member States are also Vietnam 's largest donors. To give you a figure, over the period of 2014 and 2020, the European Commission has pledged to commit 400 million euros for further development of the country, 100 million euros more than in the past, and this despite the fact that Vietnam has been recently classified as a middle income country. This testifies the EU's strong commitment to the development in Vietnam .

On a more political level, the role of Vietnam as a coordinator in the relationship between the EU and ASEAN is very much appreciated. Asia is a region where we have many bonds and interests, not only economic but also cultural, historical, and of course, strategic interests.

- How do you see Vietnam ? What are its weaknesses?

Since Vietnam opened up to the world with the "Doi Moi" and since its successful accession to the World Trade Organisation (WTO), it has experienced a spectacular economic development, and also a remarkable progress regarding the standard of living of its citizens. The recent stabilisation of some fundamental issues such as inflation and the exchange rate are important achievements. Nevertheless, some weaknesses remain.

The paradox is that this success opens up new challenges to middle-income countries that must absolutely develop the added value of their economies. Vietnam must make a firm commitment in this direction - and this is the understanding of your country's authorities through their industrialization plan. This requires not only quantitative but qualitative progresses, including the liberalisation and modernisation of the economy towards a true market economy that has to be fully integrated in the global world. This is where Free Trade Agreements play an important role.

The history of Europe shows that liberalisation to be successful must be integrated; it cannot be limited to the strict economy, it has to be extended to other areas of social, cultural or political organisations. Reforms in these areas are key elements to trigger the potential of civil society and the overall progress of the country.

- Could you please share with us the EU's position over East Sea tensions?

The EU attaches great importance to the peace and stability in the region and we are concerned about the tensions over South China Sea/East Sea. We encourage all parties to seek peaceful solutions, through dialogue and cooperation, in accordance with international law - in particular with the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea - and to continue ensuring safety and freedom of navigation. In Europe we know well the importance of regional cooperation, which is essential to address these challenges.

- What is your message that you wish to convey to Vietnamese people in your upcoming visit?

Seven years have passed since my first visit to your extraordinary country. I come here a second time precisely because I believe in the potential of this country and of our bilateral relations. I believe we have much to gain from working more closely with each other. In the past years, I have been very pleased to see how Vietnam has developed its economy, become a member of the WTO and hopefully soon signing an ambitious Free Trade Agreement with the European Union.

Europeans and Vietnamese shall look ahead with optimism.

The EU and Vietnam will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations in 2015. I am confident that next decades of relationship will see a continuation of these very positive trends and will enable us to make progress on even much broader front. With the steps we took in these last years the basis is there for us to continue to be trusted and solid partners for many years to come.-VNA