Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc speaks at the event (Source: VNA)
 
Brussels (VNA) – Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc has said it is time to further strengthen and step up Asia-Europe connectivity and cooperation towards the target of sustainable development and common prosperity. 

PM Phuc made the statement in his keynote address at the 16th Asia-Europe Business Forum held in Brussels, Belgium, on October 18. Themed “Connectivity-Building Bridges between Europe and Asia”, the event attracted over 400 corporate executives and business representatives from the two continents. 

The PM hailed Asia and Europe as two bright spots of global economic growth and connectivity, saying that Asia contributed to 6.2 percent of the global economic growth, led by East Asia – Pacific with a 6.6 percent growth last year. The ASEAN launched the Master Plan on Connectivity in 2011 with a focus on infrastructure, institution and human connectivity. 

Asia also boasts more than 150 free trade agreements (FTAs), accounting for about 60 percent of the world’s total, he said, adding that the total cargo volume via waters in Asia nears 5 trillion USD each year.

Meanwhile, the European economy is recovering firmly with a 2.4 percent growth, a record in the past 10 years. The negotiations and signing of free trade agreements between the two continents are opening up opportunities for connectivity and development, PM Phuc said.

According to the PM, the Vietnamese National Assembly is planning to ratify the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), a deal with high standards and balanced interests during a meeting in November 2018. On October 17, the European Union (EU) adopted the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), which he said, marked an important step toward its signing in late 2018 and ratification in the first half of 2019. 

At the forum, the Vietnamese leader suggested strengthening connectivity between the governments and businesses and pushing forward public-private partnerships in high-quality infrastructure, digital connectivity, education, health care, energy, agriculture, manufacturing and processing. 

He proposed holding regular dialogues between leaders of countries and business communities on the occasion of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) to extensively discuss issues of shared concern, as well as stepping activities of the ASEM Economic Ministers’ Meeting and dialogues between economic ministers and businesses from the two continents. 

PM Phuc also suggested actively fostering business-to-business connectivity and realising FTAs between Asian and European economies. 

He called on enterprises to enhance their social responsibility for job creation, environmental protection, response to global challenges for sustainable development and prosperity to all citizens.

Briefing the participants about Vietnam’s situation, the PM said the Vietnamese economy has annually grown by over 6 percent over the past two decades, expanding by 6.81 percent in 2017 and nearly 7 percent in 2018. 

Vietnam is now a trustworthy partner of over 200 countries and territories with a total trade making up over 200 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP). The country’s trade value hit 425 billion USD in 2017, of which over 334 billion USD was traded in goods with Asian and European nations. 

With 16 underway and future FTAs, Vietnam will have free trade ties with nearly 60 countries, making it easier to join the global supply and value chains, PM Phuc stressed.

Vietnam is striving to build a transparent, constructive, action-oriented government in service of the people and businesses, and create a favourable business and investment environment, he said.

The PM said over the past three decades of reform, Vietnam has become a close friend of European partners. Europe is a big foreign investor in Vietnam with a total investment of nearly 25 billion USD and the largest supplier of non-refundable aid of Vietnam. Two-way trade rose five-fold during 2006-2017 to more than 50 billion USD last year. 

According to a survey conducted by the European Chamber of Commerce (EuroCham) in Vietnam in March 2018, 90 percent of European firms want to increase investment in Vietnam. 

Together with the implementation of the Framework Agreement on Comprehensive Partnership and Cooperation, the early signing and ratification of the EVFTA will create a new driving force for trade and investment between Vietnam and the EU, he said.

PM Phuc also expressed his belief that the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) will continue to be a bridge to connect the power of the two economic blocs, thus fuelling global economic growth in the future.-VNA