The recent visits of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung to Kazakhstan, Algeria, Portugal and Bulgaria have helped multilateral economic links and bilateral collaborations, Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bui Thanh Son, has told the press.

He pointed to the free trade agreement (FTA) struck between Vietnam and the Eurasia Economic Union (EAEU) in Kazakhstan, the second of its kind signed in May following a similar agreement with the Republic of Korea.

The conclusion of the Vietnam-EAEU trade pact, the first of its kind struck between the union and an outside partner, will offer enormous opportunities for Vietnam to increase trade and investment ties with an over 170-million-strong market that records total gross domestic product of over 4 trillion USD and trade value of nearly 1 trillion USD.

The EAEU is a newly-opened and highly-supplementary market for Vietnam to export such staples as farm produce, seafood, garment-textiles, footwear, timber products and electronics, whilst conducting investment activities in light industry and processing industry and attracting investment in energy, oil, gas and machinery manufacturing, he said.

He continued by saying the deal will help cement bilateral economic ties with the union members, including the comprehensive strategic partnership with Russia and the traditional friendship and cooperation with Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

The meetings between Prime Minister Dung and leaders of these countries went well and led to a consensus that multi-faceted cooperation must continue so that all sides can fully grasp and take advantage of the free trade pact’s opportunities.

In Kazakhstan, the two countries signed new agreements and cooperation programmes on oil and gas and judiciary exchanges, the deputy minister noted.

While the PM’s visit to Kazakhstan was meant to forge multi-lateral economic links, the next tours to Algeria, Portugal and Bulgaria constituted a new milestone altogether in their relationship with the Southeast Asian country.

This is the second visit of a Vietnamese leader to Algeria over the past five years, the first ever high-level visit to Portugal, and the first visit of a Vietnamese Prime Minister to Bulgaria since 2000, Deputy Minister Son said.

Foreign leaders said the visit comes at a time when bilateral cooperation needs pushing and a strong political foundation to elevate the benefits of the stakeholders.

During separate talks and meetings, the Vietnamese and foreign leaders agreed to double efforts to make economic cooperation a key pillar in the bilateral cooperation, while actively seeking new coordination to fully tap potential and the strengths of each countries.

Specifically, Vietnam and Algeria aim to increase two-way trade from the current level of 250 million USD to 1 billion USD in the coming years, and committed to support each other in oil and gas and agriculture. The two nations inked agreements on culture, health and tourism.

Portugal and Vietnam look to raise bilateral trade from 360 million USD to 1 billion USD, and defined marine economy and tourism as potential fields for stronger cooperation. The two countries signed agreements to avoid double taxation and increase tourism cooperation.

Meanwhile, Vietnam and Bulgaria have put in place a number of measures to implementing the new economic cooperation model. Bulgaria considers Vietnam a key partner in its international development cooperation plan in 2015. The two sides signed an agreement on crime prevention and combat; a judicial cooperation programme for the 2016-2017 period; and a Memorandum of Understanding on establishing cooperative ties between Ho Chi Minh City and Sophia, Can Tho city and Ruse.

Apart from economic ties, the leaders also underlined the significance of bolstering cooperation in other fields of mutual concern to increase their mutual understanding.

The countries hope to continue coordination with Vietnam at multilateral forums and international organisations, particularly the United Nations.

Algeria and Vietnam will maintain their connection in the Non-Aligned Movement, while Bulgaria agreed to strengthen cooperation with Vietnam within the framework of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and the Mekong-Danube development projects. Meanwhile, Portugal and Vietnam need to take cooperation opportunities from the Portuguese-speaking countries, leaders declared.

Both Bulgaria and Portugal supported the development of Vietnam-EU relations and called on the EU to ratify the framework agreement on Vietnam-EU comprehensive cooperation and partnership soon. Vietnam and the EU are also expected to sign the bilateral free trade agreement as soon as possible.

The countries also shared concerns over recent developments in the East Sea , particularly the artificial island building in the Truong Sa (Spartly) Archipelago.

They underlined the need to maintain peace, stability as well as maritime, navigation, aviation safety and security while settling disputes by peaceful measures without threat or use of force, and in line with fundamental principles of international law and the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The nations also backed the full implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC) and the conclusion of a Code of Conduct (COC) in the East Sea .

Given the outcomes of the international visits, Deputy Minister Son suggested the country should step up building business cooperation strategies to take full advantage of the free trade pact’s opportunities to expand the market and increase competitiveness.

The Government, ministries, localities and business should closely work together to turn challenges into opportunities, and simultaneously mobilise all necessary financial sources to implement the cooperation agreements reached by Vietnamese and foreign leaders, he said.-VNA