PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc arrived in Viena on October 14.(Photo: VNA)

Vienna (VNA) – Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc began an official visit to Austria on October 14 as part of his trip to Europe.

Austria was one of the first Western countries setting up diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1972, when the Southeast Asian nation’s struggle for national independence was still going on.

The two countries have maintained all-round cooperation through regular high-level meetings and exchange of visits, along with cooperation at multilateral forums like the United Nations and the ASEM.

In 1995, the two sides set up a joint working group to bolster collaborative ties in economy, trade and investment. In August, 2010, the group was upgraded to the Vietnam-Austria intergovernmental committee at deputy ministerial level on cooperation in economy and trade. The committee held the 9th meeting in March last year.

Two-way trade has grown in recent years, surpassing 4 billion USD in 2017. Vietnam’s exports to Austria include telephones and spare parts, footwear, wood and wooden products, garments, machines, equipment and spare parts. Meanwhile, the country imports pharmaceuticals, machines, equipment, steel,  paper, animal feed, and materials from Austria.

Austria is the 6th largest importer of Vietnam in Europe. Vietnam earned 2.58 billion USD from shipments to the central European country in the first seven months of 2018, up 47 percent year on year, while spending 167 million USD purchasing Austrian goods, 16 percent lower than the same time last year.

By August 2018, Austria ranked 43rd among 129 countries and territories having investments in Vietnam, with 31 valid projects valued at 143.9 million USD. Most of the projects are of small and medium sizes, focusing on processing, manufacturing, hotels, restaurants, and entertainment.

Regarding Austria’s official development assistance (ODA), the preferential loans have been used to develop Vietnam’s railway, medical equipment, fire fighting and prevention, and vocational training, among others.

Besides, the two countries have experienced thriving cooperation in culture. Austria annually sends experts to give lecture at the Hanoi Academy of Theatre and Cinema, and the Vietnam National Academy of Music. They inked a Memorandum of Understanding on cultural cooperation on the occasion of the Austrian President’s visit to Vietnam in May 2012.

Austria grants some 20 post-graduate scholarships to Vietnam every year, and the Austrian Embassy in Hanoi has supported Vietnamese universities which offer German language training with teaching and studying material and equipment.

Austria is the first stop of PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc during his trip to Europe, during which he will also pay official visits to Belgium and Denmark, make a working visit to the European Union and attend the 12th ASEM Summit (ASEM 12) and the Partnering for Green Growth and the Global Goals 2030 Summit (P4G).-VNA