Belgium is the 7th largest trading partner of Vietnam among the European Union (EU) countries. Last year, Vietnam’s imports from Belgium reached 411 million USD, a rise of 18.7 percent compared with 2011.

In the first eight months of 2013, Vietnam exported 800 million USD worth of products to Belgium, up 14 percent compared with the same period last year, while imports reached 320 million USD, up 33 percent. As of mid-September 2013, 46 Belgium investment projects were ongoing in Vietnam with registered capital totaling over 136.9 million USD, averaging 2.98 million USD per project.

Vietnam Economic News spoke with Belgian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs Dirk Achten on the sideline of the second session of the Vietnam-Belgium Joint Committee on Economic Cooperation, which took place recently in Hanoi.

* Could you share the results of the second session of the Vietnam-Belgium Joint Committee on Economic Cooperation?

At the session, the two sides reviewed the progress of Belgian investment projects in Vietnam and the use of Belgian preferential loans provided for Vietnam as well as proposals for further cooperation in the future. The Belgian side presented new projects in Vietnam in a wide range of fields including transport, logistic services, infrastructure, green technology, high technology and healthcare. Notably, the two sides discussed the provision of Belgian preferential loans for Vietnam and Belgium’s insurance policy applied to exports to Vietnam.

The two sides reached a consensus on the list of economic cooperation projects to be implemented in the coming period and agreed to establish a joint working group to look after the implementation of these projects and provide assistance for Belgian and Vietnamese partners in necessary cases to ensure the best outcomes.

The partners reached some cooperation agreements in the fields of healthcare and environment during this meeting. These include a memorandum of understanding (MoU) and a contract between Nizet and Bac Lieu province on the implementation of an irrigation, water supply and drainage project, an MoU between IBA and Central Military Hospital 108 on expanding the 30MeV Cyclotron Center to produce PET and SPECT radioactive substances. IBA also signed an MoU with the oncology hospital of Nghe An province to supply technical equipment for the PET radiopharmaceutical production center of the hospital.

* What is the role of the Vietnam-Belgium Joint Committee on Economic Cooperation in boosting the relationship between the two countries?

The committee was established as a result of the tight friendship between Belgium and Vietnam over the last four decades. In the past, the bilateral relationship focused on development cooperation, but now it has become an economic partnership. Belgian investment projects in Vietnam have been well implemented. Belgium is proud of having some major projects in Vietnam in the fields of logistic services and new industries, with the Dinh Vu Industrial Park being a typical example. Belgium has invested in providing logistic services for the Vietnamese coffee sector.

Moreover, some Belgian banks are present in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, playing an important role in providing capital for Belgian businesses operating in Vietnam. The presence of Belgian businesses and their interest in Vietnam as an economic partner show that Vietnam has great potential for sustainable economic development.

* What do you think of the prospects for bilateral economic cooperation in the coming period?

As I know, Vietnam has achieved impressive results in efforts to eradicate hunger and reduce poverty. Your country has now become more stable and prosperous with greater regional and global influence. Belgium is one of the 20 strongest economies in the world and is considered a major European center for distribution of imported goods. Therefore, the two countries have seen great prospects for trade and investment cooperation.

Geographically, however, Vietnam and Belgium are located far from each other, and this is a big hindrance to efforts to promote bilateral trade and investment relations. To boost bilateral trade and investment, the two countries must increase the exchange of information and send more business and trade, investment promotion delegations to each other. The two governments must discuss to find out and resolve problems which arise in the process of developing investment plans. It is necessary to make businesses of the two sides understand the benefits they can gain from implementing cooperation projects in fields of mutual interest.-VNA