Hanoi (VNA) – Vietnam and Italy have deepened cooperation since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties 45 years ago. 

In politics-diplomacy, Italy has since the 1990s backed the strengthening of ties between Vietnam and the European Union and the normalisation of ties between Vietnam and international financial, commercial and currency organisations.

Italy considers Vietnam a priority country in Southeast Asia and a destination for Italian firms.

On January 21, 2013, Vietnam and Italy signed a Joint Statement on the establishment of strategic partnership on the occasion of Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong’s visit to Italy.

Vietnam was the first country that both Italian President Sergio Mattarea and Prime Minister Matteo Renzi visited after taking office in 2015 and 2014, respectively. During exchanges, Italian leaders wished that Vietnam would continue to be a bridge connecting the country with ASEAN.

From fourth place, Vietnam has become Italy’s largest trade partner in ASEAN, surpassing economic powerhouses such as Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Two-way trade rose nearly 9 percent annually to 4.7 billion USD in 2016.

Both sides are working to lift two-way trade to 6 billion USD for 2017-2018. Vietnam mainly exports footwear, aquatic products, coffee and apparel to Italy and imports mechanical machinery, transportation vehicles and leather materials.

The European Union – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), which takes effect this year, will further facilitate bilateral economic and trade links.

As of February 2018, Italy ranked 31st out of 128 countries and territories investing in Vietnam with 88 projects worth more than 388 million USD. The Italian government has added Vietnam into its list of 10 emerging markets prioritised for trade and investment ties.

The two nations established the Joint Committee for Economic Cooperation which convened its first meeting in Hanoi in October 2014, the second in October 2015, the third in November 2016 and the fourth in November 2017.

The European country provided official development assistance (ODA) for Vietnam from the 1980s in the fields of water supply and drainage, environment protection, human resources development, health care and institution support.

The Inter-Committee on Vietnam-Italy Development Cooperation resumed a meeting in Rome in December 2009 and adopted several projects in priority fields of health care, environment protection and support for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).

In March 2014, Italy switched from ODA provision to support programmes such as vocational training, water resources management and support for SMEs.

Italy has committed funding to a project to improve the capacity of manufacturing and competiveness of SMEs in Ho Chi Minh City, Dong Nai and Binh Duong provinces, and one on job creation and social inclusion in Vietnamese vocational training schools.

During a press conference introducing the annual Regional Convention of Italian Chambers of Commerce in Asia and South Africa on April 3, 2017, Italian Ambassador to Vietnam Cecilia Piccioni said firms would invest more in Vietnam once the EVFTA takes effect this year.

In cultural ties, the Italian government partnered with UNESCO to assist Vietnam in the restoration of My Son relic site at a total cost of more than 1.5 million USD, and educate archeologists, architects, preservation experts and managerial staff on cultural relic preservation to international standards.

Both sides also regularly held cultural weeks and months in Vietnam and Italy such as Vietnam cultural festival in Rome in 2006 and 2007, “Near and Far” in Udine in 2007, Year of Italian Culture in Vietnam and Italy –Vietnam Cultural Programme in 2011.

They held Vietnam Year in Italy and Italy Year in Vietnam in 2013 on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties. Vietnam joined the Global Expo 2015 in Milan from May 1 – October 31, 2015.

In education, the Italian Foreign Ministry provides post-tertiary and Italian language scholarships for Vietnam each year and Italian language training courses in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. The two countries signed cooperation deals for 72 education-training projects.

The European nation is now home to nearly 5,000 Vietnamese nationals, mostly in northern Italian provinces with plenty of job opportunities in industry.

Addressing a ceremony celebrating the 72nd anniversary of National Day of Vietnam, President of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, Senator Pier Ferdinando Casini said the past achievements lay the foundation for the 45th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties and the fifth anniversary of Vietnam – Italy strategic partnership in 2018, marking important milestones in bilateral ties.-VNA