Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem has called for concerted efforts to maintain Belgium’s status as Vietnam’s fourth largest European importer.

He said during talks with Belgian Foreign Minister Yves Leterme in Hanoi on August 11 that concrete measures should be taken to boost investment amid the global economic recession.

Khiem also pushed for the deployment of a cooperation programme for the 2007-10 period, for which Belgium has committed to an aid package worth 37.5 million Euros to Vietnam through projects in healthcare, tourism, education and training, natural resources and environment and poverty reduction.

In return, Leterme assured his host of Belgium’s continued assistance to Vietnam in its renewal process as well as in boosting relations with other European Union members.

The Belgian Government will strengthen economic ties with Vietnam, further encouraging Belgian businesses to promote trade and investment in the Southeast Asian market, emphasised the Belgian minister.

Host and guest reached consensus on mutual assistance at regional and international forums, with focus to be laid on preparations for the eighth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) summit. The event is scheduled to take place in Belgium in 2010 when Vietnam will hold the presidency of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations and Belgium the presidency of the EU simultaneously during the last six months of the year.

Vietnam and Belgium have enjoyed satisfactory development of bilateral relations in the recent past, which was marked with regular exchanges of senior delegations. They included Belgium visits by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in September 2006 and his deputy cum Foreign Minister Pham Gia Khiem in September 2008. In June 2008 the then Belgian Foreign Minister Karel De Gucht visited Vietnam./.