Vietnam treasures its ties with France, an important partner in Europe and the world, especially in 2013 when the two countries are looking to lift bilateral relations to a strategic partnership level, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung said on May 21.

France is now Vietnam ’s second largest European investor and its third biggest trading partner with two-way trade hitting 3.2 billion USD last year. The two countries are celebrating their 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties this year.

PM Dung told visiting former French Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin at a meeting in Hanoi that as Vietnam ’s leading bilateral donor, France has also actively contributed to poverty reduction and socio-economic development in the country.

He pledged to facilitate French investment in Vietnam and suggested the French side further assist the effective implementation of the Hanoi University of Technology project, as well as support Vietnam conclude the Vietnam–EU Free Trade Area Agreement negotiations.

The PM asked the French side to back Vietnam ’s stance on settling East Sea-related issues by peaceful means in line with international law, especially the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Villepin said numerous French companies want to invest in Vietnam in transport infrastructure, energy, water supply and drainage, education and training.

He said the French side is looking forward to Dung’s visit to France this year to realise the bilateral strategic partnership.

Welcoming former French PM Dominique de Villepin the same day, Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh stressed that Vietnam attaches importance to bolstering ties with France .

Minh also noted with pleasure the strong and widespread development of the Vietnam–France friendship and their traditional cooperation in various areas.

The guest said he believes that thanks to Vietnam and France ’s cooperation potential and determination, the two countries will further deepen effective links in transport, energy, space aviation and other fields.

Earlier, Villepin held working sessions with Minister of Industry and Trade Vu Huy Hoang and Minister of Transport Dinh La Thang./.