The first ever Vietnam-Latin America trade and investment forum at ministerial level, which opened in Hanoi on July 5, is expected to help bring relations to a new level and on a par with their long-lasting traditional political ties.

On the occasion, Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh wrote an article highlighting joint efforts to heighten Vietnamese-Latin American relations.

Vietnam and most of Latin America enjoy a fine friendship and solidarity, especially as many, like Vietnam , have had to fight for their national liberation.

The Cuban revolutionary and culturist Jose Marti, mentioned Vietnam’s tradition of fighting off aggressors in his short story, ‘A journey through the land of Annamese,’ published in the US magazine ‘Golden Years,’ in 1889. Cuban leader Fidel Castro called him the first Cuban and Latin American to discover Vietnam .

Vietnamese President Ho Chi Minh, during his journey for national salvation, visited the Caribbean island of Martinique and Uruguay and Argentina in 1912. It was him who started the solidarity, friendship and cooperation between Vietnam and Latin American countries.

Vietnam first set up diplomatic ties with Cuba in 1960, Chile in 1971 and Argentina in 1973, while the country was still at war.

After its great victory in 1975, diplomatic-political ties between Vietnam and countries in Latin America expanded at a great rate.

Since Vietnam started its renewal process in 1986, its relationship with Latin American countries entered a new phase, which was stronger and more comprehensive.

The Southeast Asian country has to date set up diplomatic ties with 27 Latin American nations and established inter-governmental cooperation committees with five countries and political consultation mechanisms with 15.

Over the last decade, senior Vietnamese leaders have made nine visits to Latin American countries and 10 Latin American leaders have visited Vietnam . Vietnam has seven embassies in the Latin American region while eight countries from the region have embassies in Hanoi .

The ever increasing political friendship between Vietnam and Latin American countries has created a premise and firm foundation for the expansion and enhancement of multi-faceted cooperation, especially in trade and investment.

Two-way trade has experienced a high growth rate of approximately 30 percent per year, up from 300 million USD from 2005 to 5.1 billion USD in 2011, a 17 fold increase.

The value of Vietnam’s trade with each of Latin America’s three largest economies, namely Brazil , Mexico and Argentina, exceeded 1 billion USD.

The Southeast Asian country has also committed investment capital of 7 billion USD to the Latin American region, focusing on energy and telecommunications.

According to FM Minh, despite the rapid growth, economic, trade and investment relations between Vietnam and Latin America are still modest and yet to match their full potential. Vietnam has only established trade and investment ties with several Latin American partners, while the level of Latin American investment in Vietnam is far below the investors’ potential.

However, the FM said he believes that the future is bright for cooperation between Vietnam and Latin America , taking into account the strong political will of both sides.

There is still a huge untapped economic potential and Latin American countries are keen to develop cooperation with Vietnam in the fields they are strong in. These include the oil, gas and mining industries, traditional and renewable energies, infrastructure development, pharmaceuticals and farm produce and food processing. Meanwhile, Vietnamese enterprises can take advantage of their strength in rice production, fisheries, electronic appliances, agricultural machinery, telecommunications, ship building and car and motorcycle assembly and manufacture.

The international economic and political situation in the future is also expected to be favorable for further development between Vietnam and Latin America .

East Asia and Latin America continue to maintain peace and stability and faster economic growth rates when compared to the global rate and this encourages potential overseas partners to approach them.

Added to this, inter-regional cooperation mechanisms, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), the Forum for East Asian-Latin American Cooperation (FEALAC) and ASEAN-MERCOSUR, will offer more opportunities for countries in the two regions to connect with each other.

In this context, the Vietnamese-Latin American Trade and Investment Forum will enable both Vietnamese and Latin American partners to strengthen their mutual understanding, discuss ways of increasing trade and investment relations and draw up specific cooperative mechanisms and agreements.-VNA