The first ever Vietnam-Latin America Trade and Investment Forum opened in Hanoi on July 5 in the presence of Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

The ministerial-level forum, themed ‘Vietnam-Latin America: Trade and investment partnership for development,’ has attracted high ranking delegations from Vietnam and 15 Latin American countries, as well as experts, academics and researchers on Vietnam and Latin America.

The two-day event will open up many opportunities and prospects for cooperation between the two sides, so their traditional relationship can be developed to a comprehensive partnership for peace and development.

It will focus its discussions on three main topics, including Vietnam-Latin America business and investment environment: Vietnamese-Latin American connectivity in transport, logistics, telecommunications and services; and Vietnamese-Latin American partnerships in agriculture and energy.

On addressing the opening ceremony, PM Dung stated that Vietnam is more than willing to become one of Latin America ’s most important economic partners as well as act as a gateway so Latin American countries can access the large markets in the East Asian region.

In its foreign policy, Vietnam always treasures; and is determined to develop friendship and cooperation with Latin America countries, for the sake of peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region and the world, he stressed.

The Government leader underlined the importance of the forum, which, he said, will open up opportunities for both sides to strengthen their comprehensive cooperation. He asked the participants to discuss ways of grasping new opportunities and map out cooperative mechanisms.

He added that he is pleased with the strong development of the trade and investment relations between Vietnam and Latin American countries over the past ten years.

Two-way trade between Vietnam and Latin America has increased 17 fold from 300 million USD in 2000 to over 5 billion USD in 2011, he said, adding that many investment projects have been carried out in strategic fields such as energy and telecommunications.

According to the PM, Vietnam is a substantial market with a population of nearly 90 million. It is strategically positioned in the Southeast Asian region and is a member of a number of regional and international trade mechanisms.

At present, Vietnam has diplomatic, economic-trade and investment relations with most countries and territories worldwide, he said.

The country’s import-export value surpassed 200 billion USD in 2011. More than 13,700 foreign direct investment (FDI) projects have also been carried out in the Southeast Asian nation, with a total registered capital of over 200 billion USD.

Vietnam now has nearly 700 overseas investment projects worth close to 12 billion USD, mainly focusing on agriculture, light industries, transport and telecommunications.

On speaking at the forum, Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said that the traditional friendship between Vietnam and Latin America is a firm foundation for strengthening their multifaceted cooperation, especially in trade and investment.

Vietnam and Latin America still see a great deal of potential for cooperation and have introduced the right conditions to develop economic, trade and investment ties, he noted.

After the opening ceremony, Prime Minister Dung and the participants at the forum visited an exhibition of products made in Vietnam and Latin America .

On the occasion, Vu Tien Loc, President of the Vietnam’s Chamber of Commerce and Industry, announced the establishment of the Vietnam-Latin America Business Council.-VNA