Last updated: Wednesday, March 29, 2017
Vietnam-France Multifaceted Relations: On Upward TrendPosted: Monday, February 06, 2017
“Economic cooperation between Vietnam and France has historically been strong and is still developing,” said Mr Bertrand Lortholary, French Ambassador to Vietnam in an interview with Vietnam Business Forum. “The perspective of the European Union – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) is a further source of hope for our commercial relationship. The upcoming reduction of trade barriers –tariff or non-tariff ones – will allow increasing exchanges between our two countries,” he added. Lan Anh reports.
France has always been a leading partner of Vietnam in Europe and the world. How would you assess the cooperation in economics, trade and investment between the two countries in the past years?
Economic cooperation between Vietnam and France has historically been strong and is still developing. We work in close cooperation with Vietnamese actors on a set of diverse issues in order to improve our bilateral economic connection. The recent visit of our President here in Vietnam was the opportunity to re-affirm the importance of our economic cooperation.
Exact figures are still awaited for 2016 but one thing is sure: our commercial relationship has been on an upward trend for the past few years. Our exports to Vietnam have indeed increased by 85 per cent in 2015. Aeronautic is a key sector for our exchanges, pharmaceuticals or agriculture being more and more important. Vietnam holds many promising opportunities for our companies, and I believe that French high-quality products will contribute to satisfy a rising and demanding middle class. On the other side of the equation, Vietnamese exports to France continuously rise (+32.8 per cent in 2015) and represent a promising market for national companies, especially in the manufacturing sector.
The perspective of the European Union – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) is a further source of hope for our commercial relationship. The upcoming reduction of trade barriers –tariff or non-tariff ones – will allow increasing exchanges between our two countries. In parallel, the Vietnamese government’s anticipated efforts to instil a business-friendly environment in Vietnam are to be praised: they have already contributed to several success stories of ours. I am thinking, especially, of the progressive arrival of French agricultural products on the Vietnamese market: its fruits, its vegetables or its meat.
However, our relationship is insufficiently narrow when it comes to investments. French financial flows to Vietnam are considerably low compared to other European countries, when our technology and our “savoir-faire” could perfectly contribute to Vietnam’s double desire of economic performance and sustainability. This relationship will get tighter in the coming years, mainly through the benefits offered by the EVFTA. Yet, it belongs to both French and Vietnamese officials to advertise Vietnam’s economic dynamism: 6.5 per cent economic growth in 2015, 6.2 per cent in 2016 and hopefully close to 7 per cent in 2017.
Does France have any plan to promote trade and investment relations between the two countries in the coming time?
Commodities, like cosmetics and agricultural or food products, are full of opportunities for French companies and Vietnamese consumers alike. The rising middle class indeed advocates for larger consumer choices, high quality and reliability; many considerations that our companies care about with attention. Many promotion events will be organized, such as FoodExpo next November, or more closely, right before Tet Holidays, the Bonjour French Fruit promotion effort, for French fruits, which recently arrived in Vietnam upon increased market access.
Health sector is also a key sector for us. Improving health infrastructure as well as access to treatment and medicines is a challenge that our hospitals, laboratories, and pharmaceutical entities are willing to tackle.
Then comes Vietnam’s sustainability and infrastructural future. Our development agency (AFD) has participated alongside the French Ministry for the Economy and many French companies to build more connected cities, less vulnerable and more eco-friendly infrastructures. In this regard, I can mention the metro projects in Hanoi and HCMC, the waste management projects in HCMC or the participation of French companies to Vietnam’s highways master plan.
Culture and education are two among the 5 priority areas of cooperation set out in the Joint Declaration on Strategic Partnership between Vietnam and France in 2013. Would you please tell us the results of cooperation in these areas for the past time and cooperation prospects for the coming time?
In the field of books co-operation: 194 author rights were sold in 2015 (which is a great increase) and we had the pleasure of having Eric Emmanuel Schmitt, a world famous writer, in Hanoï. Concerning movie co-operation, we had the chance to welcome Catherine Deneuve for the 25th anniversary of “Indochine” and Regis Wargnier, the famous director of “Indochine” was the president of the HANIF (Hanoi international Film Festival) this year. Paris-Ballet came for the first time in so many years last June. It was a great opportunity to admire in Vietnam star dancers from Paris Opera and prominent Ballets. Again, these are just few illustrations out of the numerous activities carried out in 2016.
In the past years, we also tend to put an emphasis on gastronomy. As you know the “Good France” event has started in 2015 and will be renewed this year on March 21st. This event, launched by the Ministry of foreign affairs in Paris; aims at gathering more than 2000 participating restaurants around the world. This year, the emphasis will be put on vocational training in the field of hospitality. This is a great topic for Vietnam as the needs in this sector are huge given tourism perspectives for the coming years.
On the education aspect, our approach consists in supporting the teaching of French language in the Vietnamese education system. Today, more than 40.000 young Vietnamese learn French in Vietnamese schools. We believe that learning foreign languages from a young age is fundamental. Learning French also entails to be exposed to a different way of teaching and learning, it also means learning faster other foreign languages later on. We support programs of bilingual classes throughout Vietnam, but also more generally speaking the teaching of French language as a second foreign language for example.
Learning French is also useful to pursue high quality studies. France attracts more and more Vietnamese students and is, outside of Asia, the third destination country of Vietnamese students. The quality of the French higher education is well known. Many people also argue that French higher education is cheap compared to other education systems, which is true. From the student’s point of view; it does remain affordable as the French higher education system is widely subsidized by the French government to guarantee that everybody can exercise its right to access education.
Last but not least, we are also developing actions to strengthen the bridge between education and employment. We have started to run job fairs in November 2014 and they now take place annually. We have developed a great network of alumni and this is also a great way for people who have studied in France or in Vietnam in French curricula to find jobs.