Int'l Cooperation

Last updated: Monday, January 21, 2019


Vietnam, Italy Opening up New Avenues of Multi-faceted Cooperation

Posted: Thursday, February 08, 2018

Vietnam and Italy established diplomatic relations in 1973. Ever since, the cooperative relationship has positively developed in many fields. 2018 is a remarkable year in the bilateral partnership as the two countries are celebrating 45th anniversaryof diplomatic relations. Vietnam Business Forum has an interview with Ms Cecilia Piccioni, Ambassador of Italy to Vietnam, on the achievements in bilateral relations over the years. Mai Anh reports.

The year 2018 marks the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Italy. Would you please tell us your assessment of the diplomatic, economic and cultural relations between the two countries for the past years?
In 1973 Italy was one of the very first countries of the European Union to establish diplomatic relations with Vietnam; however, the ties that link our two countries have much older roots. They can be traced back to a past marked by collaboration, liberty, and solidarity. In fact, it is this solidarity that has fuelled the initiatives Italy has always carried out in favour of Vietnam’s population during the country’s hardest times.

To crown our story of friendship, five years ago our governments established a strategic partnership designed to enhance and reinforce our cooperation. This collaboration has only grown stronger in the past few years, serving to strengthen our relations at an institutional, economic and cultural level.

Institutionally, our relations are thriving as shown by the growing number of visits and meetings between the respective leaders of our countries. This is exemplified by the State visit paid to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in November 2015 by President Mattarella, the first ever Italian President of the Republic to travel to Vietnam. That visit, serving as a representation of our high regard of our bilateral relations, has been followed by those of important Italian Ministers (Minister of Transport and Infrastructures, Minister of Justice, Minister of State for Industry and International Trade) as well as by President Tran Dai Quang’s meaningful State visit to Italy in 2016.

Such a dynamic institutional season was conducive to enhancing our already outstanding partnership in the economic and commercial sector. Indeed, not only is Vietnam one of our most promising trade partners, but it ranks first among the 10 ASEAN members. Our bilateral trade has hit 4 billion Euro in 2016 (+7 per cent compared to 2015) and preliminary data for 2017 show a positive trend that – once confirmed – would recognise Italy as 4th among EU partners for bilateral trade and the 2nd largest EU exporter to Vietnam. Moreover, Italy, whose entrepreneurial presence in Vietnam is already contributing to its industrialisation, reaffirmed during the most recent Joint Economic Commission held in Hanoi, its commitment to sharing its knowledge and technology in order to play a more active role in the new stages of the Vietnamese quest for higher standards of modernisation.

Finally, in addition, our cultural relations have flourished. In an effort to enhance mutual understanding and deeper knowledge of our two countries’ traditions and heritages, thanks to a people-to-people approach, we’ve tripled the number of cultural initiatives, reaching the public throughout the country. This was also made possible by the contribution of our General Consulate in Ho Chi Minh City. Opened only in 2014, that office serves as a bridge bringing Italy closer to the centre-south provinces, while also providing important services to our Italian countrywomen and men and to the Vietnamese friends who live in that region.

Vietnam and Italy have made strong development in trade and investment cooperation. What do you think about the business environment of Vietnam in recent years?
As the most recent business mission led by our Minister of State for Industry and International Trade, T. H. Scalfarotto, has clearly shown, Italian companies have significant interest in working more with Vietnam. In this regard, it is worth recalling that some of the main Italian investors (such as Piaggio, Ariston, Carvico-Hung Yen to name a few) have renewed their bet on Vietnam doubling their investments. I cannot find a better example of their confidence in the Vietnamese market. And indeed, Hanoi has made many important advancements towards increasing the quality and reliability of its business environment, as recently confirmed by the World Bank that ranked Vietnam 68 out of 190 countries in its 2017 “Ease of doing Business” rankings. Moreover, thanks to the impressive set of new measures the Vietnamese government has put in place to support the private sector, 100,000 new SMEs have been created in 2016, demonstrating that the competitiveness of the system is also improving. Nonetheless, there is still a great deal of room for improvement. I think of the SOE’s equitisation process, that needs to be sped up, as well as the need to enhance the efficacy of the PPP scheme, and the bidding procedures that require a higher degree of simplification and transparency!

Would you please tell us what areas of cooperation Italian companies are interested in and what are the potential areas for cooperation between Vietnamese enterprises and those from Italy in the coming years?
When it comes to economic partnership, our two countries present a very high and unique degree of complementarity which opens up new avenues of cooperation. Last November, during the many institutional meetings Minister Scalfarotto had with Prime Minister Phuc, Minister Ha and other top-level interlocutors, together we identified a number of key sectors in which we could further enhance our cooperation. The first sector identified is infrastructure and transport, as Vietnamese infrastructure plans offer a significant amount of untapped potential, while cutting-edge technology and advanced management capacity are hallmarks of the Italian industry. We all agreed that our way of doing business, renowned worldwide for both quality and design, providing solutions “made to measure” could effectively contribute to meet the growing needs of the Vietnamese public.

Secondly we will be focusing on Energy and Technologies for the Environment. While the Vietnamese government has recently kicked off a number of strategic initiatives aimed at placing sustainable growth at the top of the domestic agenda, with particular reference to climate change and support for renewable energies, our companies stand ready to offer their contribution. Boasting a long-standing tradition of excellence in these sectors in line with our ambitious national policies within G7, G20, the Paris Agreement and our Chairmanship of the IRENA Assembly last year, Italian groups are already closely cooperating with leading Vietnamese players such as MOIT, ERAV and EVN. We look forward to harvesting fruitful opportunities in this mutually strategic field, potentially also through the finalisation and implementation of some latest projects focused on studying the impact of renewable energy input in the electric transmission network, as well as on the energy efficiency of SMEs, having the potential to provide significant knowledge, paving the way for qualified investments.

Last, but surely not least, we have identified the machinery and technology sectors as areas of focus, as both sectors account for the largest quota of Italian export to Vietnam. The mechanisation of SMEs has also been identified as a highly complementary area for both Italy and Vietnam. As Vietnamese manufacturers are currently facing the urgent challenge to increase productivity and quality standards through an effective technology upgrade, Italy, as a leader in the production of industrial machinery, can offer the right technological solutions to support this transition. To this end we have put in place specific tools to further enhance our cooperation in this sector. Two examples being the Technology Centre projects funded by our Ministry for Economic Development: one for Shoes, in cooperation with ASSOMAC and LEFASO Associations and one for Textile, in cooperation with the Italian association ACIMIT at Ho Chi Minh City University of Technology. Both centres are equipped with Italian machinery and provide a permanent learning environment for the Vietnamese specialised students. In addition to these funded projects, we are finalising a project worth 15 million Euro of combined credit line and technical assistance to support the purchase of Italian machinery by Vietnamese companies, in the priority sectors of shoes and leather, textile and garments, agriculture and agro-processing. Building on the unique experience of the Italian SMEs' systems and given some similarities with Vietnamese SMEs, we intend to dedicate maximum resources and energy to improve their technical and managerial capacity through the adoption of Italian technology and know-how. Our ultimate aim is to increase their competitiveness within the local and international markets and to craft lasting partnerships.

It is known that Italy has planned to organise several economic and cultural activities to celebrate the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations. Could you elaborate on these activities?
The forthcoming 45th Anniversary of our Diplomatic relations is quite meaningful to us as it marks a remarkable moment in our partnership. A partnership that beyond the formal definition, proves to be more strategic on a daily basis. It is in light of such a special occasion that we thought of a programme that could encompass, holistically, the various facets of our friendship and cooperation. A programme that could enhance our mutual knowledge ranging from cultural to economic promotion, from scientific and technological research, to fashion and industrial design! A programme that could highlight and promote our reciprocal understanding. Often at the foundation of a friendship there are similarities, and despite the distance, Italy and Vietnam are remarkably similar. They are two centuries-old cultures, two of the richest artistic heritages in the world, two countries with multi-faceted geographic, urban, economic and social realities. Our “secret” programme will mirror all of this and... much more....stay tuned!

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