Remarks by Deputy PM, FM Minh at "Meet Ambassadors from the Middle East and Africa 2019" Conference

9:17:59 AM | 9/16/2019

The following is full remarks by Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh at the "Meet Ambassadors from the Middle East and Africa 2019" Conference, held for the first time by the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Ha Noi from September 9-10.

Excellencies Ambassadors and Chargés d'affaires from Middle Eastern and African countries,

Distinguished guests, ladies and gentlemen,

Allow me to extend my warmest welcome to Excellencies Ambassadors, Chargés d'affaires and diplomats from Middle Eastern and African countries, and all distinguished guests to the “Meet Ambassadors of the Middle East and Africa 2019” Conference.

I wish to sincerely thank you all for the active support shown to our Ministry’s initiative in creating a forum for frank and substantive discussions between Middle Eastern and African diplomats and Vietnamese Ministries, agencies, localities and businesses, on measures to further promote our multifaceted cooperation.

Ladies and gentlemen,

After 30 years of tirelessly carrying out comprehensive ‘Doi Moi’ reforms, Viet Nam has escaped from underdevelopment and become a middle-income country. Political stability and social order are maintained, industrialization, modernization and international integration bolstered.

To date, Viet Nam has established diplomatic relations with 189 countries and formed a network of 30 strategic and comprehensive partners, which include all UNSC permanent members.

We have established a framework for free trade with nearly 60 countries in the form of 16 free trade agreements (FTA), including new-generation FTAs such as the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the EU – Viet Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). We have also asserted our role as an active and responsible member at important regional and international mechanisms.

Viet Nam has always attached special importance to the relations with Middle Eastern and African countries. Rooted in our shared aspiration for independence and freedom since the 1950s, our ties have been constantly strengthened, in keeping with the warm affection and the sincere and valuable support that Viet Nam and Middle Eastern and African countries have reserved for one another during our righteous quests for national liberation.

In the course of national construction and development, Viet Nam and Middle Eastern and African countries continue to join hands in overcoming common challenges. We have made efforts to expand our multifaceted cooperation, contributing to the realization of each country’s development goals and the protection of the shared interests of developing countries in the international community.

These endeavours laid the solid foundation for the loyal friendship and important partnership between Viet Nam and Middle Eastern and African countries, of which our flourishing and deepening cooperation serve as vivid illustration. Political and diplomatic ties between Viet Nam and Middle Eastern and African countries have been constantly strengthened with greater depth. Trade relations have witnessed positive developments. Cooperation in telecommunications, labor, education and healthcare has yielded new progress. The cooperation model between Viet Nam and certain African countries, particularly in agriculture, is long considered a role model for the South – South cooperation.

At multilateral forums, Viet Nam always stands behind the Middle East and Africa in protecting the core values of peace and development, and promoting the fundamental principles of international law, such as respect for independence and sovereignty, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs, and refrain from the threat or use of force. Vietnamese servicemen, Uncle Ho’s soldiers, are now present at flashpoints in the Central African Republic and South Sudan and contribute to the UN’s peacekeeping operations.

Viet Nam and Middle Eastern and African countries have actively coordinated our positions and supported each other at international organizations. On this occasion, I wish to sincerely thank your Governments for supporting Viet Nam’s candidacy to the non-permanent membership at the UNSC for the 2020 – 2021 tenure. This demonstrates the confidence of Middle Eastern and African countries in Viet Nam’s capacity to contribute to regional peace, stability and prosperity. 

We highly appreciate the roles played by Excellencies Ambassadors, the permanent and non-permanent diplomatic missions of Middle Eastern and African countries in Viet Nam, and your significant contributions to the our excellent cooperation. 

Ladies and gentlemen, 

There remain enormous and diverse potential and demand for cooperation between our countries.

In a rapidly changing world with complex and unpredictable developments, the Middle East and Africa are striving to overcome security and development challenges, persevering in the peaceful settlement of disputes, promoting cooperation and integration, and utilizing geopolitical and geoeconomic interests to thrive.

On Viet Nam’s part, we are a member of the ASEAN Community and are situated in a dynamically growing Asia-Pacific. We are working towards the 2030 vision of becoming a prosperous society and a thriving knowledge economy, and deepening our integration into the global economy.

We are confident that our country can meet the increasingly high and diverse demands for cooperation from Middle Eastern and African countries. In particular, as Viet Nam assumes the 2020 ASEAN Chairmanship and a non-permanent seat at the UNSC for the 2020-2021 term, we can assist in promoting cooperation areas of shared interest within the ASEAN frameworks, and at the same time, contribute to resolving major issues concerning regional and global peace and security, including those in the Middle East and Africa.

Share the same aspiration for peace, Viet Nam and Middle Eastern and African countries are working to fulfil the SDGs of the 2030 UN Agenda for Sustainable Development and grasp the opportunities offered by the 4th Industrial Revolution. Thanks to our similar development levels and the complementarity of our economies, together we enjoy tremendous advantages in promoting comprehensive cooperation, especially in potential areas such as trade, investment, energy, environment, information and communication technology, agriculture, labor and tourism.

However, the collaboration between Viet Nam and Middle Eastern and African countries yet faces formidable challenges:

- Both sides lack information and a deep understanding of each other’s market, business practices and legal system.

- Geographical distance is another major hindrance that often leads to low business efficiency and the inadequate attention of both sides’ ministries and agencies.

- At the same time, the network of resident diplomatic and trade representative offices from each side remains insufficient, while bilateral cooperation mechanisms have not fulfilled their role in promoting economic cooperation.

- The economic linkages between the Middle East and Africa and South East Asia in general, and Viet Nam in particular, remain limited. Despite being an open economy with 16 FTAs signed, Viet Nam has yet to sign an FTA with any country in this region.

Thus, I am confident that our meeting shall play a key role in identifying clear-cut measures to resolve the aforementioned difficulties, thereby realizing the potential and vision of the Viet Nam – Middle East – Africa cooperation.

In this spirit, I propose that we discuss in detail the following points:

First, we should seek measures to promote the traditional friendship and cooperation between Viet Nam and Middle Eastern and African countries in all areas, and simultaneously explore novel avenues for substantive and effective cooperation, thereby translating political trust and traditional friendship into concrete cooperation outcomes.

Secondwe should prioritize economic cooperation as a means to boost political relations. Thus, I propose that Excellencies Ambassadors and Chargés d'affaires discuss with Vietnamese partners, especially business representatives, and identify areas of great potential and high feasibility to focus on.

- Regarding Viet Nam, we enjoy competitive advantage in agricultural and aquacultural products, electronics, mechanics, agricultural equipment, construction materials, wood products, and processed agricultural produce.

In addition, Viet Nam stands ready to provide support in vocational training and collaborate in finding agricultural development solutions. Viet Nam’s areas of strength also include information and communication technology and our young and skilled labor supply.

- Regarding the Middle East and Africa, we are interested in enhancing cooperation in your areas of strength, such as energy, labor, material and fuel supply for manufacturing industries, agricultural and industrial production.

          Third, we should change our mindset in approaching cooperation and find new models in keeping with the new developments and demands. We should call on the participation of both public and private sectors, businesses, people and foreign development partners.

Fourth, we should review and improve the efficiency of cooperation mechanisms, particularly mechanisms to timely resolve difficulties, seize opportunities, and facilitate cooperation.

We should strengthen connectivity by enhancing the role of the network of Middle Eastern and African Ambassadors and representative offices in promoting cooperation programmes and plans.

Fifth, besides bilateral channels, we should step up cooperation at multilateral forums (such as the UN and the Non-Aligned Movement). We should also further connect our countries with regional organizations, Viet Nam with the African Union, Middle Eastern and African countries with ASEAN, and strengthen connectivity among regional organizations (between ASEAN and the African Union).

Ladies and gentlemen, 

I am confident that this meeting will constitute a forum for substantive discussion on measures to boost economic and specialized cooperation between Middle Eastern and African diplomats, Vietnamese Ministries, agencies and localities with regional and international development partners and businesses from both sides.

I hope you will make the most of these two days to find new solutions and measures to ensure the extensive, substantive and effective development of the Viet Nam – Middle East – Africa relations.

I announce that our event "Meet Ambassadors from the Middle East and Africa 2019" is now commenced.

I wish our meeting every success!

Thank you