Strong Friendship, Robust Cooperation and Mutual Prosperity

1:59:50 PM | 5/5/2024

Over the past five decades, the relationship between Vietnam and Italy has flourished, particularly in the realms of economics, trade and investment. Vietnam is Italy’s largest trading partner in ASEAN, while Italy ranks fourth among Vietnam’s European Union trading partners. Vietnam Business Forum conducted an interview with Mr. Michele D'Ercole, Chairman of Italian Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (ICHAM), on this enduring partnership between Vietnam and Italy.

How would you reflect on the enduring 50-year partnership between Vietnam and Italy, focusing on the economy, trade and investment? Could you provide insight into the foundational elements and prospective trajectories that underpin the forthcoming cooperative endeavors between the two nations?

The enduring 50-year diplomatic relationship between Vietnam and Italy has flourished, particularly in economy, trade and investment. Over time, bilateral cooperation has deepened significantly, as evident in various sectors. Economically, Vietnam stands as Italy's largest trading partner in ASEAN, while Italy ranks as Vietnam's fourth-largest trading partner within the European Union. This relationship has led to a record-high two-way trade surpassing US$6.2 billion in 2022. Investment cooperation has also thrived, with Italian companies venturing into diverse sectors within Vietnam, from manufacturing to services, reflecting a robust partnership.

Foundational elements of this enduring partnership include diplomatic ties, strategic agreements and mutual economic benefits. The upgrading of relations to a strategic partnership in 2013 further solidified cooperation, fostering significant growth in trade and investment activities. Furthermore, collaborative efforts at the local level, such as partnerships between Vietnamese provinces and Italian regions, have contributed to bilateral exchanges and economic development.

Looking ahead, prospective trajectories indicate continued growth and diversification in cooperative endeavors. Areas of focus may include leveraging Italy's strengths in sectors like innovation, digital transformation and renewable energy to meet Vietnam's evolving demands. Enhancing trade relations through initiatives such as promoting Vietnamese goods in the European Union and facilitating direct flights between the two nations can further bolster economic ties. Additionally, ongoing dialogue and joint efforts, including the development of action plans and ministerial-level meetings, will drive future cooperation, ensuring sustained prosperity for both Vietnam and Italy.

The “Italy Days in Thanh Hoa” event series, jointly hosted by Thanh Hoa province and Italian localities, serve to further fortify the burgeoning ties between Vietnam and Italy

Over the past 15 years, the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (ICHAM) has actively served as a pivotal link fortifying the bilateral relationship. Could you illuminate some key milestones and achievements from ICHAM's 15-year trajectory in Vietnam? What initiatives does ICHAM have in store to further enhance its influential role in the future?

Over the past 15 years, ICHAM has been pivotal in fostering the bilateral relationship between Italy and Vietnam through various key activities. We have actively conducted trade missions, supported enterprises in exploring potential markets through in-depth market research in business-to-business settings, and organized events aimed at connecting our members through workshops and technical seminars, providing valuable insights into industries in both Vietnam and Italy.

Among notable highlights is our partnership with three major wine protection consortiums in Italy: Valpolicella, Abruzzo and Prosecco. Through these collaborations, we have tailored events to specific criteria, organizing educational activities such as contests, masterclasses and business-to-business meetings, further enhancing cooperation between our nations.

Furthermore, we have been actively involved in commemorating significant milestones, such as the 50 years of diplomatic relations between Italy and Vietnam. For this occasion, a golf tournament was carried out last July to celebrate our 15-year anniversary, to celebrate this important milestone, together with the Seminar on Sustainability and Energy Transition.

To further strengthen ties between Italy and Vietnam, ICHAM has partnered with the Università Cattolica del Sacro Cuore di Milano to launch a new course titled "Vietnamese Business Management”. This intensive two-month program is designed for executives and entrepreneurs worldwide interested in conducting business in Vietnam. Covering topics such as Vietnamese business culture, legal frameworks and market opportunities, this course aims to equip participants with the necessary knowledge and skills for successful business ventures in Vietnam.

Many events are held to promote Italian cuisine and trade and investment between Italy and Vietnam

Regarding the Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), what opportunities and challenges do you perceive for businesses in both nations, particularly for Vietnamese enterprises aiming to penetrate new markets? What additional measures are needed for overcoming obstacles and effectively leveraging the accord's advantages?

The EVFTA has significantly bolstered trade ties between Vietnam and Italy, surpassing €6 billion in 2022. While this marks a promising milestone, it also brings about certain challenges, particularly regarding trade imbalances.

Key opportunities arising from the EVFTA include access to European standard certifications, fostering improved product quality and sustainability. Collaborative efforts between Italy and Vietnam aim to enhance access for Italian products and services in Vietnamese markets, notably in sectors like pharmaceuticals and agriculture.

However, the persistence of trade imbalances presents a notable challenge, prompting the need for concerted efforts to address this issue. Additionally, ensuring compliance with EU standards poses a significant hurdle for Vietnamese businesses seeking entry into the European market.

Italy can play an important role in supporting Vietnamese companies to achieve the quality standards needed to enter Vietnamese products to EU Countries.

Overcoming these challenges and fully leveraging the advantages of the EVFTA requires ongoing cooperation between Italy and Vietnam. Capacity-building initiatives and technical support from Italy can assist Vietnamese enterprises in meeting EU standards, thereby enhancing the competitiveness of Vietnamese products for export. Furthermore, the complete implementation of EVFTA provisions, coupled with the promotion of complementary agreements such as EVIPA, holds the potential to maximize mutual benefits for both nations.

The First ICHAM Cup Golf Tournament is the highlight among a series of events celebrating the 15th anniversary of the Italian Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam (ICHAM)

What recommendations would you extend to Vietnamese enterprises seeking entry into the Italian market, and vice versa?

For Vietnamese enterprises aiming to penetrate the Italian market, leveraging ICHAM's extensive network and expertise can be invaluable. Through ICHAM's trade promotion projects, matchmaking services and networking events, Vietnamese businesses can establish connections with Italian counterparts and gain insights into market dynamics. Additionally, participating in specialized events provides opportunities to showcase Vietnamese products and understand consumer preferences in Italy.

Likewise, Italian enterprises eyeing the Vietnamese market can benefit from ICHAM's support in navigating the local business landscape. From market studies to B2B meetings facilitated by ICHAM, Italian businesses can identify potential partners and understand regulatory requirements in Vietnam. Furthermore, initiatives like the 'True Italian Taste' project offer a platform for Italian companies to introduce their products to Vietnamese consumers and build brand presence.

ICHAM is able to organize tailored-made activities for both Vietnamese and Italian enterprises, focusing on sectors prioritized by both countries such as green and sustainable economy, smart cities, smart agriculture, tourism and innovative technology.

In light of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations and the decade-long strategic partnership between Vietnam and Italy, would you have any messages or well-wishes to convey on this momentous occasion?

On the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Italy, I extend my best wishes to both nations.

This instance marks the celebration of a strong friendship, robust cooperation and mutual prosperity between Vietnam and Italy. Over the past decades, our two countries have forged numerous bonds across various sectors, from trade and investment to culture and education. Together, we defied all the odds and seized opportunities, strengthening our bilateral ties and fostering greater collaboration, in sectors such as the green sustainable economy, smart agriculture, pharmaceutical, education, tourism and cultural heritage.

As we celebrate this joyful occasion, let us acknowledge the goals we accomplished in 2023 and hope for a 2024 filled with even more positive results.

May the ties between Vietnam and Italy continue to thrive, bringing mutual benefits to our countries and contributing to regional and global peace and stability.

Wishing Vietnam and Italy continued success, friendship and prosperity in the years ahead.

By Tran Ngoc, Vietnam Business Forum