“Vietnam and Ethiopia have ample opportunities to export more into each other's market”
President Tran Dai Quang of Vietnam is on a state visit to Ethiopia this week. He has been in the country since Thursday, promoting a strong relationship between both. The Reporter’s Samuel Getachew had a chance to interview the president on the economy, cooperation and how he envisions the role of Vietnam within the African continent. Excerpts:
The Reporter: Your Excellency Mr. President, would you please share with us the significance of your visit to Ethiopia?
President Tran Dai Quang: At the invitation of His Excellency President Mulatu Teshome (PhD) it has been my great pleasure to lead a high – level delegation of Vietnam to pay a state visit to Ethiopia. This is the first visit by the Head of State of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam to the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia since the establishment of our diplomatic relations in 1976.
Vietnam attaches importance to maintaining the traditional friendship and promoting the multi-faceted cooperation with Ethiopia. The two countries are oceans apart but share many similarities. We both are developing countries with a large, young workforce, and a determination to fostering economic development and improving people's living standard. Vietnam follows with admiration Ethiopia's national construction and development; and sincerely congratulates Ethiopia on its extraordinary and impressive accomplishments in recent years.
From a country ravaged by prolonged droughts and frequent natural disasters, with high poverty rates during the 1980s, Ethiopia has arisen to become an African Tiger, enjoying some of the highest economic growth rates in the world, at more than 10 percent per annum over the last decade. The capital, Addis Ababa, has become the heart of Africa, playing host to the headquarters of over 90 international and regional organizations, including the African Union. At regional and international forums, Ethiopia has been playing an ever more positive role in the maintenance of peace, security and stability in the region and the world at large.
What has been some of the recent activities between the two nations?
Owing to our countries' respective situation, we have yet to exchange many delegations in recent years. Economic and trade cooperation has yet to live up to the potentials of our two countries and the aspirations of our peoples. During this visit, I will hold talks with His Excellency President Mulatu, and meet with His Excellency Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed (PhD), and the leaders of the House of Federation and House of People’s Representatives, to discuss ways and measures to promote bilateral cooperation, focusing on reinforcing political trust, accelerating economic, trade, investment and agricultural cooperation, and promoting cultural and people-to-people exchanges.
What other activities will you be engaged in while in the country?
While here, I will also meet with the Commissioner of the African Union Commission – the largest organization on the continent – at its headquarters to discuss the furthering of ties, particularly economic cooperation between Vietnam and the African Union and its member states; as well as our coordination at international and regional forums, especially the United Nations, the Non-Aligned Movement and the South-South cooperation framework.
I have every reason to believe that this visit shall play an important role in driving bilateral cooperation into a new era of development, one that is more effective and lives up to the traditional friendship between Vietnam and Ethiopia, as well as the close bond between our two peoples.
Share with me the major orientations for economic - trade cooperation between Vietnam and Ethiopia in the near future.
Vietnam consistently attaches importance to promoting cooperation with Ethiopia across various areas, with economic and trade cooperation is the focus, so as to bring about real benefits to our two peoples.
Our two countries are undergoing rapid development and intensive international integration. Vietnam is advancing strategic economic breakthroughs, diversifying its export markets, promoting FDI attraction along with encouraging Vietnamese investment into other countries. As for Ethiopia, your “Growth and Transformation Plan” has helped the country make admirable strides in economic development. We hope to strengthen economic and trade cooperation with Ethiopia, particularly in areas of our respective strengths and where we could complement each other.
Bilateral trade turnover between Vietnam and Ethiopia has increased steadily in recent years, yet the figures remain very modest. With a population of approximately 100 million in each country, Vietnam and Ethiopia have ample opportunities to export more into each other's market.
Your nation is known to export many products abroad. Do you see any potential within Ethiopia?
Vietnam hopes to export such key products as agricultural produce, processed food, footwear, textile, seafood, electronics and home appliances, construction material, rubber, wood and mechanical engineering products, to the Ethiopian market. A number of Vietnamese businesses are piloting investment projects in Africa, particularly Viettel Group, which is successful in its ventures in Mozambique, Tanzania, Cameroon and Burundi, and has expressed its interest and desire in investing into Ethiopia.
How do you envision the relationship to grow?
In the future, the two countries should create policies that encourage and facilitate our businesses to increase market researches, promote trade, investment and information exchange. In addition, due to our geographic distance, we should establish suitable payment methods that are secured to business transactions. At the same time, we should expedite discussions and negotiations to sign the necessary agreements and treaties creating the legal basis for investment and operation of our business communities.
Please share with me your views on the potential for cooperation between Vietnam and African countries.
Vietnam and African countries enjoy a special friendship, shaped through the national liberation and the struggle for freedom and independence in our respective countries. The foundation for this friendship has been painstakingly laid and consolidated by Vietnamese late President Ho Chi Minh and the African forefathers. It is Vietnam's consistent foreign policy to attach importance to cooperation with our traditional African friends, mindful of the past support and assistance that the African people have given to the Vietnamese people.
Vietnam has, to date, established formal diplomatic relations with 53 out of the 55 African countries. The friendship and cooperation between Vietnam and African countries have been flourishing across various areas. Generations of Vietnamese healthcare, education and agriculture experts have been in Africa since the 1960s, playing a part in enhancing the quality of healthcare and education services as well as agricultural development in Africa.
With a desire to enhance cooperation in all areas, particularly economic and trade, Vietnam has hosted the Vietnam – Africa Cooperation Forum in 2003 and 2010, and has rolled out many cooperation projects in agriculture and seafood, telecommunication and oil and gas, to name a few, thus contributing to food security, social security and economic development of the continent. Notably, since 2014, officers of the People's Army of Vietnam have taken part in the United Nations Peacekeeping Operations in the Central African Republic and South Sudan.
Do you think it’s the right time for the relationship between your nation and the African society to grow the relationship?
Now is a right time for Vietnam and African countries to promote cooperation for our common development. Vietnam is one of the faster-growing and more dynamic countries in the Asia-Pacific, with an average GDP growth of above six percent in recent years and total export-import turnover exceeding USD 400 billion in 2017.
With a population of 1.2 billion and GDP of USD 2.5 trillion, Africa has been lauded recently by international organizations as an economic beacon in a world constantly in flux. In particular, the recent establishment of the African Free Trade Area will turn the continent into a large and attractive free trade region. This is a huge and promising market with diverse demands for imports, a wide range of market segments that are well matched with Vietnamese products, services and brands such as agricultural and forestry products, textile, electronics and machinery, and telecommunication services.
We very much appreciate the determination of African states in joining hands to build a united grouping, rising vigorously and assuming an increasingly greater status in the international arena. Vietnam stands ready to act as the bridge linking the African Union and ASEAN, promote comprehensive cooperation between the two regions, as well as strengthen our close cooperation at regional and inter-regional forums, thus contributing to peace, stability, development and prosperity in the region and the world.