Great cooperation potential
With a population of 1.6 billion, the Middle-East and Africa markets offer a great potential for Vietnam, an emerging economy with one of the fastest growth rates in the Asia-Pacific region. So far, Vietnam has established diplomatic ties with 69 out of 70 Middle Eastern and African countries and trade ties with all 70 countries with a bilateral trade value of 17.5 billion USD last year.
Middle Eastern and African countries supported Vietnam during its national liberation struggle and its ongoing development and have steadily increased their cooperation with Vietnam. Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Cuong said: “The relationship between the Middle East, Africa and Vietnam has developed steadily. When mentioning Vietnam, they often talk about President Ho Chi Minh and General Vo Nguyen Giap. We have strong political ties but our economic ties are not fully tapped due to lack of understanding and information. At this conference, I hope that foreign ambassadors in Vietnam will be updated with Vietnam’s future orientations.”
Vietnam’s trade with Middle Eastern and African countries accounted for only 3.5% of its total exports of 244 billion USD last year. More efforts are needed to make cooperation more effective. Egyptian Ambassador to Vietnam Mahmoud Hassan Nayel said: "Trade relations between Egypt and Vietnam have actually florished over the last years. We have witnessed a hundred percent increase just since the last three years. Last year, it was 25% increase. I believe that the trade relation can grow much more. So I think this conference is very important because I hope that my colleagues from African countries will use this opportunity to market for the possibility of profit for Vietnam that exists in Africa."
Trade, investment ties
Much has been done to increase mutual cultural understanding and appreciation of challenges and opportunities of bilateral cooperation. Deputy Foreign Minister Cuong said that the conference aims to bring into play the role of ambassadors as bridges linking Vietnam with the Middle East and Africa. Mr. Cuong said: “This conference, the first of its kind, is part of a project to enhance ties between Vietnam and the Middle East and Africa in the 2016-2020 period. We hope that the conference will create momentum for bilateral ties in the near future as it focuses on strengthening mutual understanding, promoting trade and investment ties and exploiting the two sides’ strengths.”
In its foreign policy, Vietnam always focuses on strengthening multi-faceted cooperation with Middle Eastern and African countries. Many countries in the region have implemented a Look East policy strengthening trade ties with Asian countries like Vietnam. Middle East and African countries supported Vietnam’s bid to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council. Their political ties will serve as a firm foundation for stronger trade ties.