HANOI, Vietnam – Seychelles’ participation in the Second International Forum held in Hanoi from August 17 to 19 on the theme “Vietnam-Africa: Cooperation on Sustainable Development” has opened new avenues of concrete cooperation between the two countries and projected, in the region and beyond, a dynamic image of Seychelles’ “Look East” diplomacy.
During the event that was attended by more than 600 delegates from Africa and Vietnam, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Jean-Paul Adam, signed a bilateral agreement on economic, cultural, scientific, and technical cooperation with his Vietnamese counterpart, which he said is reflective of the mutually-beneficial cooperation that exists between the two countries, especially as it was one of only two agreements signed at the meeting.
Minister Adam, who led the Seychelles delegation, delivered a keynote speech at the forum addressing issues related to trade, energy, and investment cooperation.
The Minister spoke of the importance of African engagement during, what many people call, the “Asian Decade,” and the need to focus cooperation on food security, agriculture, fisheries, and aquaculture, as well as infrastructures, tourism, education, and training.
The Seychelles’ Foreign Minister also raised the issue of transportation and the vital importance of maintaining open and safe maritime routes between Africa and Vietnam at all times for trade, fisheries, research, and tourism. He called for more cooperation from all maritime and trading nations around the Indian Ocean to find ways and means to efficiently address this issue.
Following this, Minister Adam went on to present the recently launched 2010-2040 Seychelles Comprehensive Maritime Security Plan of Action, which has been seen as a useful and timely initiative in the global cooperation to fight piracy.
The Seychellois delegation, which included Seychelles’ nonresident Ambassador to Vietnam, Mr. Philippe Le Gallm who is based in Beijing, went on to meet Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mr. Pham Gia Khiem, to hold in-depth talks on how to consolidate the links between the countries.
In discussions, Minister Pham Gia Khiem qualified Seychelles’ potential as “huge” despite being relatively small, and he said that Vietnam and Seychelles shared political stability and should, therefore, work to increase their trade exchanges from a modest US$2 million now to 10, 20, and even 100 million. The Minister also welcomed more exchanges of visits by high-level delegations from the two countries.
In responding, Minister Adam underlined the importance of strengthening and upgrading the relations between the two countries, with special emphasis on cooperation in agriculture, health, tourism, and the establishment of air and sea links, as well as military cooperation. The Minister also drew attention to the value of developing offshore activities in line with the regulatory framework provided by the Double Taxation Avoidance Treaty-DTA that exists between the two countries.
Minister Adam went on to discuss visa exemptions for short stays, the appointment of honorary consuls in the two countries, and the possible use of Port Victoria’s facilities for Vietnamese military vessels.
During his visit to Hanoi, the Minister also called on the President of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Mr. Nguyen Minh Triet, who stated that “Vietnam would make its best efforts to enhance the effectiveness of cooperation with each African country and the African Community.”
Following the signing of the bilateral agreement, the first joint commission is scheduled to meet in Seychelles early 2011.
Seychelles has signed similar agreements during the last 12 months with Korea and the Philippines, and draft agreements have been proposed to Thailand, Malaysia, Cambodia, and Laos with a view to establishing a multi-purpose legal framework of cooperation covering the region and conducive to ambitious partnerships at government and non-government levels, especially in the fields of trade, investments, transportation, energy, tourism, fisheries, real-estate development, and eco-friendly development technologies.
Vietnam-Africa bilateral trade turnover has increased from US$372.4 million in 2003 to US$2.07 billion in 2009.
Vietnam’s growth rate in 2009 was 5.32 percent, and the country is expected to achieve a growth of 6.5 percen in 2010, the year Vietnam is chairing the ASEAN community, and also the year during which Hanoi is celebrating 1,000 years of history. Vietnam has a population of 85 million.