Hanoi (VNA) – Vietnam and Belgium have enjoyed growing cooperation across the board since their diplomatic relationship was set up 50 years ago.
The two countries officially established diplomatic ties on March 22, 1973, just two months after the Paris Agreement was signed on ending the war and restoring peace in Vietnam.
Vietnam will long remember the wholehearted assistance from the Belgian Government and people for its post-war reconstruction and recovery efforts.
Over the past five decades, bilateral partnerships have flourished in various spheres, particularly politics – diplomacy, trade, agriculture, education – training, science and technology, and development cooperation at the federal, regional, and community levels.
Belgium always attaches importance to relations with Vietnam and has established itself as an international partner substantially contributing to the Southeast Asian country’s successes via development cooperation programmes. The two sides have also actively coordinated with each other at multilateral forums, especially the United Nations, the Asia – Europe Meeting (ASEM) and ASEAN – EU frameworks.
Bilateral political and diplomatic ties have been growing diversely and substantively as seen in many high-level mutual visits. In particular, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh paid an official visit to Belgium in December 2022, ahead of the 50th anniversary of the countries’ diplomatic relationship and the fifth anniversary of their strategic partnership in agriculture this year.
During the trip, the Prime Ministers of Vietnam and Belgium agreed to intensify political trust and cooperation within the framework of the strategic partnership in agriculture, and further step up ties in the pillar of trade and investment. They also agreed to expand collaboration to other potential fields to contribute to sustainable development in each country and work closely together in response to global challenges.
In recent years, economic and trade links between the two countries have been thriving and increasingly strengthened. Belgium is the sixth largest EU trading partner of Vietnam, which in turn was the 15th non-EU importer of Belgian goods in 2021.
Bilateral trade has increased sharply, from 1.8 billion USD in 2013 to nearly 2.8 billion USD in 2020 with Vietnam recording a trade surplus of over 2.3 billion USD. It surged 53.8% from 2020 to 4.29 billion USD in 2021 and reached 4.5 billion USD in 2022.
In addition, Belgium has not only actively promoted the signing and ratification of the EU – Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) but has also taken the lead in implementing the EVFTA for the sake of both sides as well as the common interests of Vietnam and the EU. It also ratified the EU – Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA) early. These factors have given an important impetus to Vietnam’s relations with the EU and Belgium.
Regarding investment, the two countries signed an investment promotion and protection agreement on January 24, 1991. As of February 2023, Belgium had 87 valid investment projects worth more than 1.1 billion USD in Vietnam, mainly in logistics and infrastructure development – two fields that are the strength of Belgium. This ranks Belgium 23rd among 142 countries and territories and sixth among 25 EU members investing in Vietnam.
Another highlight of bilateral relations is cooperation in education and scientific research. Since 2003, the Belgian Government has granted about 40 scholarships for Vietnamese students in post-graduate training courses each year. It has also provided some 2 million EUR (2.1 million USD) in aid for education and training via cooperation programmes between the two sides’ universities and research institutes.
Operating in Vietnam for over 25 years, the Solvay Brussels School of Economics and Management has become a reputable and high-quality establishment of postgraduate training in economic and public management. In recent years, Belgium has become one of the five EU countries with the largest number of Vietnamese undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Besides, both countries have been cooperating closely in science and technology, transport, and defence-security while expanding ties in the settlement of global issues, especially climate change and non-traditional security challenges.
Cultural ties have also flourished with art troupe exchanges, exhibitions, and film weeks held frequently in both countries, including regions and localities of Belgium.
People-to-people exchanges have also been bolstered partly thanks to contributions by people’s organisations such as the Vietnam – Belgium and Belgium – Vietnam friendship associations and the Belgian – Vietnamese Alliance./.