Vietnamese Ambassador to India Ton Sinh Thanh made the remarks at the international conference “India-Vietnam: Strengthening Economic Ties” in New Delhi on July 26-27.
The Vietnamese diplomat regarded economic cooperation as one of the five pillars of the Vietnam-India Comprehensive Strategic Partnership which was established during the Vietnam visit by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2016.
During the India visit by President Tran Dai Quang and Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc earlier this year, the two countries’ leaders also showed their determination to further strengthen bilateral economic relations towards a two-way trade target of US$15 billion by 2020, Thanh said.
He is highly optimistic about the target to be achieved for the three following reasons. First, strongly political foundation between the two countries facilitates the expansion of economic ties. Second, they have recorded robust economic growth in recent times, thereby providing plentiful opportunities for stronger economic cooperation.
Finally, bilateral economic ties have been grown rapidly over the past few years with bilateral trade rising to US$7.7 billion in 2017, up 12% from a year earlier. In the first half of 2018, the trade value expanded by 48% year-on-year to US$5.44 billion and, if this trend is maintained, the figure is likely to touch the US$11 billion mark by the end of this year, the Ambassador noted.
In terms of investment, there was also an impressive growth in foreign direct investment (FDI) from India flowing into Vietnam as Indian investors have poured roughly US$876 million into 190 projects in the Southeast Asian nation, a year-on-year rise of 29% in the six months leading up to June.
On tourism, Indian travellers to Vietnam have posted an average of 17% year-on-year since 2010. Around 150,000 Indian tourists are destined to visit Vietnam and approximately 70,000 Vietnamese will travel to India this year. During the 2016- 2017 period, this number has grown by 30%, from 85,000 to 110,000.
Of the 22 million Indian people travelling abroad last year, 3.5 million visited Southeast Asia but only 110,000 came to Vietnam. Meanwhile, Indian visitors to Thailand amounted to 1.6 million, he said.
Thanh hoped that this seminar would give in-depth analysis helping Vietnam and India to promote bilateral trade, investment and tourism, thereby becoming larger partners of each other in economic development.
However, the Vietnamese ambassador stated that many opportunities for economic cooperation have yet to be fully tapped, citing the fact that two-way trade remains modest when compared to Vietnam’s total foreign trade at US$425 billion and India’s US$781 billion last year. The figure accounted for below 10% of trade between India and ASEAN state members.
Thanh said he hopes that the conference will provide insights to help Vietnam and India to promote their bilateral ties in trade, investment, and tourism in future.
Minister of State for External Affairs V. K. Singh, for his part, said the two countries boast huge potential to expand cooperation on pharmaceuticals, health care, petroleum, renewable energy, agriculture, tourism, textile and garments, leather, and mining.
Minister of Commerce and Industry Suresh Prabhu highlighted Vietnam as one of the fastest growing economies in ASEAN and as a bridge connecting India with other member countries of the regional bloc. India attaches a high value on cultural and religious similarities between the two countries. He said that the Act East Policy initiated by Prime Minister Modi has opened doors for exploiting the two countries' great potential to stimulate their growth.
Both countries have extensive economic relations in the field of oil and gas exploration, agriculture, manufacturing, defense, and service - a field that is seen as a new growth driver in global trade.
Discussions at the conference were also concentrated on topics, including: “India-Vietnam Bilateral Trade: Issues and Prospects”, “Infrastructure and Development Partnership between India and Vietnam”, “Energy Cooperation between India and Vietnam”, “Exploring India-Vietnam Economic Realities and Business Culture”, “Improvement in India-Vietnam Regional Value Chain”, “Made-in-India Scheme and Opportunities for Vietnam”, and “India-Vietnam Economic Cooperation in the Context of Trade Agreements and Partnerships”.
The workshop was co-hosted by the Vietnamese Embassy in India and the Centre for Vietnamese Studies in India, and the Nehru Memorial Museum and Library, with Indian Minister of Commerce and Industry Shri Suresh Prabhu and Minister of State for External Affairs V. K. Singh in attendance.