Vietnam and Finland have enjoyed fine traditional relations of friendship and fruitful cooperation in various fields. Vietnam Business Forum interviewed H.E Mr Kimmo Lähdevirta, Ambassador of Finland to Vietnam, to learn more about the excellent and friendly relations and priority programmes of Finland for Vietnam in 2015. Duy Anh reports.Could you tell us the achievements recorded in Finland – Vietnam relations in 2014?
In 2013 Finland and Vietnam marked the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations. It was a year filled with activities that formed a great base for continued work in 2014. We are very happy with the developments this year, with the visit of our minister for Employment and the Economy, Mr Jan Vapaavuori, to Vietnam in October together with a delegation of Finnish companies. This visit was very successful and a concrete step in the process of developing our bilateral relations in these transition years, when our bilateral development cooperation is being phased out. As we want to make a conscious move towards a mutually beneficial relationship based on increased trade and investments, as well as institutional, scientific, educational and other cooperation, it is of utmost importance to get businesses in both our countries interested in each other. For this aim, Minister Vapaavuori’s visit was very important. The Embassy has also been working actively in Finland to promote Vietnam to Finnish companies. A key event was the “Vietnam Open for Business” seminar organised in Helsinki in March, where interest from Finnish companies was so great that everyone could not even fit into the seminar venue!
This year Finland was also pleased to host Deputy Prime Minister Hoang Trung Hai for a visit in September, a Vietnamese delegation led by Vice Minister Tran Van Tung from the Ministry of Science and Technology attending the important SLUSH innovation event in November, as well as a forestry sector delegation on a benchmarking trip, also in November. We have held bilateral development cooperation consultations in Hanoi in June and hosted a visit of the Finnish Development Policy Committee to Vietnam in October. As for the Embassy’s other activities, this year was important as the Embassy chancery was moved into new facilities in the recently constructed Lotte Centre Hanoi. Investing into a brand new office is another sign of Finland’s continued commitment to working with Vietnam on deepening our relations for the future.
As known, the project “Capacity Building for Sustainable Development, Trade and Export Promotion for Members of Hanoi Women’s Association of Small and Medium Enterprises (HAWASME)” was recently launched in Hanoi. How is the project expected to contribute to promoting Vietnam- Finland cooperation?
We started cooperation with HAWASME already in 2010 with a two year project for capacity building for sustainable development, trade and export promotion for female entrepreneurs, who are one of our targeted groups. In order to sustain what has been achieved, the Embassy of Finland continues to support HAWASME with the current project.
We expect that the project will create favourable conditions for Finnish actors to import products such as garments, footwear, embroidery and handicrafts directly from Vietnamese companies. In addition, by working together, Vietnamese companies can improve their capacity and knowledge in the fields of quality standard control, design of eco-friendly products and product design for the Nordic markets. We also expect that longer term and sustainable partnerships between HAWASME and related Finnish associations and companies will be established and strengthened for sustainable and mutually beneficial trade links.
Furthermore, another project supporting the private sector with a focus on the agricultural sector including fishery and agricultural products was also launched in July 2014. This project, “Strengthen the capacity of Vietnamese enterprises exporting agricultural and fishery products to Finland and the Nordic market”, is being implemented by VCCI with the aim of improving the capacity of processing and export of agricultural products and seafood exporters of Vietnam, and thus strengthening trade and investment relations between Vietnam and Finland and the Nordic region.
We expect that these projects, among others, will contribute to the efforts of easing the so-called bottlenecks confronting small and medium entrepreneurs, and thus to the intensive growth of the Vietnamese private sector.
Could you tell us your priority programmes for Vietnam in 2015?
Our priority continues to be the broadening and deepening of our relationship with Vietnam. As Vietnam, through hard work and commitment, has raised its own development level to a middle income country, the cooperation between our countries has to take new forms. Finland puts very much emphasis on making sure that our excellent and friendly relations continue into the future and are strengthened further, based on more trade and other forms of cooperation. Education is one important field where Finland is eager to cooperate with Vietnam.
Our priorities for 2015 include continuing to promote both countries to the other one as an interesting investment and trade destination, and to help Finnish companies better understand the markets in Vietnam. In this work we also rely on our excellent cooperation with VCCI. And we look forward to 2015 as the year when Vietnam and the European Union sign a free trade agreement, a process that Finland strongly supports.
In 2015 our three bilateral development cooperation programmes also continue full steam ahead. The Water and Sanitation Program for Small Towns (WSPST) continues to bring concrete, needed improvements to many localities in northern Vietnam, and our Forest Management Information System Program (FORMIS) will deploy its highly modern solutions for the management of forest information throughout the country. The Innovation Partnership Program (IPP) is planning a string of very interesting activities linked to sectors like education, digitalization and others. There are great opportunities also for Vietnamese SME’s to get involved in the innovation work with IPP.
What do you think about the Vietnam’s ongoing restructuring of its economy in the period 2011-2015?
Progress so far is quite encouraging. Vietnam and its government deserve much credit for being able to significantly stabilise the macro-economic environment compared to the fairly unstable situation in 2011, with a galloping inflation and volatile exchange rates. Today the stable environment provides a good base for growth, although problems also remain. One of them is the non-performing loans, which still cause problems to many domestic banks’ balance sheets. The setting up of the Vietnam Asset Management Company (VAMC) has been a good step, but its operations need to be enhanced.
Reform of the SOE sector is another very important area, where we feel that plans are good, but implementation too slow. Hopefully there will be significant steps taken in 2015, as laid out by Prime Minister Dung e.g. during the Vietnam Development Partners Forum on 5th December. In order for the economy of Vietnam to work effectively and the private sector to boom as it should, the state owned sector needs to be scaled down.
Apart from these main projects corruption must be tackled on all levels and the business environment significantly improved. At the same time as some good steps have been taken, for example the new enterprise and investment laws, there have been worrying developments in other areas with questionable circulars or decrees issued that have complicated businesses’ ability to work smoothly. We have also been worried about some trends and decisions regarding the development of the energy markets.
Đăng ký: VietNam News