Vietnam and Bangladesh share many similarities in economic, cultural and social background, and are located at two vital locations in South East Asia and South Asia respectively, and are the bridge between the Asia-Pacific and the South Asia-Indian Ocean regions. Both countries have great potentials to strengthen cooperation for mutual benefits. However, the question is: how do we explore these opportunities and translate them into reality?
Vietnam and Bangladesh enjoy an excellent traditional friendship on the basis of historical similarities and the shared values of independence, peace, cooperation and development. In the past, our two countries have always expressed solidarity and mutual support. Vietnam was among the first countries to recognise the independence of the People's Republic of Bangladesh as early as in 1971. Bangladesh was also one of the first Asian countries to recognise and establish diplomatic relations with the Provisional Revolutionary Government of the Republic of South Vietnam immediately following the signing of the Paris Peace Accords. Throughout 45 years of diplomatic relations, the leaders and people of our two countries have always cherished and preserved this precious tradition for strengthening cooperation so as to advance our bilateral relations.
In recent years, bilateral relations have witnessed major developments, especially in the field of trade and investment. Bilateral trade turnover in 2017 saw dramatic growth, reaching USD 924 million, a 57 percent year-on increase. It is the highest ever trade value between the two countries so far. But the trade balance is still in favour of Vietnam. Vietnam's export to Bangladesh in 2017 was valued at USD 869 million, whereas Bangladesh's export value to Vietnam was only USD 55 million. The main export product of Vietnam to Bangladesh is clinker and cement, followed by rice. Meanwhile, pharmaceuticals are Bangladesh's main export item to Vietnam.
According to the statistics of Vietnam's Ministry of Planning and Investment, as of July 2018, Bangladesh has been investing in four projects in the field of logistics and transportation in Vietnam with the total registered capital of USD 615,075. Meanwhile, Vietnam has been investing in one project in Bangladesh in the field of cosmetics and pharmaceuticals distribution with the total registered capital of USD 120,000. However, both countries have much room to further promote trade and investment. To tap into such potentials, during the State visit of Vietnam's President to Bangladesh in March 2018, a Business Forum was organised with the aim to create a platform for businesses of the two countries to meet, discuss and establish partnership. In addition, two government-to-government Memorandums of Understanding (MoU) on cooperation in the field of fisheries and livestock, and machinery manufacturing and several business-to-business MoUs on various fields were signed during the state visit.
While we are competing in a few areas, there are also complimentary ones between our economies where we could cooperate and further strengthen trade and investment relations. Scopes of cooperation also exist in agriculture, pharmaceutical, small and medium manufacturing sectors. We need to identify the complementarities in these sectors, exchange knowledge and expertise and avail opportunities in the global market for the benefit of both the countries.
On economic, trade and investment cooperation, the two countries can work towards furthering the growth of two-way trade and investment. We should enable trade in the commodities in which each side has an advantage, remove trade barriers and enable the business community to strengthen engagement, information sharing and market connectivity. Air connectivity is also a possible area to promote the flow of investment, trade and tourism. Vietnam hopes to strengthen investment in Bangladesh, especially in such potential areas for cooperation as telecommunication, information technology, agriculture, food processing, textile, oil and gas, consumer goods, infrastructure development and services.
On agriculture, animal husbandry and aquaculture, the two countries should continue to strengthen complementary cooperation. The two sides should look into forming joint ventures, associations, production chains, and apply advanced technology in cultivation and husbandry, production and preservation to generate greater export value.
Both Vietnam and Bangladesh are nations with a long history and endowed with many cultural heritages. Both also have favourable geography, young populations and potential markets, and are success stories in poverty reduction, promotion of social equality and justice and sustained economic growth. Throughout 45 years of diplomatic relations, the leaders and people of our two countries have always made great efforts to strengthen and advance our bilateral relations. The visit of the President of Vietnam Tran Dai Quang also marked the occasion. This visit was indicative of Vietnam's interest to enhance friendship and cooperation with Bangladesh. On such solid foundations, our two countries' competent authorities need to tap into potentials and strengths of each country in seeking suitable measures to expand, enhance and deepen our bilateral relations, so as to live up to the aspirations and interests of our two countries' leaders and peoples.
Tran Van Khoa is the Ambassador of Vietnam to Bangladesh.