The bilateral relationship between Vietnam and Bangladesh is excellent and both countries are looking at the same future of mutual cooperation and development, says Ambassador Pham Viet Chien.

"I see a huge potential of cooperation between the two countries in the economic field ... I'd like to improve and strengthen the economic relationship and people to people tie," he said, in an interview with our sister newsagency UNB.

Apart from bilateral ties, political relations are good between the two governments and the ruling parties, he noted.

"Vietnam and Bangladesh share the same vision of development," he said, adding that Vietnam targets becoming a developed country by 2045 and Bangladesh has vision 2041 to become a developed nation by then. "We share the vision and are looking at the same future," the ambassador said.

Giving Bangladesh-Vietnam bilateral trade a boost

Bangladesh-Vietnam bilateral trade relations are still small but are growing in a positive direction. Vietnamese exports to Bangladesh mainly consist of items such as fabric, plastic products, rattan products, bamboo products, seagrass rugs, rubber, computers, electronic products, wooden products, ceramic, and porcelain, according to the website of Vietnamese Embassy.

Bangladesh's exports to Vietnam, on the other hand, include pharmaceuticals, fabrics, textile raw materials, leather, fibre types, machinery, appliances and parts, electronic components, and fertiliser.

"It's one of my most important tasks to encourage Vietnamese businesses to come to Bangladesh to do business here. And, on the other hand, I would like to invite Bangladeshi businesses to come to Vietnam to find opportunities of business and profit there," Ambassador Viet Chien said.

In December 2019, the two countries held the second meeting of the Joint Trade Committee where they discussed ways to double the bilateral trade volume from around $1 billion to $2 billion by 2021.

Bangladesh and Vietnam also discussed trade and investment issues and identified 11 priority areas, including agricultural trade and pharmaceutical exports from Bangladesh to Vietnam. "I encourage Vietnamese businesses to come here because I see much potential ... to do business together," the ambassador said.

Agriculture cooperation

Ambassador Viet Chien said he sees agriculture as one of the most potential areas of cooperation. "I think there's much potential to cooperate to develop agriculture and agricultural production," he said.

Since 2017, Vietnam has remained the number one hub of cashew processing and export in the world, accounting for over 50 percent of processed raw cashews in the world. Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Vietnam exported over 422,000 tonnes of cashew kernels in the first 10 months of last year, according to Vietnam Cashew Association.

Bangladesh produced about 1,323 tonnes of cashew in the 2019-20 fiscal, according to the agriculture ministry. But the demand for cashew is estimated to be 50,000 tonnes, which means, the country has to rely heavily on imports.

Ambassador Viet Chien said he has received some proposals from Bangladeshi businesses to plant cashew in the Chittagong Hill Tracts region.

"I think we can cooperate with each other. We can share ideas, experience and vision of development in this sphere, in this field," he said.

Manpower training

The ambassador identified manpower as one of the key areas of cooperation. He noted that in terms of manpower, Vietnam and Bangladesh are the same. "The country is open and so is the market. We need markets to send Vietnamese people to work abroad and Bangladesh also [needs manpower markets]," he said.

Ambassador Viet Chien noted that the movement of manpower is two-way. "We need new techniques and new skills and I think we have a very big potential to cooperate in training," he said.

Covid-19: Bangladesh moving towards right direction

Vietnam is among nations that have successfully contained the coronavirus outbreak. Until February 4, the country has recorded 1,911 cases with just 35 deaths thanks to its policy of tracing, testing, and treating.

Bangladesh reported its first cases on March 8 and first Covid-19-related death on March 18. Until Feb 3, the country registered 536,545 cases and 8,162 fatalities. The country is now vaccinating its people with the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine and expects the situation to improve rapidly.

Ambassador Viet Chien appreciated the country's response.

"I think Bangladesh has done well. Now the number of cases is declining and the economy is doing well," he said. "Under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, the country is moving in the right direction in containing the coronavirus."

Rohingya repatriation

The ambassador lauded Bangladesh's response to the Rohingya crisis. He said the Vietnamese government and the people highly appreciate Bangladesh and its citizens for giving shelter to the Rohingyas fleeing from Myanmar.

Bangladesh is currently hosting more than 1.1 million Rohingyas, most of them came here since August 2017 after the Myanmar military launched a brutal offensive targeting the mainly Muslim ethnic minority.

Bangladesh has been urging the global community to take effective steps to put pressure on Myanmar to create a congenial atmosphere for Rohingya repatriation but there has been little progress so far.

The presence of a huge number of Rohingyas in Bangladesh has put them on a collision course with the locals. Many Rohingyas have got involved in criminal activities. Foreign Minister AK Momen has said the Rohingya population will pose a serious security threat to the entire region if they are not sent back to their homeland as soon as possible.

Ambassador Viet Chien said the Vietnamese government and the people follow the situation of the Rohingyas very closely.

"And we hope the bilateral talk between Bangladesh and Myanmar will result in the repatriation of the Rohingyas to their home in Myanmar. I wish to see the Rohingya repatriation start at the earliest," he said.

The latest military coup in Myanmar has made the next round of talks on Rohingya repatriation apparently uncertain but Bangladesh is optimistic of continuing discussions to send home the forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals.

Bangladesh-Vietnam relations

Bangladesh established diplomatic relations with Vietnam in 1973. Right after independence, Bangladesh supported the Vietnam War against America and condemned the bombing of the North of Vietnam.

Bangladesh was the first country in South Asia, and the second in Asia not under socialist regimes, to have recognised and established diplomatic relations with the ambassadorial level Provisional Revolutionary Government of South Vietnam, according to the Vietnam embassy in Dhaka.

From 1990, relations between the two sides have seen many new developments. On May 11, 1993, Bangladesh set up its embassy in Hanoi and Vietnam reopened theirs in Dhaka from January 1, 2003.

Ambassador Viet Chien spoke highly of Bangladesh and its success. He said he knows Bangladesh, the history of the people of Bangladesh and their struggle for independence in 1971.

He described Bangladesh and its people as Vietnam's "a very good friend in South Asia" and said being appointed the ambassador of Vietnam to Bangladesh is a great honour for him.

Ambassador Viet Chien appreciated the development trajectory Bangladesh is on and said both countries are looking at the same direction and expressed optimism for a lustrous future together.

"I see a very bright future for Bangladesh within five years," he said. "I believe the relationship between the two countries will be better in the very near future, especially in economy."

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