France is the fifth largest economic power and the third largest exporter of services in the world. France has a long tradition of industrial invention, high quality education system, high level researchers, huge investment in research and development, and high labour productivity. As the leading European producer and exporter of agricultural products, France enjoys an annual trade surplus of US$6.6 billion in agricultural products alone.
France carries out a comprehensive foreign policy, acting as a bridge and pioneer in dealing with global issues. The European country also promotes economic diplomacy and boosts French images and products through cultural values, French language, its heritage, tourism and sports. France contributes 10% of the world's total in development aid and ranks fourth in the global donor league table.
Vietnam and France established diplomatic relations in April 1973. Since the late 1980s, France has taken the lead among Western countries in building up their relationship and forgiving debt for Vietnam, helping to settle debts with its creditors who are members of the Paris Club.
The two countries signed a joint statement on the establishment of the Vietnam-France strategic partnership during Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s visit to France in 2013. The positive political relations between the two countries are marked by high-level visits, particularly the visit to Vietnam by French President Francois Hollande in 2016 and the visit to France by Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in March 2018. The two countries have maintained many cooperative mechanisms, notably the annual dialogue on security and defence strategy and the annual high-level dialogue on economy.
It is pleasing to see that the economic cooperation between Vietnam and France is growing well. France is the Europe's fifth largest trading partner of Vietnam with bilateral trade of US$4.6 billion in 2017. Two-way trade volume in the first six months of 2018 reached US$2.3 billion. In 2017, France ranked third among European countries and 16th out of 114 countries and territories investing in Vietnam, with 512 valid investment projects posting a total registered capital of US$2.8 billion. Vietnamese businesses have so far invested in nine projects in France with a total investment capital of over US$3 million.
In terms of development cooperation, France is the leading bilateral official development assistance (ODA) donor for Vietnam, with Vietnam ranking second among Asian countries to receive French ODA, with total pledges of up to US$18.4 billion since 1993. France has so far provided preferential loans of EUR2.2 billion to Vietnam.
Education and training cooperation between the two countries has been established and boosted since the early 1980s. France always considers education and training a priority in its cooperation activities in Vietnam, focusing on French language teaching and human resources training at undergraduate and postgraduate level in various fields, including economics, banking, finance, law, and new technology. Vietnamese students in France have increased by 40% over the past 10 years with more than 7,000 Vietnamese students currently studying in the country.
France also ranks seventh among countries and territories investing in the tourism sector in Vietnam, with 14 projects worth a total US$188 million. Vietnam also identifies France as its key tourist market. The bilateral cooperation in the field of science and technology, security-defence, cooperation between localities, and health has left many imprints. As members of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF), the two countries have implemented many cooperation activities within the OIF.
The Vietnamese community in France, which formed after the First World War, arrived at various times and circumstances. Over 300,000 Vietnamese people are currently living in France, most of whom have French citizenship. Knowledge is the strength of the Vietnamese community in France with about 40,000 Vietnamese holding university or postgraduate degrees. The Vietnamese Association in France has made significant contributions to the struggle for national independence and reunification in the past as well as the current cause of national construction.
The official visit to Vietnam by the French Prime Minister, Eduardo Philippe, aims to further promote the Vietnam-France strategic partnership, while creating favourable conditions for the two countries’ businesses to approach and learn about each other’s market, potential, and demand. May the French Prime Minister's visit to Vietnam be a success, contributing to peace and stability in the region and the world.