New path in Vietnam-Belgium relations

President of the Belgian Senate Stephanie D'Hose arrived in Hanoi on the morning of August 21, commencing her official visit to Vietnam from August 21-25. The visit is happening at the invitation of Vietnamese National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue.
Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong meets with Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo during his visit to Belgium, January 2013. (Photo: VNA)
Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong meets with Belgian Prime Minister Elio Di Rupo during his visit to Belgium, January 2013. (Photo: VNA)

Taking place on the occasion of the 50-year journey of establishing diplomatic relations and the 5-year strategic partnership in the agricultural sector between Vietnam and Belgium, the visit of the President of the Belgian Senate is an important high-level diplomatic activity that demonstrates the importance of Vietnam-Belgium relations.

The visit will raise the level of cooperation between the two legislative bodies through the signing of a cooperation agreement between the National Assembly of Vietnam and the Senate and the House of Representatives of Belgium, resulting in more effective and practical bilateral parliamentary cooperation.

As one of the developed countries in Western Europe, Belgium ranks 24th in the world and 8th in the European Union (EU) in terms of GDP and is considered a centre of distribution and transshipment of goods in Europe.

As a founding member of the EU, Belgium is a pioneer in the process of building a strong and unified EU. Within the Asia-Pacific region, Belgium maintains relatively even relations with other countries. Of which, in Southeast Asia, Belgium attaches importance to relations with Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines.

Belgium is one of the Western European countries that quickly recognised and officially established relations with Vietnam. Since the two countries established diplomatic relations in 1973, the Government and people of Belgium have given Vietnam valuable attention through aid projects and have actively supported Vietnam in carrying out the Doi Moi (Renewal).

The time-honoured friendship and fine cooperation between the two countries are on a positive development track. The two sides maintained delegation exchanges and high-level contact even during the COVID-19 epidemic. Vietnam and Belgium have conducted four rotating political consultations at the deputy foreign minister level from 2013 to present.

The two countries also cooperate effectively at multilateral forums such as the United Nations, ASEM, and ASEAN, as well as in Mekong sub-regional cooperation, and they are both members of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2023-2025 term.

Parliamentary relations between Vietnam and Belgium have been developed at all levels and achieved many positive results through high-level visits, meetings, and contacts between parliamentarians as well as coordination on multilateral parliamentary forums.

During the period of the COVID-19 pandemic, the working visit to Belgium by National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue in September 2021 deepened the relationship between the two countries and their parliaments.

During the working sessions, the two sides shared common perceptions about the great and extensive cooperation potential in the bilateral relationship, in which Belgium announced to support Vietnam with many vaccines, medical equipment and test kits, as well as expressed solidarity with Vietnam in fighting the epidemic.

Overcoming the unpredictable fluctuations of the world economic situation, trade cooperation between Vietnam and Belgium has seen continuous development in recent years and achieved many good results. Belgium is currently the 6th largest trading partner of Vietnam in the EU.

Prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, bilateral trade had always maintained a growth rate of 6-10% per year. In 2022, two-way trade reached 4.73 billion USD.

Regarding FDI investment, as of March 2023, Belgium has 87 valid investment projects in Vietnam with a total registered capital of 1.1 billion USD, ranking 23rd among countries and territories that are developing FDI investment in Vietnam. Vietnam has four investment projects in Belgium in the field of processing and manufacturing industry, with a total value of 12.6 million USD.

Regarding development cooperation, Belgium has provided 300 million USD in development aid to Vietnam, focusing on the areas of clean water, waste treatment, institutional strengthening, agriculture and rural development, healthcare, and education, thus supporting Vietnam firmly in the process of socio-economic development.

The agricultural sector is one of the highlights in the cooperation between the two countries. Belgium is the destination of many Vietnamese agricultural products, especially seafood and coffee.

Currently, the two sides are cooperating in technical cooperation between agricultural research schools and institutes; developing a waterway logistics system for exporting agricultural products from Vietnam to Europe; promoting the deployment of smart cold logistics chain, and cooperating in developing cocoa industry and food safety.

The official visit to Vietnam by President of the Belgian Senate Stephanie D'Hose aims to affirm Vietnam's consistent policy of always attaching importance to the friendship and multifaceted cooperation between the two countries and the two legislative bodies; expressing the desire to promote bilateral cooperation in economics, trade, investment, agriculture, development, education, science, and technology.

On the basis of the fine relationship that generations of leaders and people of the two countries have worked hard to cultivate over the past half century, the visit will make an important contribution to opening a new stage in cooperation between Vietnam and Belgium in the near future.