This is the remark of Finnish Ambassador to Vietnam Pekka Hyvonen during the New Year talk with Vietnam Business Forum reporter Nguyen Mai about economic and cultural cooperation relations between the two countries.
Could you talk about your feeling about Vietnamese land and people?
From the first moment I came to Vietnam and contacted Vietnamese people, I felt their positive attitude. Vietnamese people are very enthusiastic, friendly, good at business and very hardworking. I had the opportunity to visit remote mountainous areas where living conditions and facilities were very poor, but they were still very happy. Vietnamese people are always happy with today in spite of leading a hard life and are very optimistic about a better tomorrow. Personally, I am very glad when Vietnam has improved its competitiveness following its access to the World Trade Organisation (WTO). However, there are still many areas and aspects Vietnam needs to develop and improve to enhance its competitiveness, reduce bureaucratic and administrative problems, fight against corruption, and particularly, continue with administrative reform and privatisation of State-owned enterprises.
What major results have the diplomatic and trade relations Finland and Vietnam achieved in recent years?
Vietnam and Finland have established a good relationship for a long time, from State-level programmes to business projects. 2010 was considered a very special year in the Vietnam – Finland relationship as Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet paid the first State-level official visit to Finland. This is regarded as the most significant achievement in the diplomatic relations.
In addition, to create favourable conditions for businesses of the two nations to exchange, meet and implement investment and trade projects, Finland also collaborates with the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI) to hold business forums in both nations. Besides, many high-level delegations of Finland and Vietnam have paid shuttle visits.
On trade relations, the two-way trade turnover reached approximately EUR170 million. Finland has supported Vietnam in many fields like clean water, forestry and poverty reduction. Since the 1980s, Finland has helped Vietnam with water supply programmes for hundreds of small towns. Furthermore, Finland also transferred know-how and technology to Vietnam. Over the past more than 20 years, Finland supported Vietnam to increase forest coverage to 38 percent, and to 42 percent in the near future.
In addition, Finland has bilateral cooperation on poverty reduction programmes with Thua Thien Hue and Quang Tri provinces, and is now coordinating with the Government of Vietnam to carry out Programme 135 which focuses on reducing poverty in northern mountainous provinces.
This programme has been carried out over eight years and, according to investors, it is very successful. One fundamental accomplishment of Programme 135 is an upgraded infrastructure system. During my working visits to beneficiary provinces, I saw better roads, schools and hospitals thanks to Programme 135. I think Vietnam’s development is very positive and the poverty rate has dropped sharply.
Based on the above achievements, would you please talk about the cooperation plan with Vietnam?
We are working on organizing the visits of Vietnamese Prime Minister and high-level delegations to Finland in 2011. At the same time we are strengthening existing networks of Vietnamese and Finnish ministries, State and private organisations, enterprises, social organisations and other concerned parties. The both sides are trying to expand cooperation in new fields in addition to traditional ones.
Apart from ODA grants, Finland supports Vietnam with clean technology. Finland is actively coordinating with Vietnam to implement, maintain and apply clean technology for Vietnamese manufacturers. In the coming time, EuroCham may host a workshop on clean technology in Ho Chi Minh City. At present, environmental issues are a special concern of Vietnamese people. The more industrialisation advances, the more efforts Vietnam needs to maintain growth and meet environmental requirements. Hence, Finland will cooperate with Vietnam in this aspect to maintain environmental sustainability.
Besides, in the future, Finland will provide special assistance for the ACB programme of developing creative objects in all aspects because Vietnam has many unique initiatives. Many Finnish companies and investors are taking an interest in the Vietnamese market because of its growing competitiveness and more opportunities for bilateral trade development. These inspire Vietnam and Finland to further high-level cooperation.
Apart from boosting two-way trade, we are considering new investment fields in Vietnam. Besides, we actively organise business forums to promote business and trade cooperation between Vietnam and Finland. We particularly support Vietnam’s export of textiles, garments, footwear, wooden furniture and seafood aquatic products to the EU and Finland, and strengthen bilateral relations by carrying out forestry, information and clean energy projects.