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Oct 18, 2023 / 22:08

ASEAN-GCC Summit: New momentum for further relations

The visit also takes on the significance of Vietnam's "Developing relations between Vietnam and Middle Eastern and African countries in the 2016-2025 period" project.

The participation of Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh in the summit of Southeast Asian and Gulf states leaders (ASEAN-Gulf Cooperation Council Summit) would result in motivation for regional cooperation and Vietnam-Saudi Arabia relations. 

 Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh is welcomed in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. Photo: TTXVN

Vietnamese Ambassador to Saudi Arabia Dang Xuan Dung shared his views on the prime minister’s trip from October 18 to 20.

This is the first summit between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), a regional intergovernmental, political, and economic union comprising Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates (UAE), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) that the two groups established relations in 1990.

This is the first gathering of the two regions, which are believed to be mutually supportive in economic relations. This is also Prime Minister Chinh’s first visit to Saudi Arabia since he took office in July 2021 and ahead of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of Vietnam-Saudi Arabia diplomatic relations (in 2024). It takes on greater significance with the implementation of  Vietnam's “Developing relations between Vietnam and Middle Eastern and African countries in the 2016-2025 period” project.

Senior officials accompanying the Prime Minister are Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Hong Dien, Minister of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs Dao Ngoc Dung, Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung, and Vice Ministers of Foreign Affairs, Public Security, Finance, Planning and Investment, Justice, and Agriculture and Rural Development.

According to Ambassador Dang Xuan Dung, the Prime Minister’s visit, which comes at the invitation of Saudi Arabia’s King Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, is the highest-level visit to the Gulf state by a Vietnamese leader since that of Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet in 2010.

Relations between Vietnam and Saudi Arabia have seen remarkable achievements in politics, trade, and tourism as the two countries share some commonalities, such as an increasing role in the regional agendas, open and friendly diplomacy, and people- and business-oriented approaches.

The trip will undoubtedly create new momentum for further relations thanks to a focus on investment and labor with some memoranda of understanding in some fields to be signed.

Furthermore, there will be numerous chances for ministries, branches, and companies on both sides to collaborate and establish meaningful connections, mainly through the bilateral Business Forum and contacts.

“I believe that many new avenues for cooperation will soon open up as a result of the Prime Minister’s visit,” Ambassador Dung said.     

 Vietnam-Saudi Arabia Business Forum opened in Hanoi on September 11, 2023. Photo: Tuan Viet/Baoquocte

He cited the Vietnam-Saudi Arabia Business Forum held in Hanoi in September and attended by nearly 800 leaders of the central and local authorities, businesses, and financial institutes from both sides as an example of growing cooperation. Riyadh brought the biggest-ever business delegation to Vietnam to explore potential partnerships in areas such as tourism, and the export of garments and textiles, handicrafts, furniture, and seafood.

As described by the ambassador, Saudi Arabia is Vietnam’s leading economic partner in the Middle East.

In 2022, the two-way trade rose 32.4% to US$2.7 billion. Vietnam’s main staples were phones and accessories, garment and textile products, timber and woodwork, cashews, machines, and spare parts while importing plastic materials, chemicals, and LNG.

Many large Saudi Arabian companies are operating in Vietnam, including Zamil Steel, the diversified chemical company SABIC, and the Saudi Arabian sovereign wealth fund – Public Investment Fund, which has provided preferential loans for 13 projects worth more than $180 million in Vietnam.

Saudi Arabia is the market for about 5,000 Vietnamese laborers.

Regionally, the ASEAN-GCC Summit is expected to strengthen political and economic ties between the two regions and among nations of both sides.

The GCC, with its huge demand for food and agricultural products, seeks more supply, and ASEAN is a good choice for these staples in addition to labor. Meanwhile, ASEAN countries are in demand for oil, plastics, chemicals, and LNG.

In 2018, Vietnam coordinated the ASEA-GCC relations and co-chaired the ASEAN-GCC Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on the sidelines of the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly.

At present, Vietnam is home to seven projects of Saudi Arabian investors, and two Kuwaiti projects worth a total of more than $3 billion. In contrast, UAE investors have registered to pour $74 million into some projects in the Southeast Asian country.