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Oct 13, 2019 / 09:54

Vietnam and Spain: not an ephemeral relationship

The bilateral ties of more than four decades have been enhanced by efforts from both sides.

Vietnam and Spain have experienced a relationship of more than four decades and the ties become stronger with cooperation in many fields regardless of politics or economics. 
 
Vietnamese and Spanish foreign ministers vow to forge ties. Photo: MOFA
Vietnamese and Spanish foreign ministers vow to forge ties. Photo: MOFA

Since Spain opened embassy in Vietnam in 1997 and Vietnam’s set up in Madrid in 2002, the relationship has been strengthened, mostly after the two countries’ leaders agreed in 2009 to enhance the relation status to “strategic partnership toward the future”. 

On the 35th anniversary of the bilateral ties in 2012, the multifaceted relations were greatly enhanced and it was renewed on the 40th anniversary in 2017 with the visit Vietnam’s Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh, who was accompanied by a large business delegation. 

Politics


The two countries have exchanged a series of high-ranking visits over the past decade led by King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia, Vice Prime Minister Maria Teresa Fernandez de la Vega, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Cooperation José Manuel García-Margallo, Senate Vice President Juan José Lucas among others; and those from the Vietnamese side include President Nguyen Minh Triet, Prime Minister Phan Van Khai, Chairwoman of National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan, Deputy Defense Minister Nguyen Chi Vinh, Foreign Ministers Nguyen Dy Nien and Nguyen Manh Cam.

The Political Consultancy at Deputy Foreign Minister level and the Joint Committee and Financial Program have been held annually for the past decade. 

In international forums, the two countries support each other in a number of organizations and councils namely the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Human Rights Council, the UN Joint Inspection Unit (JIU), the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), and the UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC). 

Among the issues, Spain supports Vietnam’s stance in settling the South China Sea disputes in peaceful manners and advocates free maritime and air navigation in the sea. 

 
Spanish Ambassador to Vietnam María Jesús Figa and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in 2017. Photo: VGP
Spanish Ambassador to Vietnam María Jesús Figa and Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in 2017. Photo: VGP

Spanish Ambassador to Vietnam María Jesús Figa when beginning her term in Vietnam in 2017 vowed to lift the Vietnam-Spain relationship to a new height with a focus on economics ties through trade.   

At a meeting with Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc in September 2017, the ambassador proposed the building of action plans for the upcoming cooperation, mainly in infrastructure, renewable energy, environment and hi-tech agriculture. 

Economics 

Spain is one of European countries having high trade growth rate with Vietnam, ranging between 18% and 20% annually over the past few years. 

 
Vietnam-Spain trade turnover in 2009-2017. Photo: Linh Pham
Vietnam-Spain trade turnover in 2009-2017. Source: MOFA. Chart: Linh Pham

Vietnam is Spain’s key trading partner in Southeast Asia. The two-way trade is expected to exceed US$5 billion in 2020. 

The economic ties would be broader with the upcoming establishment of the Joint Governmental Committee for economics, trade and investment which will complete regulatory framework for the cooperation in different fields. 

In terms of trade, logistics is one of the key sectors promoting the two-way trade. Over the past years, goods has been shipped to Spain through Barcelona port and from this port to 18 ports in Vietnam. 

Currently, Barcelona port receives more than 30% of Vietnam’s goods to Spain. Sea freight will be fruitful thanks to Vietnam’s action plans for logistics development by 2025 and Vietnam’s logistic growth rate of 15%-20% annually. 

Electronics, machines, coffee, seafood, garment, footwear and furniture are Vietnam’s main staples to Spain over the past years. 

 
Vietnamese Ambassador to Spain Ngo Tien Dung. Photo: Thediplomatinspain
Vietnamese Ambassador to Spain Ngo Tien Dung. Photo: Thediplomatinspain

Vietnamese Ambassador to Spain Ngo Tien Dung said the Spanish government has spent more than US$300 million worth of official development assistance (ODA) in bilateral and multilateral projects on Vietnam over past 10 years and roughly US$350 million worth of ODA to infrastructure projects in the Southeast Asian country. 

Dung said that the economic ties would be bolstered for several reasons, including Spain’s shift to Asia-Pacific thanks to the region’s dynamic development over the years; Spain’s developed industries are suitable with Vietnam’s modernization process; common interests in international and regional forums namely WTO, ASEM, ASEAN-EU. 

Spanish companies of the sectors of tourism, renewable energy or infrastructures, just to mention a few, can make a significant profit in Vietnam, Dung told the Diplomat in Spain. 

Meanwhile, Emilio Sanz, head of Barcelona Customs Representation and Logistics (ATEIA), believed that Vietnam would be the favorite destination for Spanish investors thanks to the country’s high economic growth, a population of nearly 100 million and political stability. 

The enforcement of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) which exempts 65% of duties for goods into Vietnam and 31% tariffs from Vietnam would spur the bilateral trade, Emilio Sanz added. 

Notably, cooperation in socio-culture and tourism has been broader with more Vietnamese visitors coming to Spain and vice versa. In 2017, Vietnam welcomed more than 70,000 Spanish visitors. 

It can be said that the Vietnam-Spain relationship is not ephemeral as called by Alberto Rubio, Editor in Chief of The Diplomat in Spain. 

The relationship will open the door to investments and trade even more in an area that Spain always wants to reach, Alberto Rubio affirmed.