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Sep 19, 2021 / 14:40

Vietnamese President visits Cuba, scientific cooperation in spotlight

The two countries are expected to sign agreements on the biotech sphere and economic cooperation.

State President of Vietnam Nguyen Xuan Phuc has arrived in Havana, beginning an official friendship visit to the Republic of Cuba at the invitation of First Secretary of the Communist Party of Cuba (CPC) Central Committee and President of Cuba Miguel Díaz Canel.

Phuc’s tour is the first high-ranking Vietnamese visit to Cuba after Vietnam’s National Party Congress in February 2021 and he is the first foreign leader visiting Cuba after Havana concluded the 8th Congress of the Communist Party of Cuba in April 2021.

In the first part of the visit, Vietnamese President Phuc will meet Cuban Prime Minister Manuel Marrero, Head of the National Assembly of People’s Power of the largest of the Antilles, Esteban Ribbon, and with Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel, who is expected to award him with the José Martí Order, Cuba’s highest distinction.

Phuc will also pay tribute to the heroes of both peoples Ho Chi Minh and José Martí and visit the tomb of Cuban leader Fidel Castro in the Santa Ifigenia cemetery in Santiago de Cuba Province.

Phuc is scheduled to tour Cuban scientific institutions, meeting with representatives of the Special Development Zone of Mariel and experts of Cuba’s biotech sphere on Monday after he landed in Havana on Sept 18 (local time).

 Vietnam’s President Nguyen Xuan Phuc (R) was welcomed by Cuba's Vice President Salvador Valdés Mesa when landed in Havana on Sept 18 (local time). Photos: VNA

The president will visit the Center for Genetic Engineering and Biotechnology (CIGB) that develops the Abdala Covid-19 vaccine. Vietnam certified Cuba’s homegrown vaccine just one day ahead of its president's visit to Havana.

“Once again, the peoples of Cuba and Vietnam share their scientific-technological achievements,” the CIGB posted on its Twitter account, after the release of news on Vietnam’s approval of Abdala.

Meanwhile, Cuban State-own pharmaceutical company BioCubaFarma said in the same social network that the Vietnamese authorization was given based on “a rigorous evaluation of the record of the Abdalá vaccine.”

At the end of August, Cuban President Miguel Díaz-Canel in a telephone conversation with his Vietnamese counterpart announced Cuba’s commitment to send millions of its Covid-19 vaccines to Hanoi and transfer the production technology.

Vietnam is Cuba’s second trading partner in Asia behind China and among the top 20 globally. The two countries expect to raise trade turnover to US$500 million by 2025, according to Vietnamese media.

Vietnam’s staples to Cuba include rice, coffee, chemical products, electronic elements, textiles, and footwear while importing vaccines and pharmaceuticals.

 Cuban delegation led by President Osvaldo Dorticós Torrado visited Vietnam in 1966.

Friendship ties

Vietnam and Cuba established diplomatic relations in 1960 and since then both countries have maintained a close relationship.

The relationship, which is called “brotherhood” by both countries, is characterized unconditionally with support, loyalty, and the depth of their ties.

In September 1973, Cuban leader Fidel Castro was the first and only foreign leader to visit Vietnam's liberated zone in the South in times of war. Former Ambassador of Vietnam to Cuba Nguyen Trung Thanh said the visit struck the hearts of the Vietnamese, upholding the ideals of solidarity, courage, dignity, and the impetus for bilateral relations.

In 1982, the Cuba-Vietnam Friendship and Cooperation Treaty was signed. In 1996, the two countries signed an agreement on trade and other economic activities.

In 2018, the Cuba-Vietnam Trade Agreement was signed and it took effect in April 2020. One year later, Vietnam adopted the bilateral economic agenda for 2020-2025. In 2020, Hanoi promulgated Vietnam’s Special Preferred Import Tariff for the implementation of the Vietnam-Cuba Trade Agreement for 2020-23.

 Flag raising ceremony in Fidel Castro Park in Vietnam's Quang Tri Province, the place Cuban leader Fidel Castro came in Sept 1973.

Mutual support in Covid-19

According to Global Asia, Vietnam’s friendship with Cuba, exemplified by Covid-19 donations and continued partnership in bettering treatment of infectious diseases. Vietnam has continued to work with Cuba and support the country and receive help from its medical expertise.

Cuba has donated thousands of tons of sugar to Vietnam and trained thousands of Vietnamese engineers, graduates, and technicians, and has collaborated in the fight against Covid-19 in the Southeast Asian nation.

Cuban media reported that solidarity between the two nations has been strengthened in the pandemic. In July 2021, Vietnam sent 12,000 tons of rice to the island and assured that it would accompany the Cuban people side by side, who in the most difficult moments were with that country.

Last July, the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defence delivered medical supplies worth some US$217,000 to the Ministry of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Cuba, and also adopted several important documents of cooperation in the sector, particularly the plan in this regard to the period 2020-2022, which will help strengthen ties in many sectors of mutual interest, according to ACN.

The Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported that Cuba will supply the immunogen, in addition to sending experts to set up production in Vietnam.

The VNA notes that Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh called for intensifying cooperation in clinical trials, expediting the licensing, supply, and transfer of Cuban vaccine production technology against Covid-19.

In the area of health, the two countries signed agreements to develop cooperation in this sector in 2017.