Ambassador: Vietnam – Greece trade potential is huge!

Update: 19:45 | 04/07/2018
On the occasion of the official visit to Greece by Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and his spouse (1-2 July), Greek Ambassador to Vietnam Ioannis Raptakis spoke with The World and Vietnam Report on the grand potentials of bilateral relations between the two countries.
TIN LIÊN QUAN
greek ambassador vietnam greece trade potential is huge Deputy PM Pham Binh Minh receives Greek ambassador
greek ambassador vietnam greece trade potential is huge President Tran Dai Quang welcomes newly-accredited ambassadors

Your Excellency, can you point out some of the highlights of the Vietnam – Greece relations over the past few years as well as the prospect of this relationship in the coming time?

We have a really friendly relationship and it’s growing day by day. Both Vietnam and Greece are very close and supportive of each other in regional and international forums. It has been nearly 45 years since the two countries established diplomatic relations (15 April, 1975). Although we had some setbacks during 2007 to 2017, in February 2017, Greek Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias paid an official visit to Vietnam, which was the first step to strengthen the relations between the two countries.

greek ambassador vietnam greece trade potential is huge
Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and Greek Ambassador to Vietnam Ioannis Raptakis. (Photo: Tuan Anh)

However, after the Foreign Minister’s visit, our two countries have not had much exchange of official visits. But there is one special event that I’d like to highlight. It is the visit to Greece carried out by Politburo Member, Secretary of the Party Central Committee, Head of the Central Propaganda Department Vo Van Thuong. He met with Greek officials and made an important interview with one of the biggest newspaper of Greece, presenting Vietnam to the Greek people.

We have and will always support each other in regional and international multilateral forums. Greece also endorses Vietnam’s entry into the UN Security Council as a non-permanent member.

Moreover, Deputy Prime Minister, Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh’s visit is at a very appropriate time for Vietnam and Greece to deepen the already close relationship and find new directions for the next stage of development.

Vietnam and Greece share a number of similarities in history and we both have a long-standing culture. Both are small countries which had to fight against invaders to achieve peace and independence. What do you think about the similarities of the two countries?

Just like Vietnam, Greece also had experienced a period of 400 years to regain independence. But that is not the only thing that we have in common. As far as I know, when Vietnamese children start to go to school, they have already known about Greek mythology. That is one of the things that surprises me the most about the cultural intersection between the two countries. Accordingly, the Greek government also wants to grant more scholarships for Vietnamese students to study Greek language in Athens. This can help to promote cultural and people-to-people diplomacy between the two countries.

greek ambassador vietnam greece trade potential is huge
Greek Ambassador to Vietnam Ioannis E. Raptakis. (Photo: Quang Dao)

The trade turnover between Vietnam and Greece in recent years has seen a progressive growth, bilateral trade has always exceeded 20% in the last five years. What should the two countries focus on to promote trade relations between them?

Vietnam and Greece are seeing great potential in developing their trade relations, despite the fact that the bilateral trade is not high (239 million USD in 2016). What we need to do is to increase the number of political exchanges and high-level visits. In addition, Vietnam and Greece currently have two pending agreements, namely the Maritime and the Double Taxation Agreement, which will help facilitate trade between the two countries.

Besides, Vietnam and the European Union (EU) are moving towards signing and ratifying the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA). I hope that the EVFTA will be ratified by the end of this year. This is the most ambitious and comprehensive agreement the EU has made with a developing country like Vietnam. Once it comes into operation, the FTA will be the EU’s new standard on how to approach a rising economy. On the Vietnamese side, you are demonstrating the dynamism of international integration for the national prosperity.

There are several areas to be promoted when FTAs are ratified, such as phytosanitary and agriculture. Import and export of agricultural products between the two sides will be very favorable as Vietnam has the opportunity to export agricultural commodities to all countries in the EU.

Maritime cooperation is the most potential sector since Greece owns the largest merchant fleet in the world. If the Maritime Agreement is implemented, it will become a major driving force in boosting economic ties between the two countries.

Another sector that we need to promote more is tourism. Both Vietnam and Greece are having strong economic growth and therefore, Vietnamese people have more chances to travel to countries outside the South East Asia area. In 2017, we have recorded about 100.000 EU visas given to Vietnamese citizens.

greek ambassador vietnam greece trade potential is huge
Ambassador Raptakis at the interview with The World & Vietnam Report. (Photo: Nguyen Linh)

Vietnam has now become a very attractive destination for Greek people. However, there are no direct flights connecting Vietnam and Greece, and visa applications are the reasons why Greeks don’t have much access to your country. However, Greece is trying to get involved in the Vietnamese government’s visa exemption project as tourists from the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy don’t need visa to visit Vietnam for 15 days. We believe that the number of Greeks travels to Vietnam will increase significantly once this is done.

You started your term in October 2017. Have you got the chance to visit Vietnam previously?

This is the first time that I’ve been in Vietnam. However, I have known your country through historical stories and books. Also, I always love to travel to the north of Greece, to Edessa, a city with many famous tourist attractions and home of Alexander the Great. I have learned a lot of Vietnamese history through this city. In the First World War, President Ho Chi Minh spent some time working in Edessa. Right now, the city administration is researching the construction of a Ho Chi Minh monument and a park named after him in the city.

I have quite a number of Vietnamese friends living and working throughout Europe. I have the chance to hear about a country with a culture that spans thousands of years, landscape with series of historical stories behind, majestic mountains, enchanting beaches, … so coming to Vietnam is really a dream come true for me. My greatest desire is to travel through Vietnam by motorbike and enjoy the beauty of your country.

Thank you, Your Excellency!

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Duy Quang

(TGVN)