Egypt-Vietnam: Exploring new paths for cooperation

Update: 10:36 | 24/09/2019
TGVN. According to Egyptian Ambassador to Vietnam Mahmoud Hassan Nayel, the “Meet Ambassadors from the Middle East and Africa 2019” may act as a starting point for Vietnam and Egypt to explore new and more efficient tracks of economic cooperation.
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Egyptian Ambassador to Vietnam Mahmoud Hassan Nayel.

Your Excellency, could you share with our readers your experiences when attending the recent event “Meet Ambassadors from the Middle East and Africa 2019” hosted by the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on September 9th?

I was pleased to participate in the “Meet Ambassadors from the Middle East and Africa 2019”, and I would like to congratulate the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on successfully organizing such an important event. It reflected the genuine desire of Vietnam to build a sustainable partnership with the Middle East and Africa, based on mutual respect, shared responsibilities, and comprehensive understanding of each other’s capabilities, needs, and priorities.

It was also a good opportunity to meet my colleagues the non-resident ambassadors who came to Ha Noi to participate in the conference, and as a resident ambassador, me and my fellow resident Heads of Missions had a lot to share with them about our experience in Ha Noi. We also met some representatives of the Vietnamese business community, which is one important step to build a future network and work together to overcome the challenges that might be facing our mutual efforts to boost bilateral ties with Vietnam in trade and investment.

In order to realize these efforts, what do you think both countries should do, Your Excellency?

The event laid down the guidelines to formulate a comprehensive vision for cooperation and drew the attention to the sincere efforts exerted by both sides to boost their political, economic and trade ties. With that in mind, I believe that deeper work on the level of experts and business people is still required to construct an operational plan that can tackle all details and spotlight the most benefiting opportunities of cooperation for both sides.

The field visits that were organized for the participants on the second day of the conference were very useful in the sense that they gave an insight into what Vietnam is capable and willing to offer in a framework of mutually beneficial partnership. One of the major issues to keep in mind is the necessity of the deep analysis of the economic structures on the two sides. Africa is a huge and wealth continent, with significant climate, social, economic, and political variations among its regions and countries, and the same applies to the Middle East. While seeing the big picture, our partners also need to focus on the similarities and differences with each individual region to locate the comparative advantages.

egypt vietnam exploring new paths for cooperation
Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Deputy Foreign Minister Nguyen Quoc Cuong with Middle Eastern and African ambassadors.

From our perspectives, the event could serve as a big push in Vietnam - Egypt bilateral relations. Do you agree?

Diplomatic relations between Egypt and Vietnam were established 56 years ago. During those years, the two countries have enjoyed friendly and cordial relations built on a solid foundation of mutual understanding and respect for each nation’s conditions and priorities. Egypt and Vietnam also share views, stances, and positions on many global issues, and that is why we have a distinguished level of coordination and a remarkable exchange of support in international organizations and multilateral fora.

People to people relations continue to thrive with the recent organization of several youth and cultural events to further enhance the ties between the young generations of the two friendly nations. The total volume of trade between the two countries did not exceed 475 million USD in 2018, with about 25% increase compared to 2017. Although it does not reflect the two nations’ potentials, it represents a solid foundation to build upon and reach the targeted one billion USD bilateral trade volume in the next few years. “Meet Ambassadors from the Middle East and Africa 2019” can serve as a starting point to explore new and more efficient tracks of economic cooperation, and the Egyptian embassy in Ha Noi is always working to facilitate communication between the two sides.

Exploring new and more efficient tracks of economic cooperation like you said, we are bound to experience some obstacles along the way. Can you list some challenges that Vietnamese enterprises face when entering the Egyptian market and vice versa?

Addressing the challenges facing business communities from Egypt and Vietnam is a necessity if we are to build a successful and fruitful trade partnership. There are natural difficulties related to geographical distance and language barriers. Putting more Investments in air and sea routes of transportation, and designing tailored communication programs for representatives of business communities from the two sides to serve practical purposes can contribute to the facilitation of bilateral trade.

If we think of more policy related challenges, we can see that a large portion of Vietnam’s sea trade goes through Suez Canal, however, direct shipping routes between Egyptian and Vietnamese ports are not established. In addition, pricing of agricultural products might affect the trade map in a global and competitive market. For instance, when Egypt and Vietnam signed a Memorandum of Understanding on rice export in 2018, there were high expectations for its implementation, but the prices offered by the Vietnamese exporting companies were reported very high compared to the competitors in the same tenders and under the same quality requirements.

Furthermore, adopting high standards of quality and safety measures should be taken into consideration as a factor that might slow down bilateral trade but for good reasons. Over the past few years, Egypt has been constantly raising the standards for imported products of all kinds, and health and agricultural quarantine authorities are applying stringent regulations on food safety before approving imports from any country. Vietnamese authorities on the other hand adopt similar measures, and we have been going through long technical journey to open the Vietnamese markets for some Egyptian agricultural products like citruses and grapes.

From my point of view, establishing a permanent joint business council can serve as an efficient tool to bring together business people and commerce chambers representatives from both countries on regular basis, and facilitate the communication between experts from both sides. We have discussed this proposal with Vietnamese officials on previous occasions, and we wish to continue working on it until we crystallize a shared vision for its implementation to ensure its effectiveness under governmental supervision, and to guarantee that all stakeholders are involved and capable of performing their duties for the benefit and prosperity of the nations.

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(TGVN)