Mr. Francois Guibert, Chairman of the EU-ASEAN Business Council, spoke with VET's Do Huong about the purpose of the visit and its role in promoting trade and business.
This is the first time you have paid an official visit to Vietnam. What is the purpose of the visit?
This is our first visit. We believe it is important for us since I'm in charge of the EU-ASEAN Business Council. We have different European communities in ASEAN countries and different European Chambers of Commerce and Industry in the region. The Business Council is designed as a body to bring those interests together and to deal with issues on a pan-ASEAN level. We see a lot of EU companies coming to Vietnam and we're seeing increasing interest in the country. We will hold meetings over the next year in Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, Indonesia and Cambodia. We want to make sure that we know what the European business community in the region thinks on different positions (trade, foreign direct investment). We need to expand knowledge of ASEAN to the EU and the Trade Commissioner in EU to be sure that the interests of European businesses in the investment and trade with ASEAN are best served.
What role does the EU-ASEAN Business Council play in promoting trade integration and business collaboration between Vietnam and the EU?
We understand that trade is not balanced because Vietnam exports to EU much more than the EU exports to Vietnam. That is fine, as there is much trade between the countries, at around €27 billion last year.
Foreign direct investment capital was nearly €700 million from the EU into Vietnam last year. Investment is always positive, opening doors on both sides for trade and investment. We also decided Vietnam is a key part of our agenda.
What do you think of Vietnam's potential for the EU community?
Vietnam is one of the most populous countries in ASEAN, with 90 million people, and is a key member of the dynamically developing region. As a result it has been paid more attention by European enterprises. The EU exports around €6 billion in goods each year to Vietnam and Vietnam exports over €21 billion to the EU, so there are substantial opportunities for both sides.
There is potential for EU companies in Vietnam in many sectors such as energy, transportation, infrastructure and telecommunications. The sectors where development demand is greatest in Vietnam are those where EU companies are particularly strong and they are willing to participate and provide support.
The EU is the second largest trade partner of ASEAN. EU investment in ASEAN has increased by nearly 25 per cent in recent years. The 2011-2013 period saw inflows of FDI of $75 billion from the EU into ASEAN. There are over 10,000 European businesses now operating in ASEAN countries.
We believe there are opportunities and indeed potential in Vietnam to the benefit of both sides.
How do you view the progress of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (FTA)?
We believe the EU-Vietnam FTA has potential and significant opportunities for both parties. We can participate in many ways to bolster the finalization of the agreement next year.