Mr Yasuaki Tanizaki, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Japan to Vietnam, Head of Organising Committee of “Japan-Vietnam Friendship Year”, emphasized that 2013 is a most important year for Japan and Vietnam as the two countries have organized a series of activities celebrating the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations (September 21, 1973 – September 21, 2013) and made joint efforts to elevate the strategic partnership and friendship to new heights. Nam Pham reports.
Excellency, how do you evaluate the development of Japan-Vietnam cooperation in the past 40 years?
All of us are happy to witness the vigorous development of Japan-Vietnam relations in the past years, especially the high growth of the Vietnamese economy. In the past 40 years, Japan and Vietnam have overcome difficulties and challenges to develop stable and far-reaching bilateral relations in the interests of the two countries, namely peace, prosperity and stability in the Asia-Pacific region.
Two decades ago, Vietnam opened the door for the economy and Japan renewed ODA for Vietnam, developing successful cooperation. Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, on his visit to Japan in 2006, signed with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe a very important agreement, the Japan-Vietnam strategic partnership agreement, a framework for governments and businesses of the two countries to promote cooperation in many fields. Since then, we have a comprehensive relationship, notably, Japanese ODA for Vietnam increased three times and Japanese investments in Vietnam expanded vigorously. And 7 years later, in January 2013, Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung launched the “Japan-Vietnam Friendship Year”. The fact that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe chose Vietnam as the first destination for his visits to foreign countries after assuming his post clearly emphasizes the importance and successful development of the Japan-Vietnam relationship.
Such a fine relationship has been developed with the aspiration and ardent desire of the two peoples and the two countries become partners most naturally. As a result, in the past 40 years, predecessors have laid down stepping stones for the excellent relationship of today. I hope that we together will continue to cultivate the fertile land for new young trees. It is also my hope that, our two peoples, especially the young generation, continue to promote mutual understanding and deepen bilateral relations on the basis of mutual respect.
How is the economic cooperation so far and Japanese investment in Vietnam in the future?
In the past 40 years, the bilateral economic cooperation has ever been deepening. This has been proven by increasing membership of 1,100 Japanese businesses of Japanese Businesses Association in Vietnam (JBAV). Japanese businesses in two biggest industrial zones in Vietnam have created over 100,000 jobs for Vietnamese workers and even much more.
As the biggest ODA donor in Vietnam, Japan has closely coordinated with Vietnam in most immediate tasks regarding the development of socio-economic infrastructure, assisting Vietnam in human resources development, modernisation of financial institutions, development of supporting industries, in compliance with Vietnam-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement in force since 2009.
It is safe to say that development of industries together with related capacities has always been the focus of the bilateral cooperation and will be the same in the future. For instance, the Japanese government has started the preparation for “Industrialisation strategy of Vietnam to 2020″ based on Japan-Vietnam Joint Statement signed by Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda in 2011. It is an important policy instrument to incorporate the Vietnamese economy with regional and global economies. The strategy will significantly promote supporting industries in Vietnam generating more jobs nation-wide. Japanese government has also recently applied ODA instrument to encourage small Japanese enterprises, strong in supporting industries, to invest in foreign countries, including Vietnam.
As I mentioned earlier, a significant amount of Japanese ODA has been invested in Vietnam in recent years. In 2012, Japan was the biggest investor in Vietnam with new projects and re-investments amounting to some US$5 billion, nearly 40 percent of total FDI in Vietnam. That percentage is the most notable and clear evidence of successful economic cooperation between Japan and Vietnam.
In each Japanese FDI project in Vietnam, you can see positive changes and quality efficiency of the project. Japanese FDI has also invested in real estate, especially in eco-cities and infrastructure development. Tokyu Binh Duong Garden City, a joint venture with investment capital of US$1.2 billion by Becamex and Tokyu, is an example of new wave of Japanese investments in Vietnam. Japanese small and medium sized enterprises are increasingly investing in the Vietnamese market. This is a structural transformation of Japanese FDI projects in Vietnam.
We hope that this investment trend will continue and bring more investment capital from Japan to Vietnam. Meanwhile, the two governments are making great efforts to promote the cooperation of business communities by sponsoring regular business forums and policy dialogues to remove constraints in business activities.
How do you find the business environment in Vietnam?
There are both positive and negative changes in the business environment recently. However, negative ones are only short-term. In my conversation with leaders of Japanese businesses in Vietnam, most of them mentioned problems when making decision on investments. In the short term, Vietnamese economy is adversely affected, for instance, by sluggish administrative formalities and decision, slow economic restructuring, and unbalanced supply-and-demand in certain products and services in some areas, especially in property market.
Some core and pressing issues exist in the banking system that could affect the economy in the long term. Japanese investors have special concern on the solutions as well as how the government solves those issues. Without proper solutions, in the long term, they would adversely affect Japanese investment capital flow to Vietnam, as Japanese investors always consider conditions before deciding on investments. We have witnessed vigorous growth of Japanese FDI flow into Vietnam in recent years, therefore we hope that FDI capital will increase in the coming years if those issues can be solved.
Vietnam has many advantages in attracting FDI such as its big and young population, skilled workforce, experienced technicians, security and stability. I think Vietnam is one of the most secure countries for investors, a most important condition for business environment.
How is the orientation for the future development of the strategic partnership?
After the signing of the strategic partnership agreement, we have seen successful cooperation in foreign investment and ODA. Therefore, it is time for the two countries to deepen the cooperation in various fields, especially in security. Leaders of the two countries have recently upgraded the strategic partnership to a new height. This means we will increase cooperation in other fields such as culture, tourism and education. Those are important areas for long term bilateral cooperation.
On this occasion, I express the hope that “Japan-Vietnam Friendship Year” will elevate the friendship between the two countries and peoples to a new height.