“I’ve Fallen in Love with Vietnam”: Belgian Ambassador

Tuan Minh - Le Phuong

07:00 08/02/2016

BizLIVE - Ambassador of the Kingdom of Belgium to Vietnam, Mme. Jehanne Roccas talked to BizLIVE about Vietnam’s investment climate and her love for the Southeast Asian country.

“I’ve Fallen in Love with Vietnam”: Belgian Ambassador

Belgian Ambassador to Vietnam, Mme. Jehanne Roccas. (Photo courtesy: Ambassy of the Kingdom of Belgium in Vietnam)

Your Excellency, Belgium currently has 62 valid investment projects registered with $524 million in Vietnam. This figure seems relatively modest compared to the potential between the two countries. Could we expect an increase in FDI from Belgium in the years to come if the EU-Vietnam FTA is enacted?
The friendship and multi-faceted cooperation between Belgium and Vietnam have been strengthened over the last 43 years since the establishment of bilateral diplomatic ties in 1973. In particular Belgium’s investments in Vietnam have been growing over the last few years.
Vietnam and Belgium are complementary economies with complementary strengths and needs. Therefore, the two countries have great potentials for investment cooperation, especially in the logistics sector
The recent EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement will tentatively be implemented in 2017 and will be the best opportunity to increase cooperation in a broad range of sectors such as investment, trade, government procurement, services, and environment between Vietnam and EU members in general.
This agreement shows shared conviction that the perspective of signing EVFTA is significant to growth and sustainable development. The agreement would certainly bring important opportunities to both Vietnam and Belgium.
More and more Belgian enterprises are seeking business and investment opportunities in Vietnam.
As such, Belgium is not a big country in terms of size but a trustful partner of Vietnam. Once Belgium invests in Vietnam, other investors also want to join these investment projects.
In which Vietnamese sectors are Belgian businesses interested to invest? What are their feedbacks on the country’s investment climate and suggestions for the Vietnamese government to improve it?
Among many Belgian investment projects, I can mention some flagship projects in port logistics, coffee logistics, and cocoa sector.
As you know, Belgium, being at the center of Europe, with its huge ports (Antwerp – the second largest port of Europe) and freight airports, has long been a logistics hub. There is a huge expansion scope that Belgium can share with Vietnam in the logistics part.
Dinh Vu Industrial Zone (DVIZ) in Hai Phong is one of those, with investment by the Belgian company Rent-a-Port to develop a major port. The port has handled more than 400000 tons of cargo and is recognized as the petrochemical transport hub in the North of Vietnam.
Belgium gives the best of its logistics know-how and thereby helps Vietnam attracting more foreign investors. DVIZ contributes considerably to the economic development of Hai Phong city and provides also many jobs to local people.
Molenbergnatie and Katoen Natie invested in the South of Vietnam in an state of the art terminal that is handling agricultural goods, more specifically coffee which is exported all over the world.
I recently visited Puratos-Grand Place in Ho Chi Minh City. Not only does this company try to assist the cacao farmers in the South of Vietnam as to grow the highest quality cacao, it also has various processing plants and it makes its own chocolates thereby the Belgian companies help Vietnam to integrate the whole supply chain
There is also a huge room for further bilateral trade and investment development in food (Belgian products of primary quality like beer, chocolate, cookies, agrofood), food technology, high technology, medical equipment, waste and water treatment, environment.
Belgium, with high technology, could provide green technology to help Vietnam cope with to climate change. Vietnam is one of the countries the most prone to climate change and its rapid development has come with environmental degradation. Belgian companies can provide high tech solutions to these issues and assure a sustainable future for Vietnam.
Belgium tries to bring the best of its know-how here resulting in technology transfer and opportunities for local people.
What is very important to Belgian investors is transparency, a safe investment environment and clear rules that are applicable to all investors. Belgian companies are eager to comply with strict environmental and social standards because they are used to these standards in Europe. However, lack of clear rules or bad implementation work against our interests.
After years of working in many countries in different continents, what prompted Vietnam to become the next country in your diplomatic career?
This is not the first time I am in Vietnam. The country has been very much on my mind during the three years when I was the director of the Asia Department at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Belgium. I had to travel here on many occasions and came to love Vietnam a lot. I am especially charmed by the warmth of its people.
Given its history and its ties with many partners, Vietnam has a specific role to play and a lot of other countries can learn a lot from it.
Vietnam has been a long standing partner of Belgium’s development cooperation and has up till now been granted over EUR500 million by Belgium. Between 2015 and 2019, a program of EUR40 million is implemented with focus on green growth and climate change.
With this, Belgium is currently one of the most important donors of Vietnam. As Vietnam became a middle-income country, Vietnam and Belgium is gradually developing a more mature relationship. I felt it was an interesting time to come here and facilitate this partnership between our countries.
We hope for some New Year greetings from Madam Ambassador for Vietnamese entrepreneurs and people.
I know that Tet is very important to Vietnamese people and their families. It is the time to welcome the new calendar year, to spend time with the family, and the occasion for Vietnamese people to pay respect to their ancestors.
On this special occasion, I would like to wish all Vietnamese people, entrepreneurs in particular, a happy, peaceful, healthy and prosperous new year.
Chúc mừng Năm mới!
Thank you very much!