Your Excellency Mr. Ambassador, could you mention the highlights of the French-Vietnamese relationship during 2015?
I would say that 2015 was not as busy for the French-Vietnamese relationship as in 2014 when the two countries celebrated the 40th anniversary of diplomatic ties. However, there were many important visits of officials of the two nations in 2015.
It’s worth noting that France and Vietnam have agreed to a number of orientations for mutual cooperation.
One landmark event took place late last year in the field of climate change. France and Vietnam worked closely together in the organization of the COP 21 Paris Climate Conference. Vietnam did not only participate in the COP 21 but also was involved in the preparation of the event.
This fact indicates that Vietnam was one of France’s important Asian partners in organizing that event.
Another point that I want to emphasize is economic cooperation. Trade between France and Vietnam doubled in 2015 from a year earlier, which was very impressive.
According to preliminary data, the bilateral trade surpassed EUR5 billion last year, of which Vietnam shipped nearly EUR4 billion worth of goods to France. Airbus aircraft sale contracts between Europe, including France, and Vietnam contributed greatly to the two-way trade.
In addition, the two countries last year reaped benefits from many other economic cooperation projects that had been prepared years before, in the fields of transportation, agriculture, luxury goods and pharmaceuticals.
What are the prospects for the French-Vietnamese relationship during 2016, Mr. Ambassador?
France and Vietnam will continue to boost economic cooperation and expect an exchange of high-ranking visits in 2016.
The two countries will also focus on preparing for the future, i.e. education and training of their youths. We usually mention the existence of a large community of Vietnamese students in France, but there are an increasing number of French students in Vietnam as well, which may amount to several hundred.
French students here partake in courses that last one to two years, adding to one-to-two month courses for doctors and nurses in Vietnamese hospitals. We encourage this form of education in Vietnam.
The negotiations of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement were finalized in 2015. Could we hope for a push for the investment wave from France into Vietnam?
French entrepreneurs are aware of the fact that Vietnam is a potential market for many industrial projects. But it’s not an easy market to penetrate into and do business. In addition, foreign businesspeople still have difficulties with cumbersome paperwork here.
That’s the reason the Embassy of France in Vietnam needs to endeavor to explain procedures to French businesses and help them overcome obstacles so that they can reaffirm their increasingly strong economic presence here.
As you have spent several Tet holidays in Vietnam, what are your impressions?
I have been working for two terms, equivalent to seven years and a half, in Vietnam and have lived seven ‘Tets’ here.
Tet actually a very special occasion for Vietnam people, and we foreigners find Tet super interesting.
One of the outstanding characteristics of the Vietnamese life is its culinary culture. There are similarities between French and Vietnamese gastronomy when it comes to New Year festivities with traditional dishes.
It is indispensable to mention ‘Banh chung’ (square glutinous rice cake) among Vietnamese traditional dishes. I’ve planned to visit a French-Vietnamese family this year and learn to make banh chung.
I hope I can make this traditional dish. However, if once you taste banh chung made by me, you will see that there is less fat in it than the Vietnamese original recipe, because I’m afraid of getting fat (laugh).
Besides banh chung, there are many other delicious dishes for Tet. Hot pots perfectly match cold days as we have undergone in Hanoi over the past days.
To be frank, however, it’s not banh chung or ‘mứt’ (dried candied fruits) that impress the most during the Tet festivity, but the atmosphere does. All the Vietnamese people, wherever they are or whatever they do, want to create a cozy Tet atmosphere.
Through Tet, we can see a cultural consistency in the Vietnamese people. I myself believe that this factor is a good foundation for social unity and an advantage of the Vietnamese.
We Vietnamese people often avoid recalling sad happenings in the previous year. However, I would like to recall of an event that changed the whole world’s consciousness of national security. That is successive bombings in Paris last November. What was your feeling then?
On receiving news on terrorist attacks in Paris, like any man having relatives in Paris, I felt worried and wanted to know what happened to my family and friends in Paris. It was a natural reaction.
However, after nerves calmed, we made analyses the political aspect of this event. As I said above, the Vietnamese people are characterized by a cultural consistency during Tet. It is lucky of you to have that character.
It’s pitiful that a small group of people in France are denying out cultural values, legacies and acting against the whole French society, resulting in the tragedy that we have seen. They are also influenced and manipulated by external forces to ignite a war among cultures.
To deal with this situation, France has had to rise to protect itself, both militarily and culturally. We have to educate people to reassert political and cultural values that we pursue, to make France, a strong nation in the past, stay strong in the future.
French Ambassador to Vietnam Jean-Noël Poirier. (Photo: Viet Khoi/BizLIVE)
What are your wishes for the Vietnamese people in New Year 2016?
For the Vietnamese people, I truly hope that Vietnam’s economy will continue growing strongly and Vietnam as a nation will become more prosperous.
As we know, among Southeast Asian countries, Vietnam is fortunate in bearing little brunt of global crisis, or instability in Indonesia and the Philippines.
This means that Vietnam is fortunate to have a stable environment, which will help the country’s economy to expand further during 2016. That’s why sometimes we say that Vietnam is Switzerland in Asia in terms of security.
What are your greetings for BizLIVE?
I wish the BizLIVE newspaper will continue to grow and build up its strength. I have accessed the recently-launched English site, and feel amused when reading diverse topics and well-done articles.
Thank you very much!