Israel is well known for its agricultural miracles, especially in works that apply high technology. However, cooperation in this field seems not to have met expectations of the two governments. What are your opinions about regarding this aspect?
The two governments are working together in many areas in agriculture. First, at governmental level, we are providing training to different delegations from different provinces in Vietnam.
For example, this month a delegation from Can Tho city, once again, will study agricultural technologies.
Second, at business-government level, we have a dairy demonstration farm with 200 cows in Ho Chi Minh City. This farm uses Israeli technologies and know-how, and is helped by an Israeli expert. The idea is to transfer the technology and the know-how.
Another project is with TH Group in Nghe An province. There is some government involvement because under the financial protocol signed between the Israeli and Vietnamese governments, we allow private companies of the two countries to take loans. The farm has 30,000 cows with Israeli technology and know-how.
In almost all Vietnamese provinces that I have travelled to, some Israeli technologies can be seen in agriculture, especially drip irrigation, which is well known for its efficiency. This technology optimizes the use of water as well as pesticide.
In addition, two different Israeli companies have two projects with VinEco, a subsidiary of Vingroup (VIC), that deal with greenhouses, clean vegetables and food.
This week four Israeli companies will be visiting some provinces including Binh Duong and Nghe An. Knowing water situation in Vietnam, the will offer water solutions to small farmers, thus the beneficiaries can save water and have better quality of products.
The two governments are trying their best to enable both private sectors to learn and work together. I think in agriculture, much more can be done.
Israel drip irrigation technology has been exported to many countries. (Photo: www.israel21c.org)
Could you unveil some notable projects that Israeli companies plan to carry out with Vietnamese partners? Which fields in Vietnam are Israeli businesses interested to invest in?
To be frank, we don’t have high level of investment here and we could do better. There are Israelis investing in real estate, coffee production, garment, electronics, and IT components.
We are trying to encourage Israeli investment in Vietnam and give more information about opportunities here.
In March, we held the first round of negotiations for the bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) in Hanoi and the second round will take place in Israel in August. The FTA will be very good for both sides as our two economies are not competing, but complementary.
I truly believe that it will enable more trade and investment in the two countries, in all areas, and private companies will take advantage of it to increase investment in Vietnam.
What Israeli companies need is transparency and protection of intellectual property. When it comes to transparency, I don’t mean corruption, but the understanding the processes [of doing business], which sometimes are complicated.
Deputy Prime Minister Vuong Dinh Hue has recently stated that Vietnam could be a paradise for startups. What experiences has the Israeli government shared with the Vietnamese side? What role does the Israeli Embassy in Vietnam play regarding this aspect?
First of all, Vietnam has a very interesting startup community. I know many young entrepreneurs who have wonderful ideas. But so far they are doing them on their own.
The Vietnamese government has said that they want to create the conditions like what Israel did, allow more innovation and more startups to be built.
Some Vietnamese delegations are coming to study from us in some policies. Deputy PM Vuong Dinh Hue came to Israel in 2015 to study agricultural technologies and innovations.
Over the last two to three years, a lot of government officials have come to study the different policies that we have. We also have taken startups to Israel for training and we are doing the same this year.
We are sharing our policies with the Vietnamese government, both successful and less successful ones. But at the end, the Vietnamese government needs to adapt them to its own needs or laws.
Former German Chancellor Phillip Rosler meets with Vietnamese startups in Hanoi on April 25. Photo: Minh Tuan/BizLIVE.
Former German Chancellor Phillip Rosler, who was born in Vietnam, and President Obama have paid a lot of attention to the Vietnamese startup community. Do you see that startups in Vietnam are receiving a lot of momentum?
Yes, they do. I’ve been here for several years and I’ve seen there are changes. The startup community in Vietnam is actually developing much faster than I thought.
I believe that startups should be another driver for the Vietnamese economy.
How do Israeli funds view Vietnamese startups and do they plan to invest in Vietnam?
In the startup community, no Israeli company has come to invest yet. But I hope that there will be Israeli venture capitals coming here.
Vietnam is a big manufacturing country, with “Made in Vietnam” products. You have great ideas and a lot of innovative companies here. So there are no reasons why Vietnam should be only a manufacturing country. You have to go beyond that.
How about trade between the two countries?
The bilateral trade is growing, year after year. The two-way trade value reached $2.3 billion in 2015. The problem is that the trade still centers around a few big companies and sectors and we are trying to diversify.
And the cooperation in education?
Israel has only eight million people and eight universities, and not all the programs are in English. However, we have a growing number of Vietnamese students going to Israel for studies in food security and sciences.
We have very interesting cooperation in high-school education with Hanoi-Amsterdam High School. Some 20 pupils will come to Israel and will be hosted by a school that wants to establish a robotics center in Hanoi-Amsterdam after the Israeli model.
Could you tell us about the military cooperation between Vietnam and Israel?
Defense is another area that we are working on. It is part of our overall relations and is important for both of us.
We have really good cooperation in defense, including in transfer of technologies. Today we enjoy high level of mutual trust.
Thank you very much!