On 29th August, 2016, EuroCham welcomed the Ambassador of Vietnam to Belgium and Head of the Permanent Mission of Vietnam to the European Union, H.E. Vuong Thua Phong.
The EuroCham representation was led by Vice Chairman Mr. Tommaso Andreatta, accompanied by EuroCham Advisor Mr. Jean-Jacques Bouflet, Executive Committee Member Mr. Piotr Harasimowicz, and Executive Director Ms. Almut Roessner.. This meeting also included the presence of EVBN Operations & Finance Manager Ms. Adina Tauyatswala, the Honorary Consul of Luxemburg Mr. Olivier Ngoc, , Chair of the BeLux Chamber Mr. Guy Balza, Chair of ICham Mr. Michele D’Ercole, Vice Chairwoman of CEEC Ms. Magda Krakowiak, Vice Chairman of CEEC Mr. Christoph Schill, and Mr. Jan Rask Christensen, Senior Director of PharmaGroup
The meeting began with short presentations from EuroCham and EVBN, seeking to explain clearly to H.E. Mr. Phong the structures and mission of the two organisations, which focus on advocacy and business support.
The discussion moved to more specific items, whereby Mr. Andreatta highlighted the two EuroCham Global Leader Dialogues taking place in September – with Mary Robinson and Lord Peter Mandelson -, for which the presence of Ambassador Phong would be most appreciated. Both Mr. Andreatta and Mr. Jan Rask Christensen, Senior Director of the Pharma Group; expressed their impressions on the eagerness of European investors to contribute with innovative solutions to Vietnam, in terms of green technology and innovative pharmaceuticals, respectively. In this introduction round, Mr. Ngoc and Ms. Adina Tauyatswala of the EVBN both highlighted the importance for more flexible visa regulations in Vietnam.
Having heard the participants’ messages, Ambassador Phong proceeded to outline his own priorities as the top representative of Vietnam to Belgium and the EU. In this regard, the Ambassador highlighted as priorities to enhance trade between EU and Vietnam, promoting investment in Vietnam on the EU level, and increasing tourism numbers in both directions.
Ambassador Phong then moved on to foreign-based education, whereby he stressed that expenditure from Vietnamese students undertaking education in Europe (namely in the UK, France and Germany) and in Asian countries has increased exponentially in recent years. This has also been the trend regarding healthcare services abroad. The Ambassador highlighted that the potential of the Vietnamese customer is not yet often realised abroad and that there might be a market to explore in this regard.
The Belux Chamber of Commerce in Vietnam, represented by its Chairman Mr. Guy Balza, emphasized the need for more openness in the Vietnamese education market, which may allow for the domestic establishment of reputable schools, which interest has been high but often curtailed by regulatory restrictions. This reasoning was also followed by the Central and Eastern European Chamber of Commerce, whereby Vice-Chairwoman Ms. Magda Krakowiak expressed her concerns on the obstacles and impact on FDI stemming from current work permit restrictions for foreign experts. This affects the countries represented by the latter Chamber more directly, as none of the countries it represents is part of the 15-day-visa exemption.
The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement implementation was the topic that followed, about which Ambassador Phong stated that he sees no critical challenge for a timely ratification on the Vietnamese side. However, he shared that there was a level of concern the attention dedicated to the process may decrease in the wake of the UK’s withdrawal from the EU and the ongoing migratory crisis. In order to keep the EVFTA high on the list of priorities, the Ambassador called upon the support of EuroCham, namely to promote the EVFTA conference on September 14th in Brussels, to be attended by himself, the EU Ambassador to Vietnam Bruno Angelet, and the EVFTA’s Chief Negotiators.
Finally, Ambassador Phong shared some of his own insights on current European affairs, while thanking EuroCham for this roundtable and highlighting it as a preparation exercise for the aforementioned upcoming EVFTA event in Brussels. He invited members of EuroCham to liaise with him when in Brussels, calling them “Vietnam’s European friends in Vietnam”. As a closing gesture, Mr. Andreatta delivered a copy of the EuroCham Whitebook 2016.