VNN: France sees strong trade potential

Monday - 19/07/2010 18:59

We would like to welcome you as the new French Ambassador to Viet Nam. What will be the focus of your term in the country? Do you have any specific goals for boosting trade relations between France and Viet Nam?

Even though French trade with Viet Nam benefits indirectly from large co-operation in the field of official development assistance (France is the second biggest donor after Japan) and foreign direct investment capital of over US$3 billion, I have to admit that we do encounter fierce competition from Asian countries.

Nonetheless, our companies today are very active in fields where they enjoy a competitive advantage, such as the pharmaceutical, aeronautical and agro-food sectors.

My goal is to make sure that French companies possess the tools to seize the opportunities linked to the remarkable economic growth pursued by Viet Nam in the coming years. I could give two examples in that regard.

First, a renewed High Level Council for developing trade relations between France and Viet Nam is currently being implemented between the Ministry of Planning and Investment (MPI) and the French Foreign Trade Ministry. This Council will give way on November 23-24 to a Business Forum where French and Vietnamese companies will meet. Second, our trade missions in Viet Nam have been reinforced so as to help more French SMEs do business in Viet Nam and to explore the Vietnamese market.

You worked in the Middle East for 20 years. How do you think your past experience there will help you here?

Well, things are different, for sure, especially if you compare Viet Nam with Iraq, which was my last posting. The societies, cultures and problems are not the same. But I can find some common points. For instance, the issue of development. There is a real need for infrastructure, for modernisation and a real intention to register progress. Another example – a determination to deliver high standards of education. In both cases, as was also the case in my previous postings in the Middle East, I can help bring France's experience and know-how. to this country. Finally, I do not work alone – the Vietnamese authorities are a great help.

Apart from traditional and existing co-operation in education, medicine, sustainable development and nuclear energy, what other fields can the two countries co-operate on?

Trade co-operation between our two countries encompasses many sectors. Co-operation in different forms (such as FDI, joint venture or BOT) has materialised in fields such as energy and transportation. I believe that the public private partnership (PPP) framework currently being developed in Viet Nam will lead to further co-operation in infrastructure projects, whether in transport or in the environmental sector. I see several sectors where French know-how and internationally recognised technologies could lead to increased trade activity, such as in aeronautics and space or the environment. I also believe there is great potential for growth in tourism, distribution, banks and insurance – all fields where French companies have a recognised international reputation. Last, but not least, I think that France's experience in the luxury goods sector will also be of benefit in the booming local consumer market.

Can you tell our readers in detail about the plan to set up a French hi-tech university in Hoa Lac Hi-tech Park this year?

As you know, Viet Nam has decided to establish several universities of international standard and has chosen France as its partner to design and build a new model university in Ha Noi – the University of Science and Technology of Ha Noi (USTH), which will open next October. It has been created through an intergovernmental agreement signed on November 12, 2009, on the occasion of the visit to Viet Nam by French Prime Minister François Fillon.

The main goal of the USTH will be to develop high quality research and teaching (it aims to enter the Shanghai Academic Ranking of World Universities by 2025/2030) and bring about synergies between them, by strengthening relations between the university and industry in the fields of science and technology, notably through co-operation between the private and public sectors.

Teaching and diplomas will follow a system now widely used in high-level universities in the world. Bachelor, masters and PhDs will be offered in three, five and eight years. Masters degrees will be recognised by both countries, entitling post-graduate students to complete their PhD theses abroad.

The curriculum, designed to answer Viet Nam's development needs, will cover the following subjects (and will include substantial practical training periods – nine months out of two years for a masters degree) – biotechnology and pharmacology; water-environment-oceanography; materials science-nanotechnologies; energy; information and communications science and technology; and aeronautics and space.

France is also well-known for producing nuclear energy, which accounts for 85 per cent of the country's power, and has reduced dependence on oil. Can France share with Viet Nam its experience in this field?

As you rightfully acknowledge, France is one of the world's leading nations in nuclear energy, encompassing the whole industrial spectrum, from design, generation and management to nuclear-fuel and waste treatment. It is of course a very competitive market and many actors have already indicated their interest in the Vietnamese market. Co-operation between France and Viet Nam has existed for some years now, at the scientific and technical level as well as in the field of nuclear safety and training. France and Viet Nam signed a bilateral agreement on the peaceful use of nuclear energy during the visit to Viet Nam by France's Prime Minister last November. Most recently, the French nuclear industry attended the international exhibition on nuclear power in Ha Noi and met their counterparts. France is ready to co-operate in this field and to share its experience. It is willing to help Viet Nam in its nuclear programme.

You have said that you would like to become an expert on Viet Nam. Do you have any personal plans to discover the country and the people of Viet Nam?

As an ambassador, I travel to many places, meet local authorities, organisations and people. This is part of the job and I have already travelled to a dozen provinces and localities. As far as my personal plans are concerned, I looked to implement them as soon as I arrived in Viet Nam. The second day after my arrival in Ha Noi, I bought a bicycle and I am riding it in the city and the outskirts as soon as my duties allow some time off. I try and leave the embassy as often as possible. I read a lot, of course, and I meet a lot of different people, which is probably one of the best ways to discover a country and its people. — VNS