Interview : Nguyen Xuan Phuc

How do you assess the future development of trade ties between Thailand and Vietnam?

NGUYEN XUAN PHUC: In recent years the Vietnam-Thailand relationship has seen rapid development. Thailand is one of Vietnam’s largest trade partners in ASEAN, recording two-way trade of $12.5bn in 2016, and the 10th-biggest investor, with a total of $8.8bn in over 460 projects in Vietnam. Trade and investment are now the highlights of the growing bilateral relations. Thailand, one of the fastest-growing economies in South-east Asia, is now seeking to gain greater access to rising markets in the region. At the same time, on the path to industrialisation and modernisation, Vietnam needs to better tap into internal resources and encourage foreign investment, including from Thai investors. As a result, enhanced Vietnam-Thailand economic cooperation aligns with the goals and interests of each country, further deepening the strategic partnership.

In the long term, what kind of impact will the partnership between Thailand and Vietnam have on the overall development of South-east Asia?

NGUYEN XUAN PHUC: Since the 13th century Vietnam and Thailand have enjoyed the tradition of working together to address diplomatic and commercial issues of mutual interest and concern. Being members of ASEAN and other subregional arrangements, Thailand and Vietnam are like double engines that can help promote the regional economy and ensure stability in the Greater Mekong Subregion. Both countries have their own economic corridor connecting themselves to their neighbours, like Myanmar, Laos and Cambodia. Each country has also developed economic plans to grow together and narrow the development gaps within the region. Moreover, the cooperative relations that Vietnam and Thailand have with China and the US open up immense opportunities for development and help underline their strategic influence in the region. A steady relationship between Vietnam and Thailand will contribute to consolidating ASEAN’s solidarity for peace and prosperity in South-east Asia.

What measures need to be taken to reach the bilateral trade target of $20bn by 2020?

NGUYEN XUAN PHUC: The two governments, businesses and citizens will have to work harder and closer together in carrying out the following measures: First, Vietnam and Thailand will have to complete the legal frameworks for economic and trade cooperation, and better utilise existing cooperation mechanisms, which include bilateral and multilateral agreements such as the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. Second, the two countries will have to increase cooperation in organising trade promotion activities by providing support for their businesses participating in trade fairs and exhibitions held in each country. Third, both Vietnam and Thailand will have to actively undertake measures to facilitate bilateral trade by developing trade infrastructure, increasing connectivity and simplifying procedures. Vietnam will need to intensify cooperation with Thai distributors, suppliers and retailers in order to promote Vietnamese exports to Thailand and other countries. Vietnam will continue to attract investment from Thailand and world-leading companies.

Additionally, it is important to assist Vietnamese businesses cooperating with Thai partners through joint ventures, and supply component parts, accessories and semi-products to Thai manufacturers. Vietnam will also need support from the Vietnamese community living in Thailand, especially from those located in the north-east area, as they will play a central role in bridging the two markets. Lastly, as Vietnam and Thailand are members of many regional and subregional cooperation mechanisms, they will have to improve coordination in order to promote transportation and economic corridors, particularly the East-West Economic Corridor and the Southern Economic Corridor.