Political – external relations between Vietnam and Middle East – African countries continued to be strengthened and deepened via many flexible forms, in the context of the disruption of delegation exchanges. Many Vietnamese ministries, sectors, localities and businesses have conducted consultations, joint committee meetings and online exchanges with regional partners to promote specific areas of cooperation and to seek out new opportunities. Bilateral cooperation mechanisms were maintained, such as political consultation at the level of Deputy Foreign Minister of Vietnam – Mozambique, meeting of the Joint Vietnam – Egypt Committee and the first session of the Joint Vietnam – Morocco Sub-Committee on Trade and Industry.
In 2020, medical diplomacy has become a bright spot in Vietnam’s relations with the Middle East-Africa region. Vietnam actively provided medical supplies and face masks for traditional African friends such as Algeria, Mozambique and Angola, while proactively sharing experiences in disease prevention and control and promoting medical cooperation and exchange across all levels. This has been highly appreciated by Middle East – African countries, while contributing to enhancing the image of Vietnam as a trusted friend and reliable and responsible partner in the region. Vietnam’s deployment of a level-2 field hospital and dispatch officers to join the United Nations Peacekeeping Mission in South Sudan and Central Africa has contributed practically to efforts towards a common peace in the area. Furthermore, the promotion of the appointment of the Honorary Consulates of Mozambique and Morocco in Vietnam and the Honorary Consulate of Vietnam in Israel also contributes to improving the efficiency of cooperation between Vietnam and several regional countries.
Economy, trade and investment between Vietnam and the region continued to achieve many substantial results. Despite the negative influence of the COVID-19 epidemic, Vietnam’s trade turnover with the region in 2020 is expected to have reached US$17.5 billion. Many export products of Vietnam such as rice, coffee, seafood and home electronics have penetrated and gained a strong foothold in the regional market. Vietnamese related ministries and agencies have proactively supported domestic enterprises to access new and potential markets and partners as well as participating in production and supply chains in the Middle East and Africa and across the globe through many initiatives and activities such as the forum on potential global Halal food market and the international forum Franconomics 2020.
Vietnam is also actively promoting, developing, finalising and signing legal frameworks to facilitate bilateral cooperation with the region, notably the signing of a Protocol amending the Air Transport Agreement between Vietnam and Israel, completing negotiation and approval procedures for the content of the Cooperation Framework Agreement with Ukraine, establishing a ministerial-level cooperation mechanism on environment and climate change between Vietnam and the UAE, and promoting the development and signing of Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements and Double Taxation Avoidance Agreements.
In the energy sector, mainly in relation to oil and gas, Vietnam’s cooperation projects with partners in the region, especially with Algeria, Saudi Arabia and UAE, are being actively implemented. In terms of culture, the Vietnamese embassies in some regional countries have organised cultural events that attracted local people to attend, at the same time enhancing propaganda and advertising about Vietnam. The continued deployment of Vietnam’s telecommunications investment projects in a number of African countries in 2020 has helped people in the region increase their access to telecommunications services and expand opportunities for digital connectivity in the region as well as between the region and the globe. In addition, Vietnam has actively mobilised the region’s potential partners to provide it with ODA. In 2020, a local fund signed a loan agreement worth US$20.3 million for a project building inter-regional transport infrastructure to support socio-economic development for disadvantaged districts in Yen Bai province.
Vietnam and Middle East-African countries have worked closely at multilateral fora, including at the UN. Vietnam always accompanies Middle East – African countries in defending the core values of peace and development, upholding international law and participating in solving related issues in the region. As ASEAN Chair in 2020, Vietnam played an active role as a bridge between ASEAN and a number of countries and regional organisations such as the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the African Union (AU), while pushing South Africa to sign a document to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC). Many countries in the region have highly appreciated and congratulated Vietnam on successfully taking on a dual role in 2020, expressing their belief that Vietnam would fulfil its role as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2021, while affirming their close coordination at multilateral forums and the UN, in order to protect the common interests of developing countries. In addition, Vietnam has also strengthened the establishment of official relations with the AU and promoted the establishment of a dialogue mechanism with GCC countries, in order to expand cooperation between Vietnam and important regional organisations.
In the context of complex developments in the world and the region, with a tradition of friendship, mutual trust and aspirations for independence, sustainable development and prosperity, combined results in cooperation between the two sides over the years together with great opportunities for the two sides will help Vietnam and the Middle East – Africa region continue to promote comprehensive cooperation, thereby bringing the relationship between the two sides to new heights, contributing to peace, cooperation and the development both of the region and the world.