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Vietnam and Holland Go Dutch

Cập nhật: 26/04/2010 09:39
Attending the opening ceremony of the Lang Tram bridge, Ca Mau province, which is sponsored by the Consulate General of the Netherlands

(VEN) - The Netherlands is among leading European investors in Vietnam. Last year, the two-way trade value between Vietnam and the Netherlands reached US$ 2 billion. On the occasion of the Dutch Queen's Day and within the framework of trade promotion and the Holland Village 2010, Vietnam Economic News' reporter Hai Yen spoke with Jos Schellaars, the consul general of the Netherlands in Ho Chi Minh City.

What are your comments on consular activities and plans in 2009? What are the plans and activities in 2010?
The year of 2009 was a busy year for us with so many important and significant events. Highlights were the high-level visits that took place between the two nations. First, a delegation headed by Ho Chi Minh City Party Secretary Le Thanh Hai visited the Netherlands. Next was the visit by Dutch Minister for Agriculture, Nature Preservation and Fisheries Gerda Verburg. And then, Tineke Huizinga, the Deputy Minister of Transport and Water Management, came to Vietnam. These visits were important for our bilateral relations in general and discussion details of the cooperation in relevant aspects, such as cooperation in fisheries, but an emphasis was given to cooperation in climate change and rising sea-level, coastal protection and flood control, and port development and water management. The Netherlands and the south of Vietnam in particular have a lot in common: both are flat, low-lying areas at the sea with deltas of major rivers crossing it. We can learn a lot from each other and I welcome the steps taken to come to a close relationship. We expect that the follow-up of these visits will take a lot of our time in 2010. Many concrete examples are visible already. Moreover, I expect more high-level visits to take place this year. Hopefully, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung will visit the Netherlands later this year; and we will see a number of mutual ministerial visits, as well as commercial missions. One of the highlights is that I am looking forward to bringing the Holland Village into Vietnam, a cultural display of traditional Dutch buildings and crafts, which we expect will come to Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi.
What're your opinions about the Netherlands' investment in Ho Chi Minh City and the south of Vietnam in the last years, especially in time of world economic downturn?
The Netherlands-Vietnam economic, trade and investment ties have been developing constantly over the last 37 years. The Netherlands has always been seen as a major investor in Vietnam, until recently we were even the largest investor from the European Union. It is clear that the economic crisis had an impact on the international activities of companies, but Dutch businesses are very much directed to international trade and investment. And there are so many big and successful companies in Vietnam like Unilever, Shell, Dutch Lady, Philips and Heineken. Therefore, I am confident that the level of Dutch investments in Vietnam will continue to be at the high level that we have seen in recent years.
Could you tell about several Dutch ODA programs for Vietnam?
Given the high economic growth in Vietnam and the expectation that Vietnam will shortly reach the status of "Middle Income Country", it is not logical to continue the traditional development cooperation between our two countries as we have known it for the last decades. Therefore, during their visit in 2008, the Dutch ministers for development cooperation and foreign trade agreed with their Vietnamese counterparts to broaden the bilateral relations between Vietnam and the Netherlands. In practice, this means that traditional development modalities such as budget support will be phased out while cooperation in other aspects, such as economic cooperation and policy development, will be strengthened. Both the remaining ODA activities as well as the Dutch-Vietnamese cooperation in a broader sense focus on Dutch strengths. In the coming time, we will continue to focus on climate change and the rising sea-level. Other activities like water and delta management, water sanitation, environment, healthcare and shipbuilding will be refocused on in the future. The Netherlands will also help to improve Vietnam's higher education in these areas.
What are the advantages and the disadvantages of Holland's businesses when investing and working in Vietnam? Your suggestions to the Vietnamese Government in order to attract much investment and further promote Vietnam - the Netherlands development cooperation in the future? 
The advantages of Dutch companies investing in Vietnam are mutual, I think. On the one hand, Vietnamese people are hardworking, very disciplined, ambitious and eager to learn, in short the ideal workforce for a company. On the other hand, Dutch companies/organizations have an excellent reputation in terms of Corporate Social Responsibility. They treat employees well, create good working conditions, and are concerned so much about environmental issues. Therefore, this is beneficial to Vietnam.
I think the Government of Vietnam can still do a lot to improve conditions to attract more investment. As I mentioned before, legislation can be much simplified. Moreover there still is a lot of "red tape" and, as we can read in the papers almost daily, corruption is still a serious problem in Vietnam.
Could you say something about the Holland Village 2010 and its significance?
We are very proud to bring the Holland Village into Vietnam. The Holland Village consists of traditional Dutch houses, a large windmill, plus a number of typically Dutch attractions, such as a fish stand, a cheese stand and a street organ. I think this is an excellent opportunity for Vietnamese people to learn more about the Dutch culture without having to travel to the Netherlands. I believe that the public will visit the village in large numbers./.
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