The upcoming official visit to Vietnam by Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte from June 5-6 is expected to foster the Vietnam-Italy strategic partnership in various fields, ranging from politics, diplomacy, defence-security to economics, trade, investment, education and culture.
Vietnam and Italy set up bilateral diplomatic ties on March 23, 1973 and promoted them to a strategic partnership in 2013. The two countries have regularly exchanged political delegations, notably the visits to Italy by Party General Secretary Nguyen Phu Trong in 2013, National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Sinh Hung in 2014, and President Tran Dai Quang in 2016, as well as those to Vietnam by Prime Minister Matteo Renzi in 2014 and President Sergio Mattarella in 2015.
The two countries have maintained bilateral cooperation mechanisms such as the deputy foreign ministerial political consultation, the deputy ministerial defence policy dialogue and the joint commission on economic cooperation. They also support each other at multilateral forums and organisations like the United Nations (UN), the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU).
At present, Italy is Vietnam’s fourth biggest trade partner in the European Union (EU), while the latter is the former’s largest trader in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). Two-way trade tripled within the past decade from 1.5 billion USD in 2009 to more than 4.6 billion USD in 2018. In the first three months of this year, Vietnam’s exports to Italy reached 918 million USD.
As of late 2017, Italy ranked 32nd out of the 128 nations and territories investing in Vietnam with 86 projects worth 388 million USD, mainly in manufacturing and processing, footwear and construction.
The Italian Government has put Vietnam into a list of the 10 emerging markets to prioritise developing trade and investment relations.
In the 1980s, Italy began providing official development assistance (ODA) for Vietnam in the fields of water supply and drainage, environmental protection, human resources development and health. Currently, the Italian Government is supporting Vietnam in 11 ongoing projects and six pending others with a total committed capital of over 100 million EUR.
Bilateral cooperation in other fields such as culture, education, tourism, and people-to-people exchanges has also been enhanced.
The two countries have signed 72 education and training agreements. Every year, the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs grants several scholarships for Vietnamese students and post-graduates, and opens Italian-language courses in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
Last year, the number of Italian tourists to Vietnam surpassed the 65,000 mark for the first time.