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Sri Lanka has potential to benefit and learn from closer engagement with Vietnam

Sri Lanka and Vietnam have the potential for closer engagement, Ambassador Ho Thi Thanh Truc said at an event marking Vietnam’s National Day on Sept. 2 while a senior foreign official said there was much to learn from the rapid economic advancement of the South East Asian nation.

 Co-operation between Sri Lanka and Vietnam had grown steadily over the years in bilateral trade, investment, high level visits and expanding people to people contact, it was oted at the celebration.

 “This includes co-operation in multilateral forums consistent with our shared interests,” Ambassador Truc said during an open air event by the statue of the late Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh in Colombo to mark the Vietnam’s National Day. “I believe there are greater opportunities for co-operation between Sri Lanka and Vietnam.”

 Vietnamese leader Ho Chi Minh declared independence from France on September 02, 1945 and Its 77th National Day was celebrated last week in Colombo.The statue of late President Ho Chi Minh was erected in Colombo 2013.  He had passed through Sri Lanka on his travels to Europe in 1911, 1928 and 1946. Vietnam started economic reforms under the banner of Doi Moi (renewal) from 1983.

 “Following Doi Moi, Vietnam’s notable achievements in every sector has been made possible thanks to opening and integration measures, overcoming challenges, as well as the assistance of our international friends,” Ambassador Truc said.

 Sri Lanka’s Additional Foreign Secretary Saj U Mendis who had served in East Asia as a diplomat said in the 1980s Vietnam and Sri Lanka were similar in some ways. But Vietnam has since fundamentally changed its economy and image.

“Today if someone mentions Vietnam anywhere in the world they would say it is a country with immense economic, commercial and investment opportunities,” Mendis said.

Vietnam now had a gross domestic product of 410 billion dollars, external trade of 650 billion US dollars and had trade agreements including with the US, EU, Japan and regional trading blocs.

 “Few countries have bilateral trade bigger than their GDP,” Mendis said.  “Vietnam is an economic powerhouse in the region. Sri Lanka has much to learn from the impressive and imposing economic and social advancement and developments.”

“Sri Lanka is eager to be engaged in all aspects and enlarge economic, trade and commercial activities, benefiting both countries and other peoples,” he added.

 Several Sri Lanka apparel firms had invested in Vietnam. Several Vietnamese firms were involved in hotels and construction in Sri Lanka. Bilateral trade between Sri Lanka and Vietnam grew to 460 million US dollars in 2021 from 287 million US dollars in 2020.

 If Sri Lanka could capture only 0.001 percent or one thousandth of Vietnam’s import market, the island could eliminate its trade deficit with the country, Mendis said.About 9.6 million Vietnamese travelled overseas each year before Covid. If Sri Lanka could attract one out of 200 tourists, the country could draw 50,000 tourists a year, he added.

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