EU Ambassador Giorgio Aliberti: It is my luck to stay in Vietnam during the pandemic
When Vietnam is able to manage COVID-19 pandemic so successfully, even better than some of their counterparts in EU, Ambassador Giorgio Aliberti said he had been so lucky to live in Vietnam during this time.
On the occasion 30 years of relationship between Vietnam and the European Union (EU), Zings News, an online news website in Vietnam, had an opportunity to interview with Ambassador Aliberti about his thoughts about the Vietnamese government’s ready to combat and control COVID-19 pandemic. Thereby, this incident has proven Vietnam’s capability in the fight against the pandemic and made Vietnam in more a in the eyes of European investors once the pandemic is over.
– Around this time last year, no later than when you started your term as the EU ambassador in Vietnam, you had an online conversation with Zing’s readers. What were the highlights of your first year?
– The first must definitely be the EVFTA (Vietnam – EU Free Trade Agreement), because it has been regularly discussed since my first days here, with milestones like when the agreement ratified in the Decree of European Institute, then National Assembly of Vietnam, then official come into effect.
Although 2020 has been a tough year because of Covid-19, Vietnam has successfully manage the outbreaks. Therefore, the fact that I am here could be considered as an “extravagant” luck, when compared to those in Europe and elsewhere worldwide. When I reflected the last 12 months, I think that Vietnam had become a leading example of dealing with the pandemic.
– How has the spread of this pandemic in Europe affected Vietnam – EU relations?
– The situation in Europe is much more challenging now than in Vietnam, but we are still trying and will overcome it.
We are also optimistic about the ready of vaccines globally, which we believe it must be shared to not only rich countries, but to all of countries.
I see that Vietnam has proven itself as an important, committed partner with capabilities, and seriousness, which will benefit future partnerships.
– How does the current situation affect the opportunities of those who want to study in Europe?
– The pandemic has had a great impact on travel, but I believe the situation will be brighter in the next 12 months.
Until then, patience is what we all need. We will continue to focus on education, communication, and sharing our views on why students should study in Europe. To introduce these opportunities, we are going with organized education exhibitions in the coming weeks.
For us, disease is a short-term difficulty with as we observe many Vietnamese students still want to study in Europe.
– The EU has raised 800 million euros to help ASEAN in the fight against Covid-19. In particular, how the EU and Vietnam will cooperate to combat this pandemic?
– Even in countries that do not have severe outbreaks like Vietnam, they still suffer from socio-economic impacts. Therefore, what we want to do here is to create opportunities for governments to receive aids not only in the field of health care, but also the damage that countries are experiencing.
– How will the EU and Vietnam cooperate on vaccines?
Our viewpoint is that vaccine must be accessible to everyone and every country, not just for a few. The world is only completely safe when everyone is no longer under threaten of this virus.
We want to support some cooperation between Vietnam and European companies. Once vaccines are found, we also want to support COVAX, a financial support network that promotes vaccine distribution equally.
The problem we are facing is how to make vaccines not only an economic problem but also a social problem. Profit cannot be the only determinant when considering about vaccines distribution. Sharing is also matter.
– The Covid-19 pandemic has made governments and businesses consider the necessity of a sustainable and resilient supply chain. Do you think Vietnam is qualified to the next leading supply chain hub?
COVID-19 has made many companies realize that it is too dangerous to put all their eggs in one basket. With EVFTA being approved and the advantage of stable geography, Vietnam is gaining momentum to attract investment from these companies.
I think the rest depends on the Vietnamese government. Investors will not come just because of government’s invitation or tax reduction, but they will assembly in a country with the best investing support.
The Vietnamese government should improve its regulatory transparency and predictability, and simplify procedures, which determined investor decisions.
I think the government get these points and are trying to make it happen, which will help Vietnam become the manufacturing hub of the region once they successfully do it.
Digital economy is mentioned a lot in the post-Covid-19 era. What are the opportunities and challenges for digital transformation in Vietnam?
We are all going to be a part of a digital economy. We buy products online, interview each other online, which will be a new normal of the post-Covid-19 world.
The EU and Vietnam can find more ways of cooperation that facilitate this process better. For example, it is necessary to simplify rules and reduce procedures. Or the commercial sector can reduce a lot of certification and paperwork, with the help of digital technology.
– You once said that Vietnam will have the benefit EVFTA from the implementation of the agreement, reform, and FDI will not pour into Vietnam just because of the tax reduction. After a few months this agreement comes into effect, what is your comments on it?
– Time is needed to reform and enforce such a complex agreement, we all know that overnight success does not exist. As the pandemic also slower the process; therefore, it’s too early to conclude.
During the course of implementation, we encountered some hurdles, but managed to overcome, which is normal whenever we do something new. For some papers that we found unnecessary, we will suggest digitalizing them. Whenever problems come up, let’s sit down and talk about it.
– Are tariff barriers being reduced in time?
– Absolutely. From the beginning, the tax on 71% of Vietnamese goods exported to Europe has been decreased to 0%, which has been proven by an increase in the number of that of to EU recently.
The remaining tariff barriers on seafood, footwear and textiles exported from Vietnam will also be gradually removed in the next 7 years as planned.
– In your opinion, what has Vietnam done well to improve labor standards in accordance with EVFTA?
– When we negotiated EVFTA, labor standards is one among important factors to consider. We are glad to see the government enact two fundamental conventions of the International Labor Organization (ILO) in the period 2019-2020.
The Third Convention will come into effect in 2023 as planned. Meanwhile, several elements of that has already included in the new Labor Law, which will be in place from 1 January 2021.
After many commitments of the Vietnamese government, we are continuing to encourage their efforts in implementation. Although there are some delays, we manage to discuss specific solutions, and get positive response from the authority.
– As you just said, EVFTA is not only about tax reduction, but also Vietnam’s vision regulatory transparency and predictability. What are EU’s expectation from this?
– Transparency is not an easy topic, not only in Vietnam but worldwide. Such topic requires changes in thinking as well as mindset.
Firstly, regulatory predictability depends on how the government is structured, which requires a lot of efforts. More importantly, while we are pushing this situation, we noticed the understanding of the Vietnamese government on how crucial it is.
Secondly, the implementation, of course, cannot be completed shortly, but I am sure we make it.
As the bureaucracy is excessive in Vietnam, we are delighted every time there is a cut of paperwork, certificates.
Vietnam’s need of good rankings in the business facilitation indicators is parallel with the government’s demand to streamline administrative procedures; therefore, everyone is on the same page. This is not only for us, European companies, but also for the benefit of Vietnamese people and businesses.
While large enterprises can go through the administrative procedures, it is more difficult for the SMEs. However, if the transparency is more favorable for them, 1.5 new jobs will be created for million young people entering the workforce annually.
– After EVFTA, the optimistic suggest that high-quality FDI from Europe can pour into Vietnam. What are the opportunities and challenges for this activities?
Besides the advantages of population and an ideal geographical location, Vietnam possesses political stability and economic potential.
The challenge we need to embrace is unpredictable future trends such as pandemic, disagreement against globalization, then language barriers.
Recently, I visited an industrial zone in Hai Phong Province. I am impressed by lots of effort and time they are putting in to simplify the procedure, which is unachievable if SMEs do it their own.
– Since October, it has been a year since a tragic of 39 Vietnamese illegal migrants died on a container truck in Essex, England. What changes have been made to prevent such tragedies in the future?
Change takes time, and requires a number of factors. Basically, we need a multifaceted and unified strategy.
First of all, we must raise awareness about the risks and show migrants that life changing is totally possible Vietnam. They don’t have to risk their lives in Europe or elsewhere. That is why the EU always strives to support sustainable development.
Secondly, we need to prevent illegal groups from profiting from migrants’ dreams of EU. We would like to discuss further with the government to cooperate in combating human trafficking. Some collaborations between law enforcement has already been made.
– Many European countries have reduced or stop financial support for Vietnam after Vietnam is listed among Middle Income Countries. Will the EU’s support remain in non-refundable form?
– We still expect it is in non-refundable, but do not know the percentile exactly
As a country become more developed, their aid will be shifted countries that are in need. But our current view is that we want to continue providing non-refundable aid to Vietnam.
(Translation from Zing.vn)