Vietnam and Malaysia signed four agreements during the first official visit paid to Hanoi by Malaysian Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob on March 20-22, leaving deep imprints on the cooperation and friendship between the two countries.
|Malaysia’s Prime Minister Dato’ Sri Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob (L) and Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh in Hanoi on Mar 21. Photos: VGP|
Issues of the cooperation signed on March 21 in attendance of Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and his Malaysian counterpart Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob include Legal Cooperation Activities; Recruitment, Employment and Repatriation of Workers and diplomatic training.
In addition, an Agreement on Professional Cooperation was signed by the Vietnam News Agency and BERNAMA (the Malaysian National News Agency), in which the two sides will maintain the exchange of information and photos, especially in high-ranking visits, manpower training, support in bilateral mechanisms and international forums.
At the meeting, the two PMs reviewed the implementation progress of the Plan of Action 2021-2025 of the Strategic Partnership. They agreed to soon sign a memorandum of understanding on cooperation in defense, sea and ocean, and cybersecurity, as well as energy, science-technology, culture, sports and tourism.
PM Chinh expects more Malaysia’s investment inflows in supporting industries, infrastructure, innovation, and digital transformation.
For his part, Ismail Sabri bin Yaakob affirmed that Malaysia would support Vietnam in developing the Halal industry. In this regard, outgoing Malaysian Ambassador to Vietnam Norhana Syed Mustaffa said Malaysia can offer its expertise in the Halal industry to help Vietnam make inroads into the US$2.3-trillion global Halal market.
The ambassador told The Hanoi Times that being one of the world’s most powerful bodies responsible for Islamic affairs, Malaysia’s expertise in this field could be significant for Vietnam’s businesses.
To support Vietnam’s fledgling halal industry, the Embassy of Malaysia in Hanoi and the Consulate-General of Malaysia in Ho Chi Minh City have welcomed any parties interested in learning about and venturing into the halal market to engage with their representatives in order to better understand the halal market.
On March 21, Malaysia’s PM will have separate meetings with the Secretary-General of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong, President Nguyen Xuan Phuc, and Chairman of the National Assembly Vuong Dinh Hue.
|The two ministers of foreign affairs at the signing ceremony on Mar 21.|
Momentum for enhanced relations post-pandemic
The visit, which is ahead of the commemorations of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of bilateral ties (in 2023), is planned to focus on trade, investment, and tourism.
In addition, the visit is believed to be an opportunity for the Malaysian PM to build a closed relationship with his Vietnamese counterpart to greatly contribute to strengthening the Strategic Partnership that became effective in August 2015, according to Neermal Shunmugam, Chargé d' affaires of the Malaysia Embassy in Vietnam.
Meanwhile, Vietnamese Ambassador to Malaysia Tran Viet Thai said the visit sends a message that the Strategic Partnership will reach a new height. Specifically, Malaysia eyes cooperation potential in Vietnam on the occasion of Malaysia’s border reopening on April 1.
As such, Thai said the visit enables both countries to grasp the opportunity by launching tourism promotion and investment attraction under the recovery plans.
To serve the tourism reopening, Malaysia will soon recognize vaccine certificates from Vietnam, the Vietnam News Agency quoted Deputy Secretary General of the Malaysian Ministry of Foreign Affairs Amran Mohamed Zin as saying. Earlier, Vietnam accepted vaccine certificates from Malaysian ahead of its border reopening on March 15.
In 1994, Vietnam and Malaysia signed an agreement on tourism cooperation. This has facilitated the traveling of visitors and brought about the growing number of tourists to each country after the visa-free policy took effect in September 2001. In 2019, before the pandemic broke out, Vietnam welcomed more than 600,000 Malaysian arrivals, up 12.2% on year, whereas more than 400,000 Vietnamese visitors traveled to Malaysia in the same year.
In addition to tourism, Malaysia is interested in promoting a digital ecosystem, high-tech agriculture, smart manufacturing, renewable energy, fintech, and cybersecurity, Chargé d' affaires Neermal Shunmugam told the World and Vietnam Report.
|Vietnam, Malaysia sign MOU on justice.|
According to the Malaysia diplomat, the Malaysia-Vietnam relationship covers a wide range of issues, including trade, investment, tourism, multilateral agendas, and people-to-people links.
Having similar geography and strong people-to-people ties, Vietnam appears to be one of Malaysia’s important regional partners, mostly after the elevation of the bilateral relations to Strategic Partnership in 2015.
The Plan of Action (POA) 2021-2025 for the Implementation of the Framework for Strategic Partnership will make the targets possible, focusing on post-pandemic cooperation with specific plans for Covid-impacted fields and the development of vaccines for infectious diseases.
In terms of trade, Malaysia is Vietnam’s second-largest trading partner in ASEAN and 9th globally while Vietnam is Malaysia’s third-largest trading partner in ASEAN.
The bilateral value rose 41.6% on year to US$16.7 billion in 2021, according to statistics by the Department of Statistics Malaysia. The two-way trade is estimated to reach $18 billion in 2025 and $25 billion in 2030. Vietnam’s main staples to Malaysia include mobile phones and components, crude oil, rice, coffee, seafood while importing computers and electronic devices, machinery and equipment, petroleum, household appliances, and chemicals.
Regarding investment, Malaysia is Vietnam’s second-largest investor in ASEAN (behind Singapore) and 8th globally with commitments of nearly $13 billion.
Amran Mohamed Zin shared that the Malaysian PM will most likely invite Vietnamese investors to Malaysia to balance the bilateral investment as Malaysia has lots of investment opportunities.
Concerning multilateral forums, the two countries have shared regional and international issues of mutual concerns, especially the building of ASEAN through three main pillars namely Political-Security Community, Economic Community, and Socio-Cultural Community.
Malaysia actively supported Vietnam’s ASEAN Chair in 2020, Vietnam’s non-permanent of the UN Security Council 2020-2021, and Vietnam’s candidacy for the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) in 2023-2025, Malaysia’s UNHRC membership for 2022-2024 period.
|Vietnam and Malaysia ink agreement on labor.|
|Gamuda City Hanoi, one of Malaysia's big projects in Vietnam. Photo: Gamuda Land|