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Sri Lanka and Vietnam grow closer over 50 years of diplomatic relations

ECONOMYNEXT – Vietnam and Sri Lanka are marking 50 years of diplomatic relations on July 21, 2020, with the longstanding friendship and co-operation between the two countries strengthened with high-level visits, expanding economic links and people to people contact, Hanoi’s embassy in Colombo said.

“Our longstanding relations have been based on friendship, mutual understanding, and co-operation,” Ambassador Pham Thi Bich Ngoc said.

“Vietnam looks forward to building on the strong foundation of the past five decades and advancing our friendship as we make economic progress and overcome new challenges in a rapidly changing world.

“Today the world is faced with an unprecedented challenge of Coronavirus epidemic. Vietnam and Sri Lanka have both made strong gains in battling the virus. Our economic relations have rapidly grown in the last decade.”

Expanding Economic Links

In recent years economic relations between the two countries have strengthened rapidly. After Vietnam started economic reforms in 1986, foreign investments and trade have grown rapidly.

By 2018 about 191 billion dollars in investments had come to Vietnam. In 2019, 16.7 billion US dollars of new investments were approved.

Sri Lankan companies have also invested in Vietnam, in sectors such as Apparels. By 2020 Sri Lankan companies with a capital of 76 million dollars were in Vietnam. Vietnam companies have invested in hotels and construction in Sri Lanka.

In 2019, Vietnam exported 263 billion US dollars of goods, up 8 percent from a year earlier and imports were 253 billion US dollars.

Sri Lanka’s exports to Vietnam grew steadily from 72 million US dollars in 2015 to 100 million dollars in 2018 but then reduced to 78 million in 2019. Vietnam’s exports to Sri Lanka had grown from 244 million US dollars in 2015 to 302 million dollars in 2019.

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People to people contact have also been growing. Tourists from Vietnam to Sri Lanka had grown from 1,798 in 2015 to 3,180 by 2019. Sri Lanka tourists to Vietnam had grown from 5,520 to 14,117 in the same period.

The two countries have established two bilateral cooperation mechanisms. The Joint Committee on Economy, Science, and Technology (chaired by the Minister of Foreign Affairs) established in 2003 has met three times and Political Reference Mechanism established in October 2011 has met twice.

“Based on the strong foundation laid in the past five decades and our shared aspirations to grow and improve the living standards of our peoples, we can look forward to greater economic and political relations in the future,” Ambassador Bich Ngoc said

Diplomatic Exchanges

After establishing diplomatic relations with Sri Lanka on July 21, 1970, Vietnam opened its embassy in Colombo in 1971.

Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Van Dong paid an official visit to Sri Lanka on March 2-3, 1978, after Foreign Minister of the Republic of South Vietnam Nguyen Thi Binh visited Sri Lanka on May 23-29, 1976. Since then Foreign Ministers of the two countries have led delegations to strengthen relations.

Sri Lankan Foreign Minister Lakshman Kadirgamar visited Vietnam in 1999 and Foreign Ministers Tyronne Fernando visited Vietnam in 2002. In the second visit in 2003, Foreign Minister Fernando co-chaired the first Sri Lanka – Vietnam joint committee.

Foreign Minister Nguyen Dy Nien visited Sri Lanka in 2003. Foreign Minister Rohitha Bogollagama visited Vietnam in 2009, Foreign Minister Gamini Lakshman Peiris in 2012. In addition, Sri Lanka’s Parliamentary speaker W.J.M. Lokubandara visited Vietnam in 2005 and Speaker Karu Jayasuriya in 2018.

A new chapter in Vietnam Sri Lanka relations opened with President Mahinda Rajapaksa visiting Vietnam in 2011. Vietnam State President Truong Tan Sang visited Sri Lanka in 2011.

In the same year Vietnam also re-opened the embassy in Colombo, which was temporarily closed in 1982.

Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe paid an official visit in 2017.

Uncle Ho

In 2013 Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh visited Sri Lanka and attended the inauguration ceremony connected to the unveiling of the statue of President Ho Chi Minh or Uncle Ho as he is affectionately known.

This is a reflection of the deep friendship that the people leaders of Sri Lanka and Vietnam share. As a key point in global trade and travel, Uncle Ho is known to have visited Colombo several times when ships stopped to refuel and get food.

In his first trip abroad as a young man the Amiral Latouche Tréville, he came to Colombo on June 14. In June 1928 on the way from Italy to Thailand and in October 1946 on the way home after talks with France in Fonttennago, he is recorded to have come to Sri Lanka. But there may have been unrecorded visits as well.

(Colombo/Jul21/2020-sb)

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