Vietnam and Israel should work together in the spirit of creativity and innovation to strengthen bilateral economic cooperation.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin made the suggestion in a recent interview with Vietnam News Agency on the run up to his upcoming official visit to Vietnam from March 19-25.
The following is the full text of the interview.
Israeli President Reuven Rivlin (Source: RealClearPolitics)
“Q: How do you evaluate the relationship between Israel and Vietnam over the years?
Israel and Vietnam share a rich and prosperous friendship. This is a friendship between our governments, and between the two peoples.
We have rapidly growing cooperation and are celebrating nearly a quarter of a century of diplomatic relations but of course, Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, met with Ho Chi Minh in Paris in 1946, and the friendship they established that day, serves as the foundation for our close ties and strong relationship to this day.
Historically, thousands of years ago our peoples established their sovereign nations. We are countries which have many holy and spiritual sites, which are important to our identities and history.
We share an appreciation for their preservation and reverence throughout the ages. Indeed, both countries have had similar experiences having to fight against great powers for independence. We both share a deep appreciation for our freedom and right to self-determination.
Economically, Israel respects Vietnam’s development and fast growing economy. Indeed your achievements are admirable, and we look at you through the eyes of our own economy which has developed a strong hi-tech and innovation industry which has led to be known as the Start-Up Nation.
Israel is proud to welcome many hundreds of Vietnamese students on our MASHAV international development program each year, and Vietnam and Israel have become important partners.
Israel is one of Vietnam's major partners in the Middle East with a bilateral trade volume of US$2.3 billion in 2015. And of course we are currently negotiating a Free Trade Agreement, which I hope will be concluded soon.
This agreement will form a stronger foundation for our mutual trade and business exchange.
We have so much potential to cooperate in so many fields. Indeed, ‘potential’ is probably the best word to describe our relations. Yes, our cooperation has been most fruitful, but we have to understand – and utilize – the great potential which lies before us.
Q: What should both countries do to further enhance diplomatic relationship and bilateral economic co-operation in the near future?
Vietnamese, like Israelis, have the same dynamic entrepreneurial spirit. So first and foremost, let us work together and cooperate in that spirit of innovation and creativity.
For Israel, this was born out a lack of natural resources. We had to think ‘outside the box’ to address some of the most daily concerns.
Accordingly we have developed much technology and know-how in the area of irrigation and water conservation – perhaps the most precious of all resources.
We work to purify more and more grey water, we work on advancing desalination, and we work to produce water even from thin air.
Vietnam has more water and a lot more land than Israel, but you have a lot more people to feed, and we know you are looking for ways to grow more food on your land, and for ways to supply clean water to your country.
This is a crucial area for our ongoing cooperation, as it will benefit both peoples, and indeed many others around the world.
In addition, our commercial partnerships today include, a growing variety of industries and knowledge sharing.
This includes of course defence and cyber crucial for keeping our peoples safe; medical devices and cooperation crucial for our peoples’ well-being; and education to continue on our great legacies and achievements.
Indeed, through cooperation in agriculture utilizing Israeli technology to improve Vietnamese production we can ensure food security for millions of people around the world.
If we cooperate in communications and technology, we connect people to build greater understanding and support research and development. Through our cooperation, we can truly face global challenges.
We are ready to do this together - indeed during my visit I am honored to bring with me a delegation of more than 50 Israeli business leaders, and will be addressing two economic seminars on expanding our cooperation.
This is the opportunity that we have, and in the future I would like to see more mutual trade and cooperation.
Q: What are the key contents to be discussed during your visit and your expectations for the visit?
My visit comes at the time when relations between both countries are bearing fruit and greater accomplishments can be made. During my visit I will meet with President Tran Dai Quang, with the General Secretary of the Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong, and with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
We have much to discuss about how we can strengthen our ties, and work together to not only improve the lives of our peoples, but work to address challenges to the whole world, including security, sustainability, and innovation.
Q: What is your assessment of the national defence cooperation between Israel and Vietnam over the years?
We all know peace and security cannot be taken for granted. Often, so that we can enjoy economic, social, cultural, and educational prosperity, we must be vigilant to ensure security.
Defence has a role in peace as it does during times of war. In the twenty-first century, it is clear to everyone that security is a very broad term.
It includes homeland security, freedom from violence, protection against cyber-attacks, and the ability to communicate in any condition and in any weather.
So that security cooperation can incorporate all these different fields, Israel aspires to expand our security cooperation with other countries.
Over the last years, much has already been achieved in our cooperation, and we have exchanged military attaches as part of our growing diplomatic relations.
We are ready and willing to deepen this cooperation, and share further our best practices and experience in defending our peoples.