Ambassador Alessandro speaks to The Hanoi Times about the Italy-Vietnam relationship. Read the full article.
1/ Since the establishment of the Strategic Partnership in January 2013, the Italy-Vietnam relations have been largely deepened. Could you tell us about the multisectoral ties? What are the strengths of the relationship?
Italy and Vietnam are bound by a sincere and longstanding friendship. Since the signature of the “Strategic Partnership” in 2013, our relationship has significantly grown in many areas of common interest such as trade and investment, energy and climate, defense and security, education, creative industries, science and technology, culture and people-to-people links. The “Action Plan 2021-2022 with vision to 2023”, adopted last May, paves the way for a further development of our collaboration both at bilateral and multilateral level. In 2023, our countries will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations: Italy looks forward to this anniversary as an opportunity to reaffirm our constant commitment for mutual friendship and cooperation.
2/ Vietnam is one of ten emerging markets in Italy’s cooperation strategy. Please share about the idea. What is the role of the European Union Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) in the bilateral economic ties?
Vietnam is one of the most dynamic economies in the world and Italy looks with great interest at the opportunities arising from our trade and investment relations. Vietnam is Italy’s main commercial partner among ASEAN countries with a turnover of more than 4 billion EUR per year. Italian exports in Vietnam include industrial machinery, food and wines, clothing, furniture, medical and optical equipment, cosmetic and pharmaceutical goods. Vietnamese export to Italy include electronic products, agricultural products and textiles. More “advanced” sectors, such as renewable energies, aerospace, smart cities and digital services also offer interesting opportunities for further expanding the economic relations between Italy and Vietnam.
There is a large potential to do more thanks to the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement entered into force in August 2020. Italy supports a swift and effective implementation of the Agreement as it will significantly improve the business environment, create new opportunities, in particular through the removal of non-trade barriers, and consolidate the integration of supply chains between Europe, Italy and Vietnam.
There is also room to improve the knowledge of what Italy and Vietnam can offer each other. To this end, Italy is investing in a communication campaign to better promote the excellence of “Made in Italy”. The campaign is called “Italy is simply extraordinary: beIT” and is has just been launched in 26 priority countries, including Vietnam (https://madeinitaly.gov.it/vi/be-it/).
3/ Education plays an important role in the relations. Could you talk about it?
Education is a key sector of our bilateral relations. Today, there are more than 150 agreements between Italian and Vietnamese universities and research centers. Before Covid-19, around 400 Vietnamese students per year were choosing Italy for their academic education, and the number of Italian students coming to Vietnam was also on the rise. We are confident that they will grow again as soon as the global sanitary situation improves.
The Italian Government and universities offer numerous scholarships for Vietnamese students: Vietnam is one of the countries that participate in the scholarships program “Invest Your Talent in Italy”, which combines academic education and professional training. Vietnam is also one of the selected countries where “Uni-Italia”, the Italian agency for the internationalization of Italian higher education, is operating.
We are also pleased by the great interest shown by Vietnamese people towards the Italian language. Every year, more than a hundred Vietnamese students obtain a bachelor degree in Italian studies at the University of Hanoi and at the University of Social Science and Humanities in Ho Chi Minh City, while many others learn Italian as second foreign language in other universities. Since 2019, Italian is also taught at high school at the Foreign Language Specialized School of Hanoi.
We also welcome the growing interest among the Vietnamese public and institutions for the Italian early childhood pedagogical methods, such as “Montessori” and “Reggio Children”.
4/ Italian food and beverage gain popularity in Vietnam. It can be said that Vietnamese sentiment towards Italian cuisine is strong. What do you think about it?
Italian cuisine is widely recognized as the most popular in the world, due to the quality and variety of its ingredients, the richness of its tradition and for being healthy. Italy has the highest number of protected geographical indications worldwide, with as many as 297 food products and 415 wines. In Vietnam, Italian food and wine export is worth more than 100 million USD, growing approximately 10% every year. In 2020, for the first time Italy became the first wine exporter to Vietnam, with a market share of 25%. The number of true Italian restaurant is also on the rise.
These figures alone cannot fully explain the reasons for such a strong appreciation of the Italian cuisine in Vietnam. The “secret ingredient” are the similarities between Italian and Vietnamese culinary cultures, such as conviviality, hospitality, diversity among provinces and wellbeing due to the use of fresh products.
5/ Please tell us about the famous elements of Italian culture and the embassy’s efforts to boost cultural cooperation with Vietnam and promote the dissemination of Italian culture in Vietnam.
Italy and Vietnam are known all around the world for their rich cultures and for the uniqueness of their cultural heritage. Both countries host a high number of Unesco protected sites and values. One of the main objectives of the Italian Embassy in Hanoi and the Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City is to bring to the Vietnamese public a “taste” of Italian culture in its six dimensions: passion and style, heritage and diversity, innovation and creativity.
Every year we organize events such as the “Italian Design Day”, the “Week of the Italian Language”, the “Week of the Italian Cuisine”, the “Italian Contemporary Art Day”, the “Italian Film Festival”, just to name a few, which aim at presenting the diversity of our culture as well as to promote cooperation with the Vietnamese creative industry.
Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, we have not been able to bring artists from Italy: however, thanks to the use of digital technologies, we presented to the Vietnamese public some impressive exhibitions, such as “Magister Raffaello”, dedicated to the Italian renaissance master and hosted by the Museum of Hanoi in 2020, and, more recently, “Italian Routes”, a photographic exhibition on the impact of climate change on mountain ecosystems hosted by the Museum of Fine Arts in Ho Chi Minh City and the Museum of Ethnology in Hanoi.
Culture is certainly a domain where the relations between Italy and Vietnam are more promising. In this regard, I have the pleasure to announce that the Italian Authorities have decided to open an Italian Cultural Institute in Hanoi, which will offer an even wider range of events and will also be a precious enabler for developing cooperation projects between Italian and Vietnamese cultural institutions.
6/ In big international forums, Italia has actively supported the cooperation between Vietnam and Europe as well between Vietnam and international organizations. Please let us know about it.
Italy and Vietnam share common objectives on the international stage. We both firmly believe in multilateralism and a rules-based international system. Both countries are major trade powers and advocate for free and just access to global markets. The priorities of Vietnam’s mandate at the Security Council are similar to the ones pursued by Italy during its G20 Presidency this year: people, planet, prosperity.
We particularly appreciate the commitment of Vietnam in ASEAN, which is a central actor in the Indo-Pacific region and a trusted provider of stability and economic growth among its members. Vietnam’s Presidency in 2020 was indeed a success. You accomplished the ambitious task of strengthening the internal cohesion of ASEAN while further broadening the relations between the Organization and its international partners. I wish to reiterate Italy’s deep appreciation for the Vietnamese support to the achievement in 2020 of the Italy–ASEAN Development partnership.
7/ In the pandemic fight, Italy is one of the biggest donors of Covid-19 vaccines to Vietnam. Please share with us the valuable assistance.
As you remember, Italy was the first Western country to be severely hit by the pandemic. In this regard, please allow me to thank once more the Vietnamese authorities and people for their sympathy and solidarity during very dramatic moments for my country.
Since the beginning of the pandemic, Italy’s international action has been inspired by the principles of solidarity and cooperation. Italy has been among the first countries to promote equal and universal access to vaccines, treatments and tests for Covid-19. For the same reasons, Italy supported the creation of the Global COVAX Facility, of which is one of its leading financial donors. It is with this spirit that Italy donated to Vietnam more than 2.8 million vaccine doses, a concrete sign of the friendship between our two countries and of our common resoluteness to fight together against Covid-19.
8/ Italy, as co-hosted COP26, has supported Vietnam a lot in engaging in the Pre-COP events. What would Italy do to help boost Vietnam’s engagement? What do you think about Vietnam’s commitment to net zero at COP26? What is Italy’s support for Vietnam’s emission cutting journey?
As the main partner of the UK presidency, Italy actively contributed to the preparation and negotiations of the COP26, which is rightly considered as a major step forward in the efforts to stop global warming. In particular, I would like to recall “Youth4Climate: Driving Ambition”, an initiative that promoted the engagement of younger generations in the fight against climate change: 400 young leaders from all over the world, including two brilliant representatives from Vietnam, convened in Milan back-to-back with the pre-COP official negotiations to discuss climate change and put forward sustainable, resilient and nature-based solutions.
At the COP26 Summit in Glasgow, Vietnam announced ambitious commitments, especially the net zero target by 2050. Italy welcomes Vietnam’s commitments and stands ready to contribute to the collective efforts of the international community to support their delivery. We will do it through the Official Development Aid and by sharing with Vietnam the skills and technology needed to implement advanced climate change mitigation and adaptation measures. We will provide support also through the European Union and via the multilateral organizations and funds to which Italy is a member and a finance provider. Climate changes concerns all of us, with no exception, and requires close and effective orientation and coordination mechanisms between all involved actors, both internally and internationally.