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Political News 26/9

Vietnam, Cambodia beef up military ties; Australia, Vietnam boost agricultural cooperation; RoK proposes trade balance with Vietnam; Chinese Communist Party delegation visits Vietnam; Vietnam backs international efforts to fight terrorism

VN active in Asia-Pacific stability

Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh said here yesterday Viet Nam would do its best to serve as a pro-active regional actor to contribute to the peace and stability of the Asia-Pacific region.

Minh was speaking to the Asia Society in New York City. The meeting was one of many Minh held on the sideline of the 69th United Nations General Assembly.

In his speech, he said all countries with a stake in the future of the Asia-Pacific needed to strengthen their political will and determination to work together.

"Efforts at building a truly regional security architecture should be continued," he said. "Such architecture would not only help regulate relations among big powers, but also ensure that smaller countries can actively contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability in the region."

Minh said Viet Nam would continue its economic reform and development and stick to its foreign policy of diversification and multilateralisation of external relations, peace, independence and self-determination.

He said Viet Nam would be responsible to ASEAN and the region and promote the building of the ASEAN Community, which would become a reality by next year. ASEAN, he said, would be at the centre of the security of the Asian Pacific community.

Regarding the East Sea (South China Sea), Minh said Viet Nam sought to resolve the disputes by peaceful means based on the rule of international law.

"If all stakeholders have the political will, respect international law, and exercise self-restraint, the South China Sea disputes could be managed," he said.

In addition, Minh also met the Foreign Ministers of Finland and Tanzania.

Meeting with Finnish Foreign Minister Erkki Toumioja, Minh suggested both countries further boost bilateral economic and trade co-operation, saying he welcomed Finland's investment in green technology, new energies, forestry, clean water supplies, and education, which help boost sustainable development in Viet Nam.

In his meeting with his Tanzanian counterpart, Bernard Kamillius Membe, he asked the government of Tanzania to create favorable conditions for the project jointly carried out by Viet Nam's Viettel group and the Epocha company of Tanzania.

Foreign Minister Membe replied that the Tanzanian President would visit Viet Nam next month. He said that Tanzania backed Viet Nam's bid to join the UN Economic and Social Council for the 2016-2018 term and become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council for the 2020-2021 period.

Former PM visit deepens Singapore-HCM City ties

Singapore's former prime minister and Emeritus Senior Minister Goh Chok Tong was in HCM City yesterday on a trip that Le Thanh Hai, secretary of the city Party Committee, said would help strengthen ties between the city and Singapore in several areas including economics, trade, investment, education, and culture.

Goh said that the relationship between Viet Nam and Singapore was entering a new phase and the two countries were set to focus on co-operation in finance and aviation.

With regard to HCM City, he said the focus for co-operation would be high technology and suggested that the city administration should invest more in training young people.

Earlier the visiting leader had met with Le Hoang Quan, chairman of the city People's Committee.

Trade between the city and Singapore in the first eight months of this year has been worth US$3 billion.

On the occasion of Goh's visit, the city government awarded an investment licence to Ascendas Sai Gon Bund Limited Company, a joint-venture between Singapore's Ascendas Land Viet Nam and Onehub Sai Gon, for the $130 million Onehub Sai Gon Complex at the Sai Gon Hi-tech Park.

The 11.9ha OneHub will be developed as a small urban area with working and living facilities for highly skilled human resources.

Vietnam, Laos enhance economic ties

Laos’ Prime Minister Thongsinh Thammavong on September 25 received Vuong Dinh Hue, Head of the Economic Commission of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee, during which a stronger bilateral economic relationship was pledged.

The Prime Minister spoke highly of the close cooperation between the two Parties’ economic commissions and expressed his wish to boost the ties further.

Vuong Dinh Hue said he was impressed by Laos’ recent rapid economic growth.

He also stated that his commission highly valued its collaborative relationship with the Lao partner and other sectors to contribute to economic development and prosperity on both sides.

During their working visit, the Vietnamese officials attended a number of events, including a successful dialogue with Laos’ Institute for Economic Development Strategy Research.

Chinese Communist Party delegation visits Vietnam

Vietnam and China should continue to strengthen cooperation between their Parties’ central organs, Deputy Secretary of the Communist Party of China’s Work Committee for Central Government Organs Meng Xuenong said in a meeting with Head of the Communist Party of Vietnam Central Committee’s Commission for External Affairs Hoang Binh Quan in Hanoi on September 25.

A particular emphasis, he added, should be placed on Party-building.

He affirmed the Chinese Party and Government’s wish to develop stable and long-term relations with Vietnam.

On his part, Quan expressed his hope that the Chinese official’s visit would help increase mutual understanding and contribute to the friendship and collaboration between the two Parties and countries.

Earlier, the Chinese delegation held talks with a Vietnamese Party delegation, led by Secretary of the Party Committee of the Central Agencies Dao Ngoc Dung, during which both sides discussed future cooperation orientations.

The delegation will visit the northern coastal province of Quang Ninh and Ho Chi Minh City during its visit to Vietnam from September 24-28.

Vietnam receives sympathy messages over typhoon losses

Lao Prime Minister Thongsing Thammavong sent a message to his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Tan Dung expressing his sympathy over the loss of human lives and property damage caused by typhoon Kalmaegi last week.

In his September 22 message, the Lao leader expressed his hope that residents’ lives in the storm-affected areas would soon be stabilised.

Typhoon Kalmaegi swept through several northern and central provinces of Vietnam on September 16, killing at least eleven.

It caused huge economic losses and seriously damaged agriculture and aquaculture in these localities.

A total of 33 houses collapsed and 815 buildings lost their roofs. Meanwhile, approximately 42,743ha of rice fields and more than 10,000ha of fruit and vegetable crops were damaged, whilst thousands of hectares of farmland were inundated during the storm.

Vietnam backs international efforts to fight terrorism

Vietnam supports the efforts undertaken by the international community to combat all forms of terrorism, including acts of violence and extremism, Spokesperson of the Foreign Ministry Le Hai Binh declared during a press conference in Hanoi on September 25.

Anti-terrorism efforts needed to respect the United Nations Charter; the basic principles of international law, including independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity of countries concerned; and guarantee safety for civilians, Binh said in response to the Vietnam News Agency’s question on Vietnam’s position on the US’ airstrike on the Syrian-based Islamic State.

A question was raised on the Chinese army’s upcoming large-scale live fire test in the southern part of Hainan Island, near Vietnam’s Hoang Sa archipelago, and the impact it would have on Vietnamese fishermen in the area.

Binh replied that following the announcement made by China’s maritime administration on September 24, relevant agencies have been verifying the information and took necessary precautions to protect Vietnamese fishermen operating in the national fishing grounds in the East Sea.

He affirmed that the Vietnamese Government continuously employed all the necessary measures to ensure fishing operations ran smoothly in traditional fishing grounds.

Binh said China’s recent move to convert submerged rocks in Vietnam’s Truong Sa archipelago, including Gac Ma Reef, into man-made islands altered the status quo and contradicted the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC). He affirmed that all activities conducted by the parties concerned in the East Sea needed to respect the sovereignty, sovereign rights and jurisdiction of the countries involved.

He added that these activities needed to abide by international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and the DOC. In general, parties should not complicate the situation with any further action.

“We hold on to the view that, in the current situation, all sides should take responsibility for maintaining peace and stability in the East Sea,” the spokesman emphasised.

When asked about the situation of Vietnamese nationals in Iraq and Syria, Binh said there were no Vietnamese working or living in Iraq. According to information provided by the Vietnamese Embassy in Iran and Syria, there is currently only one Vietnamese working in Syria.

The embassy is cooperating with relevant Syrian agencies and the International Organisation for Migration on the necessary procedures to repatriate the citizen, the Spokesman said.

Vietnam, Cambodia beef up military ties

Vietnam and Cambodia have agreed to further strengthen the friendship, solidarity and comprehensive cooperation between the two armies and the two countries in general.

They reached the consensus during talks between Senior Lieutenant General Ngo Xuan Lich, head of the General Department of Politics under the Vietnam People’s Army, and General Neang Phat, Secretary of State of the Cambodian Defence Ministry, in Phnom Penh on September 25.

Both sides expressed their delight at the developing cooperation between Vietnam and Cambodia , based on mutual respect, saying that it has positively impacted on long-term bilateral relations and sustainable development in the two countries.

They also reviewed the outcomes of collaborations between Vietnam ’s General Department of Politics and Cambodia ’s General Department of Defence Services, and discussed the future of their cooperation.

They two sides agreed to continue stepping up education for Vietnamese and Cambodian military officers and soldiers on the importance of promoting the bilateral relations, and implement agreements reached by the two countries’ high-ranking leaders in the field of defence, including those on personnel training, infrastructure development and border protection.

They will effectively cooperate in searching and repatriating the remains of Vietnamese volunteer soldiers and experts who died in Cambodia during the war.

Earlier the same day, the Vietnamese delegation laid a wreath at the Monument to Vietnamese Volunteer Soldiers in Phnom Penh .

During their stay in Cambodia from September 24-27, the Vietnamese officials will pay a courtesy visit to Prime Minister Hun Sen and Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for National Defence Tea Banh.

RoK proposes trade balance with Vietnam

Deputy Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea (RoK) Ahn Chong Ghee has expressed his government’s desire to strike a trade balance between the two countries.

The RoK would like to balance trade with Vietnam and to offer more incentives to Vietnamese exports, Ahn told Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister Vu Van Ninh at a meeting in Hanoi on September 24.

The Korean diplomat is leading a RoK government delegation to the 8th meeting of the Vietnam-RoK Inter-government Committee.

He proposed Vietnam create more favourable conditions for Korean businesses to invest in infrastructure, banking, and energy industries, especially nuclear power.

Ahn said the RoK is preparing for the ASEAN-RoK Summit to take place by the end of this year, and called for Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s engagement in discussions on a free trade agreement (FTA) between the RoK and ASEAN.

He said hopes that the coming visit to the RoK by Vietnamese Party leader Nguyen Phu Trong will help lift bilateral ties to a higher level in all fields.

For his part, Deputy PM Ninh reiterated Vietnam’s policy of attaching great importance to the RoK-ASEAN FTA, adding that Vietnamese ministries and agencies are completing legal foundations for negotiations.

Australia, Vietnam boost agricultural cooperation

Business firms in Queensland and Vietnam should fully tap potential and advantages, especially in mineral exploration, infrastructure, agro-forestry-fishery industry and tourism, said Vietnam Ambassador to Australia Luong Thanh Nghi.

The Ambassador made the statement at a recent working session with leaders from relevant agencies of Queensland as part of his working visit to Australia from September 22-24.

During the meeting, Queensland leaders expressed delight at the active development of Vietnam-Australia comprehensive partnership, especially in the fields of economics, education and tourism.

Last year's two-way trade turnover between Queensland and Vietnam reached nearly AUD1.2 billion including AUD700 million from Vietnamese exports . At present, nearly 2,500 Vietnamese students are studying at universities of Queensland.

Queensland has attached importance to relations with Vietnam, saying both sides have great potential for stronger cooperation, especially in the fields of agriculture, mineral exploration, education and training.

Nghi congratulated Mr Paul de Jersey on his recent appointment as the Governor of Queensland, expressing his wish that the Governor will continue to make important contribution to the development Vietnam-Queensland relations.

He affirmed the regular exchange of high-level visits between the two sides' leaders will give fresh impetus to comprehensive and effective development of relationship among Queensland and Vietnamese localities.

Queensland authorities and Parliament should continue to help the Vietnamese community in Queensland as the way to enhance relationship between the two peoples.

Working with the University of Queensland, Queensland University of Technology and Griffiths University, the Vietnamese diplomat asked these universities to create favourable conditions for Vietnamese students.

Vietnam respects freedom of religion and belief

Vietnam has always pursued a policy of safeguarding citizens’ rights to religion and belief freedom, as stipulated in the country’s Constitution and legal framework, Head of the Government Committee for Religious Affairs, Pham Dung affirmed.

Addressing an international conference in Hanoi on September 25, Dung, who also acts as Deputy Minister of Home Affairs, said religious practices were common throughout Vietnam, since a quarter of the population was religious. The country has 14 religions, 38 religious organisations, 78,000 dignitaries and over 24 million believers.

Religions and spiritual beliefs were diversifying Vietnamese culture, Dung stated. Dignitaries and believers played an active role in the processes of nation-building and national security, he said.

Delphine Malard, Head of the Politics, Press and Information Section of the Delegation of the European Union to Vietnam, spoke highly of the positive changes in religious policies in Vietnam.

No nation was perfect in terms of religious freedom, she said, touching upon the necessity to consider the role of religion and beliefs in driving development.

After the conference, a training course on religious issues will be held in Buon Ma Thuat city in the Central Highlands province of Dak Lak from September 29-30, with the participation of religious dignitaries and State officials working in the field of religion in 15 localities in the Central Highlands and southern region.

Consumption tax hike should be realistic: NA

The National Assembly Standing Committee has called for a careful study of impending tax increases under the amended Law on the Special Consumption Tax to ensure that these were realistic.

The amended law aims to increase tax revenues on, and limit the consumption of, products that are harmful to health and were being consumed in large quantities by a significant number of Vietnamese citizens, like tobacco, beer and liquor.

The draft of the amended law drew mixed opinions from members of the National Assembly Standing Committee at its meeting yesterday, as concerns were raised regarding the impact of the proposed increases on employment, income, consumption and production.

According to the draft law, the special consumption tax on tobacco will be raised from 65 per cent to 70 per cent on January 1, 2016, and to 75 per cent on January 1, 2019. The tax on beer will be increased from 50 per cent to 55 per cent on July 1, 2015, and to 60 per cent on January 1, 2017, and 65 per cent at the beginning of 2018.

The amended law is to be approved at the eighth meeting of the 13th National Assembly in October and enforced on July 1, 2015.

Most of the parties at yesterday's meeting agreed to remove naphtha and reformade components from the list of items to be subjected to tax.

Industry and Trade Deputy Minister Do Thang Hai said the tax increase route map on liquor, beer and tobacco must be reviewed carefully to prevent smuggling and other harmful effects on domestic producers. He added that smuggling would increase if the tax increases were unreasonably high, and pointed out that tobacco smuggling alone caused an estimated VND6 trillion (US$283 million) in losses per year.

Tong Thi Phong, vice chairwoman of the National Assembly, stressed that the imposition of a special consumption tax on products harmful to health was essential, and the prevention of smuggling required synchronised co-ordination among concerned authorities, including the tax, customs and market watch departments.

Phung Quoc Hien, chairman of the National Assembly's Financial and Budgetary Commission, proposed that online games, especially the violent and addictive ones, should also be subjected to special consumption tax.

Hien said the rising popularity of violent online games among the youth had a negative social impact, even as the online games business was raking in huge profits.

But a tax on online gaming might harm domestic game producers who were in fierce competition with their foreign counterparts, said experts who were objecting to the proposal.

Uong Chu Luu, National Assembly vice chairman, said the proposal to tax online gaming needed further study and should not be added to the draft which would be proposed to the National Assembly at the coming meeting.

Finance Minister Dinh Tien Dung, representative of the law drafting committee, said the proposal to tax online gaming would be reviewed.

On the proposal to impose tax on products consumed by residents in non-tariff areas to prevent losses to the State budget, members of the National Assembly Standing Committee said checks must be carried out to ensure consistency with established regulations and prevent violations of market integration commitments. 



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