Viet­nam close to deal with Rus­sian-led trade area: Rus­sia-PM Medvedev

The China Post - - INTERNATIONAL - BY TRAN VAN MINH

Rus­sia’s Prime Min­is­ter Dmitry Medvedev said Mon­day that Viet­nam is close to agree­ing a free trade deal with the Rus­sian-led Eurasian Eco­nomic Union.

He pre­dicted that Rus­sia’s an­nual trade with Viet­nam could in­crease by four­fold to US$10 bil­lion over the next five years. The two sides also agreed to ex­pand oil and gas ex­plo­ration in the con­tested South China Sea.

Medvedev is on a 2-day of­fi­cial visit to Com­mu­nist Party- ruled Viet­nam and held talks with his Viet­namese coun­ter­part Nguyen Tan Dung.

Wary of the grow­ing in­flu­ence of gi­ant north­ern neigh­bor China, the Viet­namese gov­ern­ment has sought to strengthen com­mer­cial and mil­i­tary ties with world pow­ers in­clud­ing the its for­mer en­emy the United States and Ja­pan. Viet­nam and other Southeast Asian na­tions are em­broiled in dis­putes with Bei­jing over its ex­pan­sive claim to the South China Sea.

Medvedev said a trade agree­ment be­tween Viet­nam and the EEU, an eco­nomic com­mu­nity which also in­cludes Be­larus and Kaza­khstan, would help bol­ster eco­nomic ties.

“We have agreed on most con­tents of the agree­ment,” Medvedev said through a trans­la­tor dur­ing a press brief­ing. “I think this is the fac­tor that would pro­mote bi­lat­eral trade.”

Dung said he hoped the trade pact would be signed in the first half of this year.

Two-way trade be­tween Viet­nam and Rus­sia was US$2.5 bil­lion last year.

The two lead­ers wit­nessed the sign­ing of sev­eral en­ergy co­op­er­a­tion agree­ments in­clud­ing Rus­sia’s Gazprom Neft’s in­ten­tion to buy 49 per­cent of a 6.5 mil­lion-ton oil re­fin­ery in cen­tral Viet­nam which is op­er­a­tional.

Dung said the two lead­ers agreed on the ex­pan­sion of co­op­er­a­tion in oil and gas projects in Viet­nam’s ex­clu­sive eco­nomic zone and con­ti­nen­tal shelf in the East Sea, which is the Viet­namese term for the South China Sea.

“We are com­mit­ted to cre­at­ing fa­vor­able and se­cure con­di­tions for Rus­sian oil com­pa­nies to op­er­ate in Viet­namese wa­ters,” Dung said.

Viet­nam along with China, the Philip­pines, Malaysia, Brunei and Tai­wan claim all or parts of the South China Sea which is be­lieved to be rich in oil and gas and is one of the world’s busiest ship­ping lanes.

Medvedev was sched­uled to meet with Pres­i­dent Truong Tan Sang and Com­mu­nist Party Chief Nguyen Phu Trong later Mon­day. He will also visit Ho Chi Minh City, a bustling com­mer­cial city in the south, be­fore leav­ing on Tues­day.

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