Việt Nam produce gets ambassador's seal of approval

Sunday, Feb 04, 2024 08:26

Vietnamese Ambassador to Brazil Bùi Văn Nghị. VNA/VNS Photo Diệu Hương

2023 was an important year for diplomatic relations between Việt Nam and Brazil with Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính's official visit to Brazil in November. Vietnamese Ambassador to Brazil Bùi Văn Nghị, who also covers Peru, Bolivia, Guyana, and Suriname, talks to Vi Thùy Linh about his work and efforts to promote relations between the two nations.

Inner Sanctum: You were appointed Vietnamese Ambassador to Brazil, also covering Peru, Bolivia, Guyana and Suriname, last February. How did you feel about the new mission?

Taking on the role of Vietnamese Ambassador to Brazil and concurrently serving in four other countries, I feel a bit overwhelmed by the vast territory I have to cover and the many aspects I need to understand to foster effective cooperation.

At the same time, it is an honour and a great responsibility, even though I have not yet been to Brazil, the largest country in South America.

By the end of last July, I presented an action plan to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to strengthen and upgrade relations with five countries through bilateral and multilateral channels.

I aim to accelerate these efforts to ensure that my tenure leaves a distinct and vibrant Vietnamese imprint in South America, so that the relations between Việt Nam and these five countries become even closer by 2033 when we commemorate the 60th anniversary of Việt Nam-Latin America diplomatic relations.

Inner Sanctum: Brazil is not widely known in Việt Nam beyond the Amazon, samba, carnival, and football. Could you say about trade and commerce between the two countries?

Brazil is Việt Nam's largest trading partner in Latin America and the second-largest in the Americas. Việt Nam's exports to Brazil include components, computers, electronic products, vehicles, spare parts, iron and steel, footwear, textiles, and seafood. Việt Nam's imports from Brazil consist of mineral ores, cotton, animal feed, soybeans, beans, and leather.

Vietnamese consumer goods are still relatively scarce in Brazil. With its 26 states and a population of 240 million, Brazil is a vast country with great potential and numerous opportunities that are seemingly easy to grasp.

However, Vietnamese businesses often overlook these opportunities due to adherence to the familiar and conventional ways in foreign trade. There is also a reluctance to venture far, as Brazil is located in the Southern Hemisphere and requires travel halfway around the world.

Currently, Cát Lái Port in HCM City is connected to Santos Port in Brazil, and six Brazilian seaports are collaborating with Việt Nam. Vietnamese businesses have many opportunities in South America, but the fear of distance and reluctance to venture into new territories remain limitations.

Inner Sanctum: Being responsible for the largest area among nearly 100 Vietnamese embassies, you are also known as an ambassador of Vietnamese agriculture. How have you promoted Vietnamese produce to Brazilians?

Though it is not easy to export Vietnamese speciality products to Brazil, I still manage to introduce Vietnamese goods to politicians, businessmen, friends from Brazil, and the international community. I am proficient in business collaboration and maximising cooperation potential in import-export activities.

I have actively attended numerous meetings with many important Brazilian officials such as Senator Pedro da Oliveira, secretary-general of the Brazil-Vietnam Friendship Association (ABRAVIET), who has helped me connect with senators, associations, and industry experts in the Senate; Inacio Arruda, deputy minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, who also serves as the Chairman of ABRAVIET, and Eduardo Paes Saboia, deputy minister of Foreign Affairs.

In a meeting with Jatyr Ranzolin Jr, chairman of the Brazil-Portugal Chamber of Commerce, Industry, and Tourism, I was invited to the International Business Fair that will take place in Santa Catarina. Representatives from Mundial Residence, a transportation company from Brazil, have also met me to introduce their company and express their desire to collaborate in cargo transport between Việt Nam and Brazil.

On December 12, 2023, before I left Việt Nam, I had a last-minute meeting with Celso Amorim, senior advisor to the President of Brazil, to discuss the upcoming visit to Việt Nam in May 2024 by the President of Brazil. All of them were presented with Vietnamese agricultural gifts such as G7 instant coffee or Trà Vinh coconut wax.

Ambassador Bùi Văn Nghị presents a gift to Celso Amorim, the Chief Advisor to President Lula da Silva, at the Presidential Palace of Brazil on December 12, 2023. Photo courtesy of Vietnamese Ambassador to Brazil

Inner Sanctum: Brazil is the largest exporter of coffee in the world, so why do you use coffee as a gift?

In São Paulo, where the Vietnamese community is concentrated, there are only around 200 people, and occasionally G7 coffee is available, but it is only imported in a few containers and quickly sells out.

Brazil produces thousands of tons of coffee each year, accounting for one-third of the global supply, mainly arabica coffee. Meanwhile, Việt Nam's main coffee is of the robusta variety, which has a stronger flavour, I often blend these two varieties to create a perfect cup of coffee.

Inner Sanctum: What is the embassy's plan to promote a more dynamic exchange of sports and cultural activities between the two countries?

2024 is a year of significant activities. The Vietnamese government has decided to organise the Việt Nam Cultural Day in Saudi Arabia and Brazil in November. The Vietnamese embassy and relevant agencies will coordinate to organise the event in Rio.

The first Việt Nam Cultural Day held in Brazil must create an immediate, vibrant, and lasting impression as it serves as a key identifier of the essence of Việt Nam's way of life. Building a new, unique and captivating show that embodies the modern, youthful and vibrant spirit of the nation is a great idea to impress and showcase the country's innovation. I will contact art troupes of both countries to arrange more culture exchange activities.

The Brazil Film Week in Việt Nam and the Việt Nam Film Week in Brazil, as well as exhibitions of paintings and photographs, are also planned for this year.

Inner Sanctum: How are Vietnamese overseas in Brazil preparing for Tết, and what are your upcoming plans?

The Vietnamese embassy in Brazil has agreed to celebrate Tết before its official day. Due to geographical distance and several flight transits, the kinds of flowers and fresh food may not be as abundant as in the US. Nevertheless, there will definitely be a traditional tray of fruits, square glutinous rice cakes, and fried spring rolls. However, it will not be possible to have peach or ochna blossoms.

I am planning to establish the Vietnamese Community Association in Brazil during my term. Unity and loyalty towards the homeland should be the foundation of our success.

I hope that in 2024, marking the 35th anniversary of diplomatic relations, cooperation between Việt Nam and Brazil will thrive and reach new heights. — VNS

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