Speeches

17. 4. 2019 18:48

Speech by Andrej Babiš at the Czech-Vietnamese Business Forum

Speech by Andrej Babiš at the Czech-Vietnamese Business Forum, 17 April 2019.
Speech by Andrej Babiš at the Czech-Vietnamese Business Forum, 17 April 2019.
Prime Minister Andrej Babiš attended the Czech-Vietnamese Business Forum in Prague’s Hilton Hotel on Wednesday 17 April 2019. Also present was the Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, and other distinguished guests.

Dear Prime Minister, dear Ministers, ladies and gentlemen,

it is my pleasure to welcome you to the Czech-Vietnamese Business Forum.

All the more so because Vietnam and the Czech Republic have enjoyed more than seventy years of intensive cooperation. Third generation of Vietnamese people come here to study at universities and form an integral part of small enterprise sector, and the new generation is starting successful careers in labour and business markets in highly qualified fields. As a result, there are almost 60,000 Vietnamese citizens currently living in the Czech Republic and 30,000 have obtained citizenship, making it the third largest minority.

And even more interesting is that there are 200,000 people in Vietnam who speak Czech or Slovak. So all this is the basis for the further development of business relationships, which have traditionally been very good, and Vietnam is currently experiencing a remarkable economic development. Over the past five years, the Vietnamese economy has grown at an average rate of 6% of GDP, with growth even exceeding 7% of GDP last year.

More importantly, this is facilitated by the inflow of foreign direct investment, which was USD 19 billion in 2018. The success of the Vietnamese economy is also reflected in the recent improvement in Vietnam’s long-term credit rating from three major rating agencies.

But, of course, we all await when the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) will be approved and come into effect, and I have promised the Prime Minister to be involved, because, as we know, the EU is not working so quickly, but hopefully it will happen soon. I do not know if this Parliament will manage to do it before the elections, but as a representative at the European Council, I will open this issue, just as I opened trade between the United States and Europe after returning from the United States, although I found that there is a need for more dynamics. So, Prime Minister, be sure to count on my help.

While it is true that our export to Vietnam in 2018/2017 grew by 32 percent, our trade balance is negative – almost USD 900 million. So we certainly have a huge potential there, and I have been very supportive of our companies, particularly in the mining industry, at our bilateral meeting. I personally handed over to the Prime Minister the prospectus of our company INCO Engineering, which wants to win a tender for the Khe Cham underground mine, and I told the Prime Minister that Czech quality is the same as German, but that we are more competitive. So hopefully they will succeed. I also talked about our vehicles, about Avia trucks, I talked about our defence industry companies, I also talked about the investment in Phu Son cement plant. So it was a very concrete meeting and I informed the Prime Minister that we export 85% to the European Union, and we need to open up new markets.

We met in the economic forum in Davos, I think that our relationship is very positive, I think we have good energy, good atmosphere, we speak openly, specifically and in today’s meeting we have set a lot of tasks. One of the most important things which I asked the Prime Minister to focus on is direct airline connection. And there we can have a very concrete result. Our predecessors destroyed our national carrier, the ČSA, one of the oldest airlines. So I asked the Prime Minister and I am very happy that there are representatives of Bamboo Airways and I will be very happy if the line opens by Christmas. In Thailand, AirAsia promised me that they would also open the Bangkok - Prague line by Christmas. Now comes Morocco, Casablanca on April 1, and it is just the start. I think it is very important and probably the simplest in terms of those projects.

I promised the Prime Minister, and today I spoke with my government colleagues about it, that we will be considerably more flexible with regard to issuing Schengen visas, because our citizens are certainly interested in visiting Vietnam and, of course, as the President Hanák said, we are the most beautiful country in the region, 17 million tourists came here, and we would certainly be happy if this line is opened as soon as possible and it will certainly help our business. So I can promise that regarding all the concrete projects that are on the table, that our businessmen and our companies can approach us, we will certainly support them and, of course, we expect Vietnam to also ensure very specific cooperation.

So I just want to wish us the best, it’s great that so many people came, that the forum is a success and Vietnam is definitely a huge market. Perhaps it is no coincidence that President Trump visited Vietnam twice in the last period, I was not there even once, but I told the Prime Minister that when Bamboo Airways line opens, I would like to fly there, our Airbus cannot fly so far.

So I wish you a nice conference.

Andrej Babiš, Prime Minister

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