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Germany wants ‘new substance’ in strategic partnership with Vietnam

By Phan Anh   February 21, 2019 | 04:19 am PT
Germany wants ‘new substance’ in strategic partnership with Vietnam
German Justice Minister Heiko Maas arrives for the weekly cabinet meeting at the Chancellery in Berlin, Germany August 30, 2017. Photo by Reuters/Hannibal Hanschke
German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas said Germany wants to bury "noticeable differences" of the past and strengthen strategic partnership with Vietnam.

In a Wednesday meeting in Berlin, Maas and his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh discussed resetting ties between the two countries after differences broke out over the return of former oil executive Trinh Xuan Thanh from Germany to Vietnam in 2017.

Maas said Vietnam was a key partner for Germany in Southeast Asia, and praised Vietnam for making important progress in opening its economy and enacting other reforms in recent years.

Germany is Vietnam’s leading trading partner in Europe.

A Reuters report quoted a statement issued by Maas before the meeting took place: "In the past there were noticeable differences between Germany and Vietnam.

"Today we want to reach agreement about resetting the strategic partnership between Vietnam and Germany and filling it with new substance."

Maas underscored the importance of common values in any strategic partnership.

"Vietnam, like Germany, is committed to multilateralism and free trade. It has taken on increasing global responsibility and is engaged in climate protection," he said. "These are all areas in which Germany and Vietnam can work together more closely in the future."

Maas also said Germany supported early ratification of the free trade agreement between the European Union and Vietnam.

In response, Minh affirmed that Vietnam had always valued its strategic partnership with Germany and considered the European country a leading, priority partner in the region.

The two countries established diplomatic relations in 1975 and elevated their ties to a strategic partnership in 2011.

Former oil executive Trinh Xuan Thanh fled to Germany in 2016 as Vietnam opened investigation into his financial malfeasance at the state-owned PetroVietnam Construction Joint Stock Corporation (PVC) of which he was chairman. PVC is a subsidiary of giant PetroVietnam.

In August 2017, Vietnam said it regretted accusations made by the German government that it had "kidnapped" Thanh from Berlin to bring him home to face charges.

Vietnamese police said he returned to Hanoi and turned himself in. He was sentenced to life in prison in early 2018 for his crimes.

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