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Top legislator holds talks with Bhutan’s National Council Chairman

Chairwoman of the National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan on May 13 held talks with Chairman of the National Council (Upper House) of Bhutan Tashi Dorji, who is in Vietnam for an official visit and to attend the 16th UN Day of Vesak.

This is the first official visit to Vietnam by a high-ranking Bhutan leader since the two countries set up diplomatic ties in 2012, Ngan said.

The Vietnamese top legislator expressed her belief that the visit will significantly contribute to building and promoting the fruitful friendship between the two States and their peoples.

She congratulated Tashi Dorji on his election as Chairman of the National Council of Bhutan, and believed that under the leadership of the Chairman and other leaders, Bhutan people will reap more successes and the country will become more prosperous.

For his part, Tashi Dorji congratulated Ngan for being Vietnam’s first NA Chairwoman and expressed his fine impression on Vietnamese land and people.

He spoke highly of Vietnam’s organisation of the 16th UN Day of Vesak 2019 which is taking place at the Tam Chuc Buddhism Culture Centre in Kim Bang district of northern Ha Nam province from May 12-14.

NA Chairwoman Ngan briefed her guest on Vietnam’s socio-political-economic situation, saying the country’s economy grew 7.08 percent in 2018, the highest pace since 2008.

Last year, the number of foreign tourists to the country hit a record high of 15.5 million. Besides, Vietnam has become a destination of foreign investors, with 26,000 projects valued at 334 billion USD from 126 countries and territories worldwide.

In the sphere of trade, Vietnam ratified the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific, signed and implemented 12 free trade agreements (FTAs) and is negotiating four others, both bilateral and multilateral.

Of note, the country’s hosting of the second summit between the US and the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) in Hanoi last February has proven its position as well as international confidence in the country as a responsible member of the world community that can contribute to peace, security and stability in the region and the world at large, she said.

The Vietnamese NA leader congratulated Bhutan for achievements that the country – with the highest Gross Happiness Index in the world - has gained so far.

At the talks, the two leaders agreed that since the two countries set up diplomatic relations in 2012, the bilateral friendship and cooperation have been growing but yet to match the strength and potential of both sides.

Dorji held that Vietnam and Bhutan share many similarities in culture and religion, especially Buddhism values and love for peace. Therefore, the two sides can share experience in national development and expand partnership in various areas

Amidst the modest bilateral trade, the two countries should foster collaboration through the use of chartered flights, encouraging localities to strengthen their connections, while fostering the affiliation between the two national tourism agencies, he stated.

Ngan expressed her hope that the Chairman will help increase exchanges of delegations at all levels and through all channels such as Party, State, National Assembly, localities and people-to-people contacts, thus enhancing mutual understanding and trust.

Alongside, Bhutan should give more favourable conditions for Vietnamese firms to seek business opportunities in the country, especially in areas of Bhutan’s demand such as agricultural machineries and tourism.

The Vietnamese top legislator declared that Vietnam is willing to share experience with Bhutan in economic development, especially agriculture, rural development, education and social welfare.

She proposed that the two sides soon sign an agreement on visa exemption for diplomatic and official passport holders, while considering the appointment of Honorary Consuls in each country to act as bridges for bilateral friendship.

Regarding regional and international issues, Ngan thanked Bhutan for supporting Vietnam at international organisations, showing her hope that Bhutan will continue collaborating closely with Vietnam for a consensus voice at organisations of which both countries are members.

Currently, Vietnam has been nominated as the only candidate of the Asia-Pacific region for the seat of a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in the 2020-2021 tenure, she noted, expressing her wish that Bhutan will soon voice its support to Vietnam in the field.

Speaking highly of Vietnam’s great achievements, Dorji stressed that the country has risen to stardom as a good economic development model in the region amid various challenges, and hoped it will reap further success in the time ahead.

He suggested Vietnam and Bhutan promote bilateral cooperation in agriculture. As Bhutan sees Vietnam as a role model in agricultural development, particularly agriculture mechanization.

Regarding the tourism sector, he said that Bhutan, with a total population of 700,000 people, focuses on high-quality tourism, and has policies to limit the number of foreign visitors so as to protect the environment.

However, as the country looks to welcome more Vietnamese nationals, he expressed his hope that the Tourism Council of Bhutan and the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism will work together to promote cooperation in the coming time.

Touching on supporting Vietnam to become a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, he said that he will relay the issue to the parliament and the foreign minister for consideration.

Last year, the two foreign ministers discussed measures to set up a bilateral consultation mechanism, he said, wishing that with sound coordination, they will successfully organise their first meeting in 2019.

At the talk, he briefed NA Chairwoman Ngan on Bhutan’s parliament, with three tenures since 2008, while hoping to learn experiences from neighbouring countries, including Vietnam.

The Vietnamese top legislator, for her part, highlighted that since its establishment more than seven decades ago, the Vietnamese National Assembly has had many reforms in its operation and activities and affirmed its increasing role in the country’s political life.

She wished that the two parliaments will bolster delegation exchanges at all levels, as well as promote coordination and support for each other at international parliamentary forums, especially the Inter-Parliamentary Union.

The same day, NA Chairwoman Ngan hosted a banquet for a high-ranking delegation from Bhutan, led by Tashi Dorji.