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Vietnamese Ambassador promotes local culture through food



The Ambassador chooses culinary as a funky and extensive way to introduce the rich culture of Vietnam to international friends.

Vietnamese Ambassador promotes local culture through food

A dish of Mi Quang or Quang noodles. Photo: Phuong Nguyen

Vietnam and Japan will celebrate the 50th founding anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries in 2023 (September 21, 1973 – September 21, 2023).

On the year heading to this important event,  told The Hanoi Times some anecdotes in his mission of promoting cultural diplomacy between Vietnam and Japan.

From Quang noodles winning the heart of Japanese PM to 500 bowls of Pho (rice noodles with beef) in Hokkaido

During his attendance at the 2017 APEC meeting in Vietnam, the then Japan’s PM Shinzo Abe was treated by his Vietnamese counterpart Nguyen Xuan Phuc to a bowl of Quang noodles in Hoi An. Noting certain fondness of the Japanese leader on the dish, I took the opportunity to promote this specialty in the Nikkei – Japan’s leading economic newspaper – which received a positive response. Japanese people were curious about the dish that their head of government tried.

But for the people in Japan to taste this delicacy, we had to bring in the ingredients unique to Quang Nam Province, the hometown of Quang noodles, which was really a headache taking into account the distance between Vietnam and Japan. In the end, the Vietnamese Embassy in Japan invited an artisan chef who is an expert in Mi Quang or Quang noodles to Japan with all the ingredients so as to offer Japanese diners the most genuine Quang noodles. After that, together with the impact of the article about the dish on Nikkei, many locals reached the embassy to ask how to enjoy it in Japan. The promotion of other Vietnamese traditional dishes such as pho, spring rolls was also as interesting as the publicity of Quang noodles.

Speaking of pho, there was no Vietnamese restaurant in Hokkaido when I arrived there in 2018. The embassy immediately organized a food promotion festival, in which 500 bowls of pho were prepared and brought to Hokkaido by truck from Tokyo- a journey of 12 hours over a distance of nearly 1,000 kilometers. The food fest took place over the weekend, but the pho sold out in just one morning.

Right in the following year, the first Vietnamese restaurant in Hokkaido was opened, and by now there is a chain of such restaurants in the northernmost prefecture of Japan. Through those restaurants, we promote Vietnamese culture, while diners can interact with the Vietnamese people working there. That is really meaningful.

Vietnamese lychee entering the Japanese market

We always bear in mind that our mission as diplomats is to promote, inspire and arouse curiosity about Vietnamese culture. Currently, the embassy cooperates with Vietnamese associations in Japan to organize cultural promotion events on holidays and anniversaries. There are about 20 associations in Japan with their own circles of friends, contributing to reinforcing the presence of Vietnamese culture in the country.

Vietnamese cuisines suit the taste of the Japanese pretty well. In the past, talking about cilantro put in Vietnamese pho might revolt them, but now there are even some Japanese who can’t eat pho without that herb. People there also rarely eat vegetable stir-fry, but now when entering Vietnamese restaurants, they order the stir-fried water spinach with garlic as a first-choice dish.

That is an experience of implementing cultural diplomacy: telling people stories while they are enjoying and experiencing the dishes is an effective way of dissemination. Other Vietnamese agricultural produces are entering the Japanese market in this way.

I once visited a museum in a Japanese province and happened to meet a group of school children and their teacher. I asked them: “Do you know where Vietnam is? Which fruits does it have? Do you know lychees?”

The children knew about bananas and mangos, yet had never tasted lychees despite having heard of them. When the fruit was granted permission to be imported to Japan, I sent a box of lychees to the school as a gift. They wrote me back, saying they liked the fruit very much and even posted a status about Vietnamese lychee on social networks. Their parents also got curious and looked for the fruit which is sold in AEON malls.

At that time, the director of AEON Mall called me and jokingly said: “How come everyone knows about the fruit when I haven’t promoted it yet? Now I am being pressured by people to bring the lychee to our shelves”.

Ten tons of lychees were exported to Japan and sold out immediately at the beginning of 2020. In 2021, about 50 tons were sent to Japan. I’m sure that in 2022, Bac Giang lychees will be much in demand as hot cakes in this country.

Conquer the picky market – savvy customers

Japan is a market with great purchasing power. Vietnamese farm produce has great potential here, and a number of items have been sold steadily. Regarding advice for Vietnamese businesses wanting to do well in this famously picky market with very savvy customers, I want to emphasize the three “self” words: self-deprecation, self-confidence, and self-satisfaction for businesses to avoid.

Entering foreign markets in general and Japan in particular, businesses should avoid self-deprecation. They must believe that their fruits, fish, shrimps are of the best quality.

At the same time, they should not be self-satisfied, because building our reputation in the market is difficult, yet to earn customer trust is even more so. There are several products that infringe local chemical residue regulations in their fifth or sixth export batches. The Japanese attach great importance to food safety, and never buy a product known for being unsafe twice. We have to retain customers’ trust by ensuring quality, even if doing so represents a loss. Trying to sell a poor product to recover capital will cost us dearly in the future.

So far, agreements like CPTPP and RCEP have opened more markets for Vietnamese products. Therefore, it is important that we comply with the safety standards, as well as build a comprehensive product brand from quality, designs, packaging, among others, according to the tastes of the host countries. 

Source: Hanoitimes



Vietnam proposes measures to foster Mekong-Lancang cooperation in post-pandemic recovery



Vietnam’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son has recommended four measures for beefing up the Mekong-Lancang Cooperation (MLC) to promote growth and sustainable development from the COVID-19 pandemic.

Minister Son was speaking at the seventh MLC Foreign Ministers’ Meeting held in Bagan, Myanmar on Monday, centered around ‘Solidarity for Peace and Prosperity.’ 

The event was attended by foreign ministers from the six member countries of the MLC mechanism, including China, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, and Vietnam. 

Participants highly appreciated the MLC’s recent contributions to regional cooperation and development, especially amid the complicated developments of COVID-19, and discussed coordination in organizing the second MLC Ministerial Meeting on Water Resources in Vietnam this year.

In this context, the Vietnamese diplomat delivered a speech proposing four major measures to make the MLC more effective.

He firstly mentioned the need for cooperation in boosting economic recovery and resilience from the pandemic, and strengthening customs cooperation and trade facilitation in order to solve goods congestion and ensure the free flow of goods and services in the region.

Second, it is necessary for mutual support among member countries in climate change adaptation and the transition to a green economic model, including clean energy development and climate-smart agriculture.

He also called for stronger cooperation in managing and using water resources in a sustainable manner, strengthening consultation and dialogue on water resource development plans, increasing the sharing of hydrological and meteorological data and hydroelectric dam operations, and expanding coordination between the MLC and the Mekong River Commission.

Vietnam’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son (L) bumps elbows with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at the seventh Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Myanmar, July 4, 2022. Photo: Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Vietnam’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son (L) bumps elbows with his Chinese counterpart Wang Yi at the seventh Mekong-Lancang Cooperation Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Myanmar, July 4, 2022. Photo: Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs

Lastly, it is advisable to promote people-to-people connections through tourism activities and cultural exchange programs, Son said.

His speech was highly appreciated by the other member countries and was reflected in the conference’s documents, the foreign ministry said in a statement on Monday.

The event came as two-way trade between the lower Mekong River countries and China reached nearly US$400 billion last year, up 23 percent from 2020, while many large infrastructure works have been completed and hundreds of technical assistance projects are being built by the MLC member nations, according to the Vietnam News Agency.

The meeting emphasized the principles of equal cooperation, mutual consultation, benefit-sharing and respect for the United Nations Charter and international law, as well as the legislation of each country. 

It came to an end with the issuance of four joint statements on strengthening agricultural cooperation, disaster prevention, customs and trade facilitation, and exchanges between MLC civilizations. 

Founded in 2016, the MLC is a multilateral cooperation mechanism between the riparian states of the Lancang River and Mekong River. 

The Lancang River originates from Qinghai-Tibet Plateau in southwestern China.

It is called the Mekong River as it flows through the other five countries – Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, and Vietnam – before entering the sea.

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Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov to visit Vietnam



Russian Minister of Foreign Affairs Sergey Lavrov is scheduled to visit Vietnam on Tuesday and Wednesday, the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Monday night.

The visit is made at the invitation of Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son.

In September 2021, Minister Son conducted a business trip to Moscow, where he met with many Russian officials, including his counterpart Lavrov.

In late 2021, State President Nguyen Xuan Phuc visited Russia at the invitation of President Vladimir Putin.

Last year marked the 20th anniversary of the strategic partnership between Vietnam and Russia, while this year is the 10th anniversary of the two nations’ comprehensive strategic partnership.

Lavrov’s visit takes place in the context of new developments in the international and regional situations.

In March, Minister Son joined separate phone talks with Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba about the military conflict between the two countries.

In both dialogues, Son affirmed Vietnam’s consistent stance that international disputes and disagreements should be resolved by peaceful measures and in compliance with the basic principles of the United Nations Charter and international law, especially the principle of respecting the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of countries.

The official asked relevant parties to exercise restraint, reduce tensions, and conduct more dialogues to find a long-term solution that is in line with international law and takes into consideration the legitimate interests of all sides.

During the talks, Minister Lavrov praised Vietnam’s contribution to peace, stability, cooperation, and development in the region and the world.

The official shared recent developments in the situation in Ukraine and affirmed that he would try his best to support the safe evacuation of Vietnamese citizens from conflict zones.

The two sides also discussed bilateral relations, with Minister Son suggesting that Russia continue to pay attention to and create favorable conditions for the Vietnamese community there to stabilize their life, production, and business operation.

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Vietnam leaders congratulate US on 246th Independence Day



Vietnamese leaders have sent congratulatory messages to leaders of the U.S. government and Congress on the occasion of the country’s 246th Independence Day.

State President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh sent their congratulations to U.S. President Joe Biden on Monday, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

Chairman of the National Assembly Vuong Dinh Hue also extended greetings to President of the Senate Kamala Harris and Speaker of the House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi.

On the same day, Minister of Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son sent a congratulatory message to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Vietnam and the U.S. established bilateral relations in 1995, paving the way for a partnership of trust, friendship, and mutual respect.

The bilateral relationship is guided by the comprehensive partnership signed in 2013 and joint statements issued by the leaders of the two countries in 2015, 2016, and May and November 2017, according to the U.S. Embassy in Hanoi.

After lifting the ban on the sale of lethal weapons to Vietnam in May 2016, the U.S. continued to support the Southeast Asian country in maritime security, including handing over Hamilton-class coast guard ships to Vietnam in 2017 and 2020.

The people-to-people relations between the two countries have also developed rapidly, with tens of thousands of Vietnamese students having come to the U.S. to study, contributing nearly US$1 billion to the local economy.

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