The Jakarta Post
Relations between Indonesia and Vietnam have been growing faster and getting stronger with increasing interaction and close cooperation in political, security and economic fields, an envoy says.
'The relationship is growing faster and stronger. Indonesia and Vietnam are like the Indonesian saying 'jauh di mata dekat di hati' (far apart but close at heart). We are close friends,' Vietnamese Ambassador to Indonesia Nguyen Xuan Thuy said in fluent Indonesian while inaugurating the Vietnam Festival at the Hotel Indonesia Kempinski in Jakarta on Friday.
The Embassy of Vietnam, in cooperation with the hotel, has organized the festival to showcase Vietnam's mouthwatering cuisine, beautiful dances and silk paintings.
Under the theme 'Revealing Delicacies of the Exquisite Vietnamese Cuisine', the festival is being held from May 17 to June 2.
Three Vietnamese chefs from the famous Six Senses Series Resort in Ninh Van Bay have come to Jakarta to participate in the festival. 'Our Indonesian friends will know more about Vietnamese culture and its food,' Thuy told The Jakarta Post.
While commenting on bilateral relations Thuy said that last year was a 'wonderful' year.
'Our relationship is now transforming into a strategic partnership. Last December we launched the first-ever direct flight between Ho Chi Minh City and Jakarta to boost people-to-people links,' Thuy said.
Last July, both countries held their first Joint Commission Meeting (JCM) in Hanoi. Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa commended the growing ties.
'The comprehensive partnership between Indonesia and Vietnam has continued to strengthen and become more strategic,' Marty said in Hanoi after attending the JCM.
Both countries, which signed a Friendly and Comprehensive Partnership Agreement in 2003 and a Strategic Partnership Action Plan 2012-2015 in 2011, have set a bilateral trade target of US$5 billion by 2015.
'Despite the ongoing global financial crisis, our trade with Indonesia surged to $4.6 billion in 2012. This year in the first quarter, we've already achieved $1.4 billion,' Thuy said.
Based on Indonesia's Central Statistics Agency (BPS) data, the bilateral trade was $4.86 billion, just short of $140 million of the 2015 target of $5 billion.
Indonesia mainly imports rice, steel, textiles and footwear from Vietnam while exporting wood, paper, electronic goods and chemicals.
Of late, Indonesian businesses, according to Thuy, have been seriously looking at Vietnam for new investment opportunities.
'The two countries share many similarities such as broad markets, high consumption, huge populations, high demand for consumer goods and a similar geography. These reasons have attracted the attention of Indonesia's investors to the Vietnamese market.,' Vietnam's vccinews.com portal reported recently quoting Indonesian Ambassador to Vietnam Mayerfas as saying in Hanoi.
Just recently, Indonesia's PT Semen Gresik bought a 70 percent stake in Vietnam's biggest cement company Thang Long for $157 million.
'Overall investment in Vietnam by PT Semen Gresik will amount to $300 million. Indonesia is now the 30th biggest out of 90 foreign investors,' Thuy said.
Indonesia's property conglomerate Ciputra Group has also built the massive $2.11 billion-Ciputra Hanoi International City.
Thuy praised Indonesia's role in ASEAN, especially its efforts to find a peaceful solution to the South China Sea issue and implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC).
Vietnam has overlapping claims on certain parts of the South China Sea with China.