July 08, 2010
Vietnam-Iran Foreign Relations
Although the country voted in favor of the United Nations draft resolution on the Iranian nuclear program in March 2008, Vietnam has generally been supportive of Iran’s right to utilize peaceful nuclear energy. Ambassador Le Luong Minh, permanent representative of Vietnam to the United Nations, told the UN Security Council that “we hold that [Iran’s] full implementation of the obligations under the NPT and their full enjoyment of the benefits that this Treaty brings about will contribute effectively to the maintenance of international peace and security and the social and economic development of States Parties to the Treaty.” Vietnam has also spoken in favor of a diplomatic resolution of the conflict through the UN and IAEA rather than unilateral state actions. 
On June 18, 2010, Vietnamese Deputy Foreign Minister Doan Xuan Hung reaffirmed his country’s support for Iran’s nuclear program, saying that it would continue to back the right of the Islamic Republic and other countries to harness nuclear power for peaceful purposes. The comments came during a meeting with Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Asia and Pacific Affairs Mohammad Ali Fathollahi.
Economic ties between Iran and Vietnam have expanded robustly over the past several years. Between 2003 and 2009, bilateral trade expanded more than 500%, climbing from $30 million to $165 million. According to Iran’s ambassador to Vietnam, Seyed Javad Ghavam Shahidi, “Vietnam supplies Iran with high-quality agricultural products, such as rice, tea, coffee, pepper and cashews, while Iran replies with cotton, dried nuts and fertilizer.”
In February 2008, the Vietnamese state-run Petrovietnam oil company signed a four-year contract with the National Iranian Oil Company to explore for oil in the Danan oil field in south-western Iran. The project, which is valued at $115 million, calls for the construction of three exploratory wells. According to the terms of the buyback contract, Petrovietnam will receive a share of the field’s production for a period of 25 years.
During an April 2009 meeting with Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki, Deputy Foreign Minister Doan Xuan Hung called for the expansion of economic cooperation between Hanoi and Tehran, especially in the field of gas and oil.
In May 2009, the Iranian Export Development Bank and Vietnamese Vietin Bank signed a letter of understanding calling for the development of commercial ties between Vietnam and Iran. In the letter, the two sides agreed to finance a 48 megawatt power plant in Vietnam, with Iranian experts participating in the plant’s construction.
In June 2009, the privately-owned Iranian Wagon Pars Company contracted with the Vietnamese Railroad Company to produce 200 passenger railway cars and supply additional related equipment. The deal, worth roughly $120 million, is one of the Iranian firm’s largest overseas projects and will be completed utilizing both domestic facilities and a factory specially constructed for the order, located in Vietnam.
In September 2009, Tehran and Hanoi established the Iran-Vietnam Friendship Association to enhance bilateral ties between the two countries. The Vietnamese deputy chairman of the association noted that “cooperation between the two countries in different fields, including agriculture, oil and gas” was responsible for the dramatic increase in the volume of bilateral trade over the past five years. That same month, an Iranian delegation traveled to Vietnam where the Iran Central Cooperative Chamber and the Vietnam Cooperatives Union signed a memorandum of understanding on boosting ties.
During a November 2009 visit to Hanoi by an Iranian delegation, Iran and Vietnam agreed to set up trade council offices in both capital cities to boost economic cooperation. The representatives of both sides stressed “the effective role [of] the friendship associations” in “expanding and deepening bilateral relations in different fields.” The friendship associations of the two countries, for their part, used the visit as an opportunity to pen a memorandum of understanding on bilateral cooperation. Similarly, in a December 2009 meeting in Hanoi, Iranian Commerce Minister Mehdi Ghazanfari noted the import role of private sector companies in expanding trade ties. Speaking for the Vietnamese side, President of the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vu Tien Loc highlighted the possibility of using Iran as a “transit route” for Vietnamese goods entering the Middle Eastern and Central Asian markets.
Iran’s ambassador to Hanoi, Seyed Javad Ghavam Shahidi, has called Vietnam’s economy “one of the most dynamic and promising in the region,” urging Iranian investors to take part in the country’s development. In a February 11, 2010 interview, Shahidi lauded the exceptional growth of bilateral trade, though he suggested that third-party shipping practices obscure the true trade figures, which may be substantial higher. Furthermore, according to the ambassador, “both sides expect bilateral trade volume to reach $1 billion in the near future.” He added that Iran is “considering joint investment in oil and gas, in the Vietnamese petrochemical industry and in the exchange of technical and training delegations” and stressed that Iran has a great deal of experience in the energy sector that can be shared with Vietnam. Speaking of non-energy fields, the ambassador noted that his country plans “to expand technical and scientific co-operation in forestry and wood production” and that previously signed agreements “allow the two countries to implement joint projects in the fields of agriculture, cattle breeding and fisheries.” 
Iran and Vietnam opened embassies in one another’s capitals in 1991 and 1997, respectively, and in 2003 the two countries’ celebrated 30 years of bilateral relations. Vietnam and Iran have held numerous high-level state meetings over the past several years and representatives from both countries have stated their government’s eagerness to expand political ties. In November 2008, Iranian Foreign Minister Manouchehr Mottaki told Vietnam's outgoing Ambassador to Iran Nguyenv An Hy that Iran is interested in boosting bilateral relations with Vietnam. Ambassador Hy, for his part, called for greater economic cooperation. Similarly in an April 2009 meeting with Vietnam’s ambassador to Tehran, Mottaki said that he “hope[s] the two countries' cooperation expands in the framework of mutual interests” and lauded Vietnam’s history of resisting foreign aggressors.
Following the October 2009 bombings targeting Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Vietnamese Ambassador Le Luong Minh delivered a message on behalf of the UN Security Council stating that “the members of the Security Council condemned in the strongest terms the deadly terrorist attacks that occurred in the border city of Pish in Iran on 18 October 2009.”
In an interview with Viet Nam News on February 11, 2010, Iran’s ambassador to Vietnam, Seyed Javad Ghavam Shahidi, claimed that Iran view[s its] relations with Vietnam in strategic terms and from a long-term perspective” and that recently signed agreements “will establish a concrete foundation for strengthening close co-operation between the two countries in various fields, particularly in trade and economic affairs.” The ambassador further expressed his hope that the “exchange of high-ranking delegations” between the two countries would continue in 2010.
On March 14, 2010, Iranian First Vice-President Mohammad Reza Rahimi encouraged the development of relations with Vietnam, saying that "the Islamic Republic of Iran has no restriction on the expansion of ties between the two countries and is ready to bolster relations in all fields." Rahimi, speaking during a meeting with Vietnamese Ambassador Tran Trong Khahn, went on to note that although the two counties enjoy ever-expanding commercial interaction, “economic ties and exchange volume, unfortunately, are meager and the level of these relations should be promoted at a higher pace." The Vietnamese ambassador, for his part, stressed the commonalities between the two, saying that "Vietnam, similar to Iran, has sustained heavy costs in its war with the hegemonic powers [and intends] to move towards progress of our country by utilizing our resistance and the experience of our struggles."
In June 2010, Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Asian and Pacific Affairs Mohammad Ali Fathollahi advocated the establishment of joint companies by Iran and Vietnam. According to the Fars News Agency, the deputy foreign minister called for “diversification of ties in all fields, [e]specially in trade, economic, industrial and agricultural fields.”