Implications of Vietnam-China joint statement for different industries

Vietnam and China signed a 16-page joint declaration and 36 cooperation documents during Chinese president Xi Jinping ‘s visit to Hanoi on December 13, 2023. Covering key areas such as infrastructure, trade, and security, these agreements present a wealth of opportunities for businesses in both nations.

Major points singed by Vietnam and China

  1. Infrastructure and rail links
    • Memorandums of understanding (MoUs) on strengthening Vietnam-China railway cooperation and cross-border railway development.
    • An agreement to jointly construct a new bridge across the Red River, connecting Vietnam’s Lao Cai province and China’s Yunnan province.
    • Commitment to the construction of interoperable railways connecting China to the northern Vietnamese port of Haiphong.
  2. Defence and security
    • MoU on joint naval patrols in the Gulf of Tonkin.
    • An agreement establishing a hotline between Vietnam’s agriculture ministry and China’s coastguard to handle unexpected incidents in the South China Sea.
    • Agreements on the extradition of prisoners, joint search-and-rescue operations at sea, and a commitment to boost security and intelligence cooperation.
  3. Digital, data, and telecommunications
    • MoUs on cooperation and investment in the digital economy and data.
    • Collaboration in telecommunications, information technology, communications, and digital transformation.
  4. Trade and investment
    • MoUs to enhance development cooperation and promote the implementation of the Global Development Initiative.
    • Cooperation on green development and action plans until 2026 for economic and trade cooperation.

Expert insights on more details of the agreement

While the details of the agreements remain undisclosed, according to CNA, officials had said the increased telecoms cooperation could include digital infrastructure such as 5G networks and undersea optical fibre cables.

Addiontally, China’s Ambassador to Vietnam, Xiong Bo, has revealed that Beijing was ready to provide grants for the development of rail connections. This initiative would allow Vietnam to export more to China, especially farm products, while Beijing wants to further integrate the country’s north with its southern supply chain networks, where Chinese firms are moving some operations.

Absence of a dedicated pact on rare earths cooperation

The upgraded railway linking Kunming in southern China to Vietnam’s port city of Haiphong would pass through the region where Vietnam has its largest deposits of rare earths. This development has sparked public anticipation on how the two nations would negotiate cooperation in the rare earth sector.

Vietnam has strict rules on the export of rare earth ores, which it wants to process at home, yet often lacks the technology to do so. Conversely, China holds a dominant position in the supply of minerals essential for industries like electric vehicles and wind turbines. In essence, Vietnam’s ambition to build its own rare earth industry is perceived as a potential challenge to China’s dominance, making cooperation between the two countries more complex.

While the joint statement affirms both nations’ commitment to explore opportunities for strengthening bilateral and multilateral cooperation in the field of key minerals, specific discussions regarding resource-sharing or avenues for deeper collaboration remain unaddressed.

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