Vietnam and Cuba though geographically far apart, have grown their relationship far beyond imagination with many international relations experts describing the two as pure and loyal friends, a situation that is not easy to achieve given the history of the two countries. Over the past over 50 years, many countries have suffered tremendous relationship challenges, but the brother-like Vietnamese Cuban trade relations have continued to flourish with many developments demonstrating the relationship. Vietnam is Cuba’s second largest trade partner in Asia after the Chinese.
Vietnam and Cuba are two countries that have overcome the odds considering their diametrically opposed historical backgrounds. During the period between 1959 and 1975, the Vietnamese fought against perceived American invaders while Cuba was still trying to consolidate its independence. During this defining period, the Vietnamese believed that any achievements made were a clear show of support and encouragement to their Caribbean counterparts in their revolutionary war and vice versa. Because of this, both countries adopted a policy to support their relationship with a view of defending their sovereignty, socio-economic development, territorial integrity and foreign relations.
For many years, Cuba has held a position that Vietnamese revolution and quest for national revolution has a significantly positive impact on her revolution as well. The visit to Vietnam by the Cuban President Fidel Castro in September 1973 marked a beginning of their strong ties just after the Paris Peace Accord on Vietnam was signed in January 27, 1973. This was a clear demonstration that the two countries had stood the test of time. The words of Fidel Castro, Cuban President “For Vietnam, we are ready to shed our blood,” remains fresh in the minds of Cuban and Vietnamese people to date. Perhaps the statement by the great Cuban president might be viewed as a solemn vow by Cuban people to protect Vietnam and its people at all cost.
In the late 1980s and early 1990s, the two socialist countries, Cuba and Vietnam, included faced serious challenges but they stood firm to protect and consolidate their development based on socialism, once again clearly demonstrating a true friendship between two revolutionary countries. As a show of brotherhood, the State and the People of Vietnam pooled and shared their important economic resources with the Cuban people, something that helped Cuba to overcome its economic hurdles. While the material support received from the people of Vietnam were small in quantity, they carried a huge meaning as they represented the sentimental value attached to them by the Vietnamese people. Since that time, Cuba and Vietnam have continued to promote economic and trade cooperation in more or less newer forms and within new arrangements with respect to the ever-changing economic reforms of the two countries.
Today, bilateral relations between Vietnam and Cuba have expanded and their cooperation on many other fronts have deepened, particularly in the agricultural industry, construction, education, oil, gas, education, technology, health and culture. The trade between these two countries can comfortably be described as two-way with both countries enjoying significant foreign direct investment (FDI). The trade value between these two countries has shown the prospects of increasing their trade in recent years. Total trade between Vietnam and Cuba has grown from US $207.5 million in 2014 to US $250 million in 2016.
A good example of the deepened trade relations is when Vietnam successfully implemented a rice growing project (Cuba-Viet Nam Cooperation Project) in 2015 to help Cuba overcome its food insecurity problems, a gesture of friendship that remains highly valued by the Cubans. In reciprocating, the Cuban government has been on the forefront to help Vietnam develop its sugar cane industry as well as boost its medical programs.
Vietnamese exports to Cuba include rice, coal, chemicals, garments, and computers (technology). Cuba’s exports to Vietnam include pharmaceuticals, medical services and functional foods. Vietnam has several projects of investment on the Island. Cuba has one investment project in Vietnam worth a total US$6.6 billion.
Some of the Vietnamese companies doing business in Cuba include Thai Binh Investment Trading Corporation, Vietnam National Oil and Gas Group (PetroVietnam), Viglacera Corporation, Hanel Company, and, Tin Thanh Steam Power Co., Ltd.
There have been many high level official visits between the two nations in recent years. Leaders on both sides of the two countries have consistently paid each other courtesy calls to help deepen their brotherly ties, a trend that has boosted their revolutionary cause. The achievements of Vietnam in designing comprehensive foreign policy and Cuba’s success in developing a new economic model have all worked to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two countries. The relationship between the two friends has revolved around trade, economic and investment, which have been major boosters of efforts towards peace stability, cooperation and development. All these efforts have contributed to strong Vietnamese Cuban trade relations between the two countries.