Najib thanks Vietnam for help

HANOI - PRIME Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak yesterday expressed his gratitude to his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Tan Dung, and the Vietnamese government for their assistance during the early days of the search-and-rescue (SAR) efforts for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370.

He said Vietnam had been forthcoming in deploying its assets and in sharing information on the missing aircraft, which lost contact after entering Vietnamese airspace on March 8.

"Malaysia will not give up in our efforts to locate the plane and we are grateful for the assistance from our friends," he said in his speech at a luncheon hosted by Tan Dung at the International Convention Centre here.

Najib said he also had a frank discussion and a fruitful bilateral meeting with Tan Dung, which was followed by the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the two nations in the field of agriculture.

"This MoU is the 20th accord signed between our two countries in the last 31/2 decades and a sign of the benefits of our growing partnership."

Najib, who arrived on Thursday night from Perth, Australia, with his wife, Datin Seri Rosmah Mansor, is on a three-day working visit to Vietnam at the invitation of Tan Dung.

This was his first official visit to Vietnam since he took office as the prime minister in 2009. Joining him on his visit were Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Seri Anifah Aman, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Seri Mustapa Mohamed, Agriculture and Agro-based Industry Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob, and senior officials from the three ministries.

Earlier, at a joint press conference at the Presidential Palace after the bilateral meeting, Najib also thanked the Vietnamese government for its help in the SAR effort of the aircraft.

"I would like to put it on record our sincere appreciation to the Vietnamese government for all the assistance rendered to us." Najib said both nations had been enjoying good bilateral ties that had grown in strength over the years, with trade reaching more than US$9 billion (RM29.25 billion).

"During our meeting, we set a target to further increase our total trade to US$11 billion by 2015," he said, adding that he was glad to see the total trade between both countries increasing by 67 per cent in the past three years.

Malaysia is Vietnam's seventh largest trading partner, fifth largest export destination and eighth largest source of import.

Vietnam, meanwhile, is Malaysia's 13th largest trading partner, 14th largest export destination and 10th largest source of import.

Describing the bilateral meeting as frank and comprehensive, Najib said Vietnam should explore further investment opportunities, particularly in the banking and finance, tourism, education, and oil and gas sectors in Malaysia.

He said Petronas and Petro Vietnam could carry out more joint development in the oil and gas sector in the future, adding that Malaysia would also consider Vietnam's request for more employment opportunities for its workers.

"I would also like to congratulate Prime Minister Tan Dung for his leadership in turning his country into one of the region's top economies. We also look forward to improving the cooperation in defence and security."

During the meeting, both leaders also discussed the Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement, which they agreed should be reasonable to all, especially emerging economies and developing countries.

"We agreed that the centrality of Asean should be given the priority to settle disputes," Najib said.

He also invited Tan Dung to visit Malaysia to further discuss investment and trade opportunities between the two nations.

Tan Dung expressed his sympathy and condolences to the families of passengers and crew members on board MH370.

"Our immediate search efforts for the aircraft were due to the close ties between the two countries."

He said he agreed with Najib that the two countries should make the best of the good bilateral ties by exploring more trade and investment opportunities to achieve their 2015 target.

Najib and Tan Dung also witnessed the signing of the memorandum between Ismail Sabri and Vietnamese Agriculture and Rural Development Minister Cao Duc Phat.

Prior to the bilateral meeting, Najib was accorded an official welcoming ceremony. He later inspected the guard of honour mounted by Vietnamese armed forces at the Presidential Palace.

Later in the evening, Najib launched the Yen So recreational park in southern Hanoi, which is part of the US$3 billion Gamuda City project -- a 183ha integrated mixed township with a gross development value of RM9 billion.

He was briefed on the project by Gamuda Berhad Group managing director Datuk Lin Yung Ling.

Najib also made courtesy calls on Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang and Communist Party of Vietnam secretary-general Nguyen Phu Trong before wrapping up the day by attending a dinner with Malaysian community here.

Today, the prime minister will hold a breakfast meeting with Malaysian and Vietnamese business communities before leaving for Kuala Lumpur.