The three-day official visit of Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad to Vietnam starting tomorrow will strengthen relations and spur bilateral trade to US$15 billion (RM63 billion) next year.
Malaysian ambassador to Vietnam Shariffah Norhana Syed Mustaffa said the visit which is Mahathir's first after taking the prime minister post for the second time, was at the invitation of his Vietnamese counterpart, Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
She said the visit would enhance the diplomatic ties established between the two countries in the past 46 years since 1973.
“Both leaders are expected to discuss bilateral ties and also promote new cooperation initiatives in various fields including trade and investment as well as regional and international issues,” she said in a media conference in Hanoi today.
The issue of intrusion by Vietnamese fishermen into Malaysian waters is also expected to be brought up, she added.
The last time Mahathir embarked on an official visit to Vietnam was in 1996 and he also attended the Asean Summit in 1998.
Shariffah said Vietnam is an important economic partner to Malaysia.
She said the value of Malaysia-Vietnam trade last year was US$13.3 billion (RM55.7 billion).
"Malaysian exports to Vietnam exceeded US$8.48 billion (RM35.5 billion) while import from Vietnam totalled US$4.77 billion (RM20 billion).
"Malaysia is now the 11th largest trading partner to Vietnam while Vietnam is the 13th largest trading partner to Malaysia in the world and the 4th largest in Asean after Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia,” she said.
Mahathir will be accompanied by his wife Dr Siti Hasmah Mohd Ali, Foreign Minister Saifuddin Abdullah, senior officials of the Prime Minister's Office, Foreign Ministry and the International Trade and Industry Ministry, Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (Matrade) and the Malaysian Investment Development Authority (Mida).
The prime minister is scheduled to arrive at Noi Bai International Airport at 5.20pm tomorrow and will attend a dinner with Malaysian diaspora in Vietnam.
On Tuesday, Mahathir will attend an official welcoming ceremony at the Presidential Palace. Both prime ministers will meet briefly followed by a Malaysia-Vietnam delegation meeting.
After the meeting, both leaders will witness an exchange of documents for the establishment of the Malaysia-Vietnam Parliamentary Friendship Group followed by a joint media conference.
On the same day, Mahathir will hold a dialogue with Malaysian businesspersons and investors involving 27 Malaysian companies operating in Vietnam.
Mahathir and Siti Hasmah will attend an official dinner hosted by Nguyen Xuan Phuc.
On Wednesday, the prime minister will visit the Hoa Lac Hi-Tech Park. On the same day, he will speak at University FPT on “Malaysia’s Preparation in dealing with IR 4.0” apart from visiting an exhibition of VinFast cars made in Vietnam.
Apart from that, Mahathir will also visit Noi Bai Industrial Free Trade Zone in which he performed the groundbreaking ceremony for the project in 1996.
Mahathir will also visit a hi-tech exhibition at Yamaha Motor Vietnam in the zone.