Vietnam top official on Japan visit

HANOI (AFP) — Vietnam’s most powerful official, Communist Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh, was to arrive Sunday for an official visit to Japan, the country’s largest bilateral aid donor, the government said.

It is the second visit to Japan by Manh, whose last mission there was in 2002, the government said.

Manh was to stay until Wednesday.

“The trip is expected to beef up Vietnam-Japan exchanges and cooperation in all areas, especially in economy, trade, investment and official development assistance (ODA),” the government said on its website.

The state Vietnam News Agency said Japan is Vietnam’s second-biggest trade partner, after China, and is the country’s second-largest export market after the United States.

Manh’s visit comes less than one month after the two countries signed an agreement resuming the flow of aid loans — known as ODA — suspended during a corruption scandal.

Japan announced in December that it would suspend the loans after former executives of a Tokyo-based consultancy admitted paying kickbacks to a Vietnamese official overseeing a Japanese-funded road project.

In February, Tokyo said Vietnamese officials had given assurances that steps would be taken to prevent similar abuses. That led to the signing in March of a deal for low-interest loans covering infrastructure projects worth 83 billion yen (837 million dollars).

Vietnam has made efforts to improve the legal environment and increase measures to strengthen management and effective use of ODA projects, including fighting corruption.

Japan and Vietnam in December signed an economic partnership pact with a promise to cut tariffs on more than 90 percent of goods and services traded between the two nations within a decade.

Vietnam News Agency said that last year the value of Vietnam-Japan trade exceeded 15.5 billion dollars, and by the end of 2008, Japan had invested more than 17 billion dollars in more than 1,000 projects, ranking it third among foreign investors in Vietnam.

http://www.google.com/hostednews/afp/article/ALeqM5g76xdL_QMMZPQVFvhlxJjxhTUHag

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