Credit: © SIP/Jean-Christophe Verhaegen

On Wednesday 3 May 2023, Luxembourg's Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, and the official delegation visiting Vietnam on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries, arrived in the Grand Duchy's fifth largest trading partner outside the EU where they were welcomed by both Nguyen Hong Dien, Minister of Industry and Trade of Vietnam, and Nguyen Viet Dung, Chief of Protocol of the Government of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam.

They had been invited at the invitation of the Prime Minister of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, Phạm Minh Chính, who himself had paid an official visit to Luxembourg in December 2022, along with an official delegation.

Also at the Noi Ban International Airport in Hanoi to receive the Prime Minister, the Minister for Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises and Minister for Tourism, Lex Delles, and the official Luxembourgish delegation off the overnight flight were the Ambassador of Luxembourg to Vietnam, Patrick Hemmer (who resides in Bangkok), and the Chief of Protocol of the Government of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam, Nguyen Viet Dung, as well as Nguyen Van Thao, Ambassador of Vietnam to Belgium and Luxembourg, plus other representatives of Vietnam's Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Joining the Luxembourg delegation at that stage were both Tran Hong Quang, Honorary Consul in Hanoi, and Gabriel Baptista, Deputy Head of Mission, Head of the Economic Section of the Luxembourg Embassy in Bangkok. They were welcomed by a guard of honour on a red carpet, with PM Bettel being presented with a bouquet of flowers.

Halong Bay

After checking in to the hotel, the official delegation were driven two hours to the coast to Halong Bay where Prime Minister Bettel and Minister Delles, plus the official delegation, were treated to a guided tour by boat which included features such as Cho Da Islet (Stone Dog Islet), Dinh Huong Islet (islet printed on the 200,000 VND banknote) and Trong Mai Islet ("Kissing rocks/Fighting cocks/Rooster and Hen"), as well as a lunch on board. Despite the overcast conditions - Halong Bay is like this most of the time - the scenery was spectacular, with the limestone rocks and islands forming various shapes, with many named accordingly. Halong Bay covers an area of 43,400 ha and comprises more than 1,600 islands and islets, most of which are uninhabited, and has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1994. The region and its tourism industry is still recovering from the COVID-19 pandemic, with around 80% of newly-built apartments still unoccupied.

It is worth mentioning that the roads to/from Halong Bay were very good indeed, motorway almost all the way and with little traffic, through mostly flat countryside.

Talking with Nicolas Mackel, CEO of Luxembourg for Finance, he explained that the main financial link between the two countries concerns Luxembourg-based funds investing in Vietnam-based projects/companies. He also mentioned that he was in Vietnam a number of weeks ago, promoting the Grand Duchy’s financial service centre.


On the way back to Hanoi, the official delegation stopped at Hai Phong for a presentation of the the strategy and activities of Vietnamese car manufacturer VinFast (a company in the Vingroup) by Quang Viet Nguyen, CEO of Vingroup. A guided tour followed, firstly of a body shop for both metal and plastic components spread over 100,000 m2 and equipped with 1,200 robots, providing 98% automation, with a capacity of 250,000 eVehicles annually; and then of the General Assembly Shop which has a capacity of 200,000 eVehicles annually from a surface area of 200,000 m2. The tour was followed by a test drive of three models, the VinFast VF8 (mid-class SUV; 470km autonomy), the larger VF9 (590km autonomy) and the smaller VF7 (450km autonomy), as well as the eScooters, with Prime Minister Bettel trying out a VF9 and Minister Delles trying out a VF8.

VinFast is progressing to become the world’s leading smart electric vehicle company with an electric vehicle ecosystem including electric cars, electric buses and electric scooters. VinFast has introduced six electric vehicle models in Vietnam, North America and European markets and has become one of the first car manufacturers in the world to switch to an all-electric brand by the end of 2022.

VinFast employs 40,000 staff (VinGroup has around 70,000 employees globally) and is currently setting up a new manufacturing plant in North Carolina on the East Coast of the United States, to supply the US market. The batteries are produced by VinES (Energy Solutions) in Vietnam. For the batteries, VinFast collaborated with experts in the market/technology and produces its own batteries; it is currently planning to open a facility to recycle batteries. They are also currently working on an R&D project to be able to fully recharge in just five minutes. Its cars support AI voice-recognition; within the past two weeks, the company has shipped 1,800 eVehicles to the North American market and 1,000 for the Vietnam market.

In Europe, VinFast has established a total of thirteen sales offices in the Netherlands, France and Germany.


Back to Hanoi and a walk around the historic old quarter, including Square Ly Thai Tho, the Ngọc Sơn temple and the Hoan Kiem lake, during which Prime Minister Bettel stopped and chatted with people in the street, playing badminton in a park as well as with street artists. He also did a bit of shopping on the way to a restaurant for a pre-arranged informal dinner to end off the first day which had been a gentle introduction to Vietnam before the busy itinerary scheduled for the next two days.