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Israel and Vietnam conclude free-trade talks

Jerusalem and Hanoi mark 30 years of diplomatic relations.

Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyễn Hồng Diên and Israeli Economy Minister Nir Barkat conclude negotiations on a free trade agreement set to take effect later this year, April 2, 2023. Credit: Israeli Foreign Ministry.
Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyễn Hồng Diên and Israeli Economy Minister Nir Barkat conclude negotiations on a free trade agreement set to take effect later this year, April 2, 2023. Credit: Israeli Foreign Ministry.

Vietnam and Israel will sign a free trade agreement later this year after the two countries completed 12 rounds of negotiations over seven years, the Southeast Asian nation announced on Monday.

Bilateral trade rose 18% year over year in 2022 to $2.2 billion. Vietnam’s largest exports to Israel include smartphones, footwear and seafood, while it imports primarily electronics and fertilizer.

The announcement follows a working session on Sunday between Israeli Economy Minister Nir Barkat and Vietnamese Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyễn Hong Diên, who is visiting the Jewish state.

The agreement comes as Jerusalem and Hanoi mark 30 years of official diplomatic relations.

Israel has a small but unique Vietnamese population. From 1977 to 1979, then-Prime Minister Menachem Begin permitted entry to around 360 so-called “boat people” in the aftermath of the Communist takeover of Vietnam.

Begin explained his actions by citing parallels with Jews struggling to find refuge during the Holocaust.

Of those granted asylum in Israel, most settled around Jaffa and Bat Yam; today, the community has about 150 to 200 members.

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