Venezuela signs oil deal with Vietnam

Jul 31, 2006 02:00 AM

The president of Venezuela, Hugo Chavez, is in the Vietnamese capital, seeking support in his campaign to counter the United States' global influence and build what he calls a "multi-polar world". But the Vietnamese seem more interested in Chavez's offer to help them build an oil refinery.
A military band in white with gold braid welcomed Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez to the presidential palace in Hanoi. Mr Chavez, known for his defiance of the United States, is on a world tour of past and present political adversaries of the United States, including Belarus, Russia and Iran.

He minced no words on what he felt Venezuela and Vietnam had in common. Mr Chavez says both countries had stood up against colonialism and imperialism.
These words have gone out of fashion in Vietnamese diplomacy, however. Vietnam today tends to put commercial interests ahead of ideological ones. Vietnam's President Nguyen Minh Triet emphasized the two countries' prospects for economic cooperation. Mr Triet says Vietnam and Venezuela could cooperate in many areas of society, economy and culture.

The two countries signed agreements to collaborate in diplomatic and cultural affairs and, most importantly, in mining and energy. Both Vietnam and Venezuela are oil exporters. Venezuela is the world's fourth-largest oil producer, while Vietnam earned $ 7.4 bn from crude oil exports in 2005.
But Vietnam lacks any domestic refining capacity. A decade-long government project to construct a refinery has run into problems with corruption, design flaws, and lack of capital. Mr Chavez estimated that with a refinery, Vietnam could save billions of dollars a year in gasoline imports. Mr Chavez enthusiastically promised to help Vietnam complete the refinery.

For Mr Chavez, the stakes in Vietnam are more geopolitical than economic. The Venezuelan president is foremost among several leftist Latin American leaders who oppose US foreign policy.
Chavez expressed his admiration for Vietnam's late communist leader, Ho Chi Minh.He plans to visit General Vo Nguyen Giap, the 94-year-old hero of Vietnam's wars against France and the United States.

Mr Chavez said he wanted Vietnam's help in building a multi-polar world, in other words, one with alternatives to American power.
But Vietnam's President Triet was silent on this point. Vietnam has spent the past 10 years cultivating friendly relations with the United States, which is now its number-one trading partner.

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