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International relations

Vietnam PM vows to fix COVID-hit supply chains on trip to Japan

Pham Minh Chinh arrives in Tokyo for four-day visit with Kishida

An auto plant in  Hai Phong City, Vietnam. Pandemic restrictions caused production disruptions felt around the world.   © Reuters

HANOI -- Vietnam is committed to restoring supply chains, Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh said Monday, after its coronavirus lockdown disrupted a key production base for global companies.

Chinh answered questions from Japanese news organizations in writing ahead of his arrival at Tokyo's Haneda airport Monday for a four-day visit. He is slated to meet with his Japanese counterpart, Fumio Kishida, on Wednesday.

Chinh said he planned to incorporate "proposals from foreign business associations" in policy guidelines "to improve its investment and business climate." The prime minister also pledged to protect investors' legal rights and interests.

"We have set up a special task force to resolve enterprises' difficulties," he said. 

Following a surge in infections over the summer, Vietnam imposed strict measures such as "factory quarantines" during which workers were required to sleep on the premises of production sites.

While the nation's peak case number was lower than those of surrounding countries, Vietnam's lockdown triggered a 6.2% contraction in gross domestic product in the July-September quarter compared with a year earlier.

The ensuing production disruption forced many manufacturers to temporarily shift their operations outside Vietnam.

Chinh defended the restrictions, saying "there were not enough vaccine doses or medicine" to counter the surge fueled by the delta variant. He said Vietnam was now moving from a "zero-COVID" strategy to a "safe living" approach that seeks to control infections effectively. 

The prime minister thanked the Japanese government and people for a donation of 4 million vaccine doses.

Japan recently eased its entry ban to allow technical trainees into the country. More than half of such foreign workers come from Vietnam.

Vietnam will continue to accelerate the "development of human resources" focusing on digital training and high-tech skills, Chinh said. He pledged cooperation with Japan, which has grappled with a labor shortage.

Chinh declined to respond to questions regarding China's military buildup in the South China Sea.

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