Saudi, Vietnam ink energy pacts

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Oil giant Saudi Arabia and Vietnam inked pacts late Saturday that will pave the way for increased cooperation in the oil and gas sectors, including possible Saudi investment in Vietnamese refineries.

On the first day of Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet's state visit to the Saudi capital, Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi and Vietnam's Trade and Industry Minister Vu Huy Hoang signed protocols on cooperation in hydrocarbon and minerals development at the palace of King Abdullah, the SPA news agency said.

Vietnam is reported to be seeking Saudi support in building two oil refineries, and top Vietnamese energy officials were accompanying Triet on his two-day trip to Saudi Arabia, a major supplier of oil to the Southeast Asian country.

They were holding meetings with the Saudi oil ministry and powerful state oil firm Aramco.

The two sides also signed a bilateral taxation treaty and a pact on agricultural investment and trade cooperation at King Abdullah's palace, SPA said.

Vietnam is a key exporter of rice, fruits and vegetables, and farmed seafood to Saudi Arabia, and Riyadh is actively seeking investments in farm production assets abroad to increase its food security.

Earlier in the day Triet encouraged Saudi businessmen to invest in Vietnam at a meeting with the Saudi Council of Chambers of Commerce, and pledged to build bilateral trade, which stood at US$296 million last year, according to SPA.

Triet told the businessmen that he "will work to implement all the proposals made during the meeting immediately," responding to their calls for easier visas and investment regulations, SPA said.

Riyadh and Hanoi are also discussing increasing the 7,000 Vietnamese workers currently in Saudi Arabia, whose economy is heavily dependent on a nine to ten million-strong expatriate workforce mainly from South Asia, Indonesia and the Philippines.

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