Vietnam, an emerging Southeast Asian economy, has launched a calibrated diplomatic outreach to Australia and New Zealand with the first official visits by Vuong Dinh Hue, the Chairman of National Assembly, to these strategically located South Pacific countries.
The visit to New Zealand (December 3-6) is sepecially significant as New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern visited Hanoi only a fortnight ago. Two high-level visits in quick succession underscored a new momentum in bilateral ties between the two countries. Both Australia and New Zealand are important strategic partners of Vietnam in the South Pacific region while Vietnam is a key strategic partner of Australia and New Zealand in ASEAN and the region.
“The welcome by Australia and New Zealand for NA Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue and the high-ranking delegation of Vietnam will express their respect for the strategic partnership with Vietnam as well as wishes to further enhance the cooperation between the legislative bodies, making important contributions to fostering the relations of Australia and New Zealand with Vietnam in a more practical and effective manner,” said a report in Vietnamese online newspaper.
During the visit of Vuong Dinh Hue to New Zealand, the two sides will hold talks on enhancing cooperation in boosting post-pandemic economic recovery and providing support to each other on international and regional issues of common concern.
Boosting Business Ties
Taking economic ties between Vietnam and New Zealand is an important priority of the NA leader’s visit to the Pacific country. On December 4, Mr Vuong Dinh Hue held interactions with leaders of top New Zealand companies in Auckland as part of his ongoing official visit to the country.
Hosting Mike Cronin, Managing Director of Co-operative Affairs at Fonterra, Mr Hue lauded the group’s joint works with Vietnamese firms such as Vinamilk and Nutifood in the supply and distribution of milk in Vietnam’s market. Fonterra specialises in supplying and distributing dairy and food products for restaurant and hotel chains.
The NA chairman recommended that Fonterra can consider invest in dairy farms, milk processing plants to provide quality materials; as well as cooperate in management training, technology transfer, and investment in seed, products and equipment for Vietnamese farms and partners. He also highlighted steps taken by Vietnam to improve ease of doing business. Vietnam is continuing to improve the legal system, creating best conditions possible for investors and ensuring fair competition, he told Mr Cronin. Mr Cronin appreciated Vietnam’s increasingly substantive and effective investment attraction policies over the past time.
In an interview an interview to Vietnamese media WVR, New Zealand Ambassador to Vietnam Tredene Dobson underlined the education and business delegations accompanying Chairman Hue speak volumes for the growing education and trade links between our two countries. “The education and business elements in Chairman Hue’s visit will resonate well in New Zealand, and amplify connections made during Prime Minister Ardern’s visit,” she said.
“The visit will promote the mutually beneficial nature of the bilateral relationship, and advance progress in the key areas of trade cooperation, inter-parliamentary ties, and people-to-people links, as envisaged in the Strategic Partnership Action Plan.”
Highlighting the importance of parliamentary exchanges, New Zealand’s envoy said: “The National Assembly of Vietnam and the New Zealand Parliament have both played an important role in the socio-economic development of each country and in strengthening the bilateral relations between Vietnam and New Zealand. Specifically, the National Assembly has the critical function of assessing and then approving the joining of free trade agreements and regional economic mechanisms, such as the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF).”
Diplomatic relations between Vietnam and New Zealand were elevated to the level of a Strategic Partnership in 2020. Economic and development cooperation between the two countries are scaling new frontiers. The Vietnam-New Zealand Joint Committee for Economic and Trade steers growing trade between the two countries. Bilateral trade has increased steadily, with 26.7% in 2021 and 13.6% in the first nine months of this year compared to the same period of previous years.
Over the years, New Zealand has emerged as an important development partner of Vietnam. New Zealand have been providing ODA to Vietnam in areas such as education– training, agriculture and sustainable development.
Cooperation is also growing in other important areas such as security-defence, labour and agriculture. With an eye on curbing China’s assertiveness, the two countries also cooperate closely in ASEAN’s cooperation mechanism as well as at multilateral forums and organisations. New Zealand supports Vietnam on issues relating to freedom of navigation in South China Sea.
Reports in Vietnamese media point out that the exchanges of delegations from Vietnamese National Assembly and the Parliaments of Australia and New Zealand were interrupted due to the impact of COVID-19. However, the two countries continued to share information and experiences in the fields of legislation, supervision and decision-making in vital areas.
The Action Program with New Zealand for 2021-2024 to implement the Strategic Partnership has already resulted in significant outcomes. In the economic field, Vietnam and New Zealand are both members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP). New Zealand is currently Vietnam’s 36th largest trading partner.
New Zealand actively supports Vietnam in the prevention and control of Covid-19 (providing 30,000 doses of vaccine and supporting NZD 2 million for recovery after the pandemic).
The visit of Vietnam’s National Assembly Chairman to Australia and New Zealand will be watched closely in the region, specially by China, and will underscore Vietnam’s foreign policy of independence, self-reliance, multilateralization and diversification of relations.
Vietnam’s economic and strategic importance is growing and is attracting top-level attention of international investors. Vietnam has a predominantly youthful population of more than 98 million with increasing and is the world’s fifteenth-most populous nation, with growth rates on track to reach 7.8 percent in 2022. Vietnam spends around 6 percent of its GDP on infrastructure, one of the highest in the ASEAN region.
- Manish Chand is Founder-CEO and Editor-in-Chief of India Writes Network (www.indiawrites.org) and India and World, a pioneering magazine focused on international affairs. He is CEO/Director of TGII Media Private Limited, an India-based media, publishing, research and consultancy company.
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