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New Zealand PM’s Vietnam visit to lift strategic partnership

New Zealand PM’s Vietnam visit to lift strategic partnership

Prime Minister of New Zealand Jacinda Ardern’s official visit to Vietnam from November 14-17 at the invitation of Prime Minister Pham Minh is expected to further deepen Strategic Partnership between the two countries. 

The visit will contribute to strengthening political trust and promoting multifaceted cooperation between Vietnam and New Zealand, including politics-diplomacy, defence-security, economy, investment, labour, education, technology, climate change, and digital transformation. 

The two countries established bilateral diplomatic relations on June 19, 1975, lifted them to a Comprehensive Partnership in 2009, and issued a Joint Statement on strengthening and deepening the Comprehensive Partnership towards a Strategic Partnership in March 2015. 

They officially upgraded their relations to a Strategic Partnership on the occasion of the online high-level talks between Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his New Zealand couterpart Jacinda Ardern  in 2020, and signed an action plan for the 2021-2024 period to deploy the bilateral strategic partnership.

In its foreign policy, New Zealand always affirms its importance to relations with Vietnam, considering the country an important factor in its policy for the Asia-Pacific region. 

The two countries have maintained the exchange of high-level delegations, and bilateral cooperation mechanisms in recent years. 

In security and defence cooperation, New Zealand has supported Vietnam in organising training courses on counter-terrorism, techniques of criminal investigation, prevention of money laundering and  high-tech crime, and tactical first aid.

The two sides have cooperated closely within the framework of Interpol as well as the ASEAN-New Zealand Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism in 2005. They have also implemented training suport programmes, especially in English for peacekeeping forces, and maintained visits of naval ships and bilateral defence dialogue mechanisms.

Vietnam and New Zealand are members of important regional and international organisations and multilateral forums, including the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the  Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM), and cooperation mechanisms within ASEAN. The two countries have always supported and closely coordinated with each other in the implementation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) agremeent and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement. 

Regarding economic cooperation, Vietnam is New Zealand's 16th largest trading partner, with two-way trade increasing steadily through years, hitting 1.3 billion USD in 2021 and 1.1 billion USD in the first nine months of 2022, up 26.7% and 13.6% year-on-year, respectively.  

The two sides successfully organised the 7th meeting of the Vietnam - New Zealand Joint Committee on Economic and Trade Cooperation via video conference on Octover 2020. 

As of October 2022, New Zealand had 49 investment projects worth over 210 million USD, ranking 39th out of the 139 countries and territories investing in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Vietnamese firms are operating 11 projects in New Zealand with a total registered capital of 38.4 million USD.

Regarding development cooperation, New Zealand has frequently provided stable and gradually increasing official development assistance (ODA) to Vietnam, from  3.2 million NZD (2.3 million USD) in  the fiscal year 2003 - 2004 to 26.66 million NZD (18.6 million USD) for the  2015 - 2018 period, focusing on  human resources development, education - training, sustainable agricultural and rural development. New Zealand committed 26.7 million NZD in non-refundable ODA for Vietnam from July 1, 2021 - June 30, 2024.

In the agricultural sector, the two sides agreed to prioritise the consideration of market access requirements for a number of agricultural products of both sides. So far, Vietnamese mango, dragon fruit, rambutan, and tra/basa fish products have been exported to New Zealand. 

In addition, the two countries have also paid special attention to promoting cooperation across other fields, including education, labour, vocational education and training and skills development, and transport. 

In 2020, the two sides signed a strategic cooperation plan on education for the period of 2020-2023. There are about 2,700 Vietnamese students studying in New Zealand. Every year, about 25 Vietnamese officials from ministries and sectors receive ELTO, ELTSO and ASEAN scholarships funded by the New Zealand government. 

Regarding transportation, the two countries signed a bilateral air services agreement in 2003, which was revised in 2015 to enhance aviation security and safety and create favourable conditions for aviation cooperation between the two countries.

For health cooperation, Vietnam and New Zealand have closely cooperated in the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic over the last two years. New Zealand provided 30,000 doses of AstraZeneca vaccine for Vietnam in September 2021. In May 2022, New Zealand supported the recovery of Vietnam from the pandemic with 2 million NZD. 

According to New Zealand's Ambassador to Vietnam Tredene Dobson, PM Ardern's visit shows the growing relations between the two countries, and reflects both sides’ commitment to fully tapping opportunities created when they agreed to upgrade their relations to the Strategic Partnership./.