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Murray McCully

26 January, 2010

NZ, Viet Nam, and the Asia-Pacific region

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for the invitation to address you today.


2010 is an auspicious year for my first visit to Viet Nam.


We have a lot to celebrate, as this year New Zealand and Viet Nam commemorate 35 years of bilateral relations.


In 2010, several developments converge to create the most promising period in the  relationship in the year ahead.


On 1 January, Viet Nam assumed the chairmanship of ASEAN and the East Asia Summit - and at the same time we in New Zealand are celebrating the 35th anniversary of our relations with ASEAN.


What's more, a new free trade agreement between ASEAN, Australia, and New Zealand came into force at the start of this year on 1 January. 


As our bilateral relationship enters a new decade, it has never been in better shape. 


During the visit to New Zealand last year of General Secretary Nong Duc Manh, we agreed that New Zealand and Viet Nam officially enjoy a ‘Comprehensive Partnership'. 


We acknowledged that our two countries are closely connected, work together effectively, and want to do more. 


Viet Nam is already one of our very close partners in the region, and with the additional impetus of the Comprehensive Partnership, even more strands to our cooperation will be added over time as we work to elevate bilateral ties to an even higher level.


The closeness of our relationship may be surprising to some. 


As an island country in the Pacific, New Zealand is as far away geographically from Viet Nam as almost any other country.


Our entire population of four million people is less than the population of Ha Noi. We are linguistically and ethnically distinct. 


Each of our countries may seem exotic to the other - perhaps part of our mutual appeal - but the fact is that we are comfortable in each other's company.


This has been helped by frequent high-level contact. President Nguyen Mihn Triet, Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Thien Ngan, and most recently, the General Secretary, have all visited New Zealand in the last two years.


My host on this visit, Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Khiem, has visited New Zealand twice in the past two years.


And this is the first of three visits to Viet Nam that currently feature in my diary for 2010.


There has been a steady flow of visits to Viet Nam too, most recently the visit of the Speaker of the New Zealand Parliament, Dr Lockwood Smith, accompanied by a cross-party delegation.


We also meet frequently in the margins of regional and international meetings and find much in common in our discussions.


These contacts will gain in momentum in the next year as Viet Nam hosts a series of regional meetings, including the East Asia Summit, which Prime Minister Key is certainly planning to attend.


Our 35th anniversary is a chance to reflect on the breadth of our relationship and find new ways to strengthen it.


Our trade relationship has expanded rapidly already. Viet Nam is now a significant trading partner, with two-way trade more than doubling over the past five years.


The entry into force of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand free trade agreement, or AANZFTA, will boost this even further, opening new trade and investment opportunities.


The agreement is a significant milestone for both of us. 


The agreement offers benefits to all parties in terms of liberalisation of trade in goods, services and investment. 


Under AANZFTA, tariffs will be gradually reduced, boosting trade and business. There are provisions designed to improve trade in services, investment and movement of people between treaty partners.


In the context of the negotiation New Zealand was pleased to formally recognise Viet Nam's Market Economy Status.  


The agreement will also bring some important benefits to the Viet Nam-New Zealand relationship.  There is provision for a number of chefs and engineering professionals to work in New Zealand for up to three years.


Negotiations will soon begin on a working holiday scheme that will allow young Vietnamese and New Zealanders to travel and work in each other's countries. 


Already upward of 1000 New Zealand tourists visit Viet Nam each month.  I hope that in the future we will see the tourist flow increase in the other direction too. 


Education linkages are another cornerstone of the relationship. New Zealand began offering scholarships to Vietnamese officials for English language training in 1991.


Strong bonds have been forged with dozens of Vietnamese officials who have completed these courses. Over the next five years, we expect about 100 Vietnamese officials to benefit from the programme.


We know just how important education is to Viet Nam, and are committed to expanding that relationship even further, to cover policy dialogue, links between individual teaching institutions, and private education.


More than 1000 Vietnamese students are currently choosing to study privately in New Zealand because of the quality of our education, and the safe environment in which students are able to study. They are very welcome, and we would like to see more. 


When the General Secretary visited New Zealand last September, he and I had a discussion about ways in which we might develop closer science and technology linkages.  


Since then Viet Nam and New Zealand have concluded a Memorandum of Cooperation on Science and Technology which will be signed in Wellington this week. 


The next step is to for the two science communities to familiarise themselves with each other's capabilities, in order to define some specific areas of cooperation.


One project will be New Zealand's Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases - launched in Copenhagen at the climate change conference in December last year.


This initiative brings together over 20 countries from around the world to address the twin challenges of food security and rising agricultural emissions.


We were thrilled with Viet Nam's decision to join the Alliance - one of the first developing countries to do so.


We look forward to welcoming Vietnamese officials to New Zealand in a few months for the first senior officials' meeting of Alliance countries.


The scope for the expansion of our relationship has also resulted in the conclusion of similar frameworks for police and customs cooperation - both of which we hope to sign in the next few months.  


New Zealand police trainers have delivered specialised training courses to Vietnamese public security officers, and we enjoy regular contact on trans-border crime and policing issues.


Defence links are also well established, with regular dialogue on issues such as counter terrorism, maritime security, and peacekeeping operations.


We also value our dialogue with Viet Nam more broadly in regional and international affairs. 


We have shared aspirations for a secure and prosperous regional and global environment and we have an appreciation of Viet Nam's growing influence - within the Asian region and beyond.  


We work increasingly closely within regional fora such as APEC, the East Asia Summit, and the ASEAN Regional Forum, where we are both participants in the ongoing debate around the future of the regional architecture and the best means of achieving regional economic integration. 


There are many strands to this debate. One development that New Zealand has particularly welcomed is the agreement at the East Asia Summit last year for the Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia, or CEPEA, to be discussed by officials in the region.


Like the APEC proposal for a Free Trade Area of the Asia Pacific, the CEPEA proposal is a long-term goal, but it would have major regional trade benefits.


For the time being, what is important is that inclusive integration remains open to discussion as the region reflects on its long-term economic future. 


Late last year the United States announced it had decided to participate in negotiations on the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement, or TPP.


As a foundation partner within the TPP, New Zealand has warmly welcomed this development and we are now looking forward to commencing the first round of negotiations in March. 


The TPP is strategically important for the region - not least as a means for eventual regional economic integration. New Zealand will be approaching the negotiations with this long term potential firmly in mind.


We look forward to a positive decision on participation that we consider can only be in Viet Nam's long term interest.


This will, however, be a tough negotiation.  Unlike most other participants, New Zealand and Viet Nam do not have existing free trade agreements with the United States. 


This presents us with some unique challenges, and we are keen to stay in close touch with Viet Nam as we think about how we can work together to address those challenges. 


On the international front, too, New Zealand and Viet Nam share many common interests.  Both countries have a strong commitment to multilateralism. 


Viet Nam has just concluded a successful term on the United Nations Security Council.  Our officials have kept in touch to learn about your experience on the Council and share views on the last time we served in the mid-1990s.


We are now focusing on securing a non-permanent Security Council seat for a term starting in 2015.


A shorter-term goal for New Zealand is to join Viet Nam as a member of the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM), an arrangement that links countries of the European Union with those of Asia. 


We attach a high priority to membership of ASEM, given its significance as a cross-regional dialogue mechanism. Viet Nam has given its wholehearted support to our bid, and we greatly appreciate that.


Looking back to the establishment of diplomatic relations 35 years ago so much has already been achieved.  


We have a dynamic relationship across the spectrum of bilateral, regional and multilateral interests. 


But more than that, it is the personal linkages that are the lifeblood of any bilateral relationship.  These links are growing rapidly which bodes well for the future.  


New Zealand and Viet Nam both recognise the scope to build on these achievements even further as we give shape to General Secretary Nong Duc Manh and Prime Minister Key's vision of a comprehensive partnership that will take our bilateral relationship to new levels. 


I look forward to working with Viet Nam on that exciting endeavour.


Thank you.

  • Murray McCully
  • Foreign Affairs