Response to Vietnamese Minister of TradeInternational Trade
This is my first visit to your country, but already I have fallen in love with Vietnam. Thank you for your hospitality in Vietnam and for this enjoyable and friendly dinner tonight. Congratulations on your recent appointment as Minister of Trade. I enjoyed our first meeting in Kuala Lumpur on Friday and our interesting discussions here this morning.
New Zealand is still a rather small trading partner of Vietnam, but we aim to be a bigger one. Already, our exports to Vietnam have increased from only $5 million in 1990 to $61 million last year. Your exports to New Zealand have grown over the same time more than ten-fold. Your exports of shoes, garments, and textiles continue to increase rapidly, but your share of New Zealand's total imports of these products is still very small. I'm sure that will change. New Zealand has an open market - no quotas, nor other non-tariff barriers - and we intend to abolish our remaining modest tariffs shortly.
Your Excellency, I welcome Vietnam's intention to integrate more closely into the global trading system. We appreciate the challenge that this involves, but also the opportunities that can be realised. As a producer and exporter of agricultural products, New Zealand knows the importance of access to global markets. We also know that success in the global marketplace requires hard work in maintaining international competitiveness. Free trade is a great spur to international competitiveness.
New Zealand admires your decision to join ASEAN and to comply with AFTA. We see ourselves as a natural regional partner with the members of ASEAN. Our trade, technology and economies are complementary. As trade and investment between ASEAN and CER economies increase, I'm confident we'll see closer integration between the two groups. AFTA/CER cooperation provides the framework to promote this. We will continue to work with you in the areas of standards and quality conformance, on customs valuation and facilitation, on SPS, on identifying and steadily removing barriers to trade, and in other technical areas of trade and investment facilitation.
Membership of AFTA is an important step along the way towards Vietnam's full participation in APEC and the WTO. New Zealand also welcomes your intention to join both these organisations. There is a unique opportunity between now and the year 2000 for you to work on your accession to the WTO. After the year 2000, the WTO will be preoccupied with wider trade negotiations.
Both APEC and the WTO are important in facilitating trade and investment regionally and globally. Through English language training for your officials in New Zealand - and through exchanges and workshops involving our trade policy experts - we will do what we can to assist your entry. Your officials are always welcome in New Zealand.
Once Vietnam is a member of the WTO, we look forward to working closely with you to open the world agricultural market. International trade has provided New Zealand's farmers with the means to acquire and apply new technologies to produce food more efficiently, and to become more prosperous. I am sure it will do the same for Vietnam's farmers. Let us be partners in the cause.
Thank you again, Your Excellency, for your warm welcome and hospitality. I hope this will be but the first of my many visits to Vietnam. And I look forward to working with you to build increasingly close and fruitful cooperation between our two nations.