HCMC – Vietnam and New Zealand have formally elevated their bilateral relationship to a strategic partnership, with a focus on trade, agriculture, education, development and cooperation on regional and international matters of mutual interest, including the East Sea.
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his New Zealand counterpart Jacinda Ardern co-chaired a summit via video conferencing on Wednesday, July 23, to discuss the importance of bilateral ties.
“The relationship between New Zealand and Vietnam has grown a lot in recent years, particularly in trade and people-to-people connections,” Ardern said in a statement.
Describing her meeting with Prime Minister Phuc, she said, “It marked our strengthened ties over 45 years of diplomatic relations. It was also a timely opportunity to share perspectives on our respective management of Covid-19 and to further commit to working together toward trade and economic recovery.”
The two governments said in a joint statement that since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1975 and particularly following the launch of the comprehensive partnership in 2009, their relations have grown robustly.
“Building on that momentum, and driven by our growing shared interests, common outlook, and mutual trust, we aspire to open a new chapter and take our partnership to a higher level,” said the statement.
The strategic partnership is aimed at further strengthening the overarching framework for engagement and cooperation between the two countries for the benefit of their people.
Both sides highlighted trade and investment cooperation as a key component of the strategic partnership for the direct benefit of their people and businesses.
Bilateral trade in goods and services reached a new record of US$1.3 billion for the year ending March 2020, which has placed Vietnam as New Zealand’s 15th largest two-way trading partner.
Therefore, the two governments committed to individual and joint actions to open markets and reduce barriers to bilateral trade, especially for agricultural, seafood and timber products by enhancing market access, trade facilitation, information exchange and collaboration between their customs, agriculture, food safety and animal health agencies.
They will also foster cooperation over the development of micro, small and medium enterprises, indigenous or ethnic minorities businesses, women entrepreneurs and other areas to promote investments in both directions and encourage inclusive growth.
They committed to further enhancing cooperation in agriculture, including through joint research, collaboration and action on climate change in agriculture and forestry, agri-tech, technical assistance on plant health laboratory accreditation, plant breeding, food safety management and electronic certification, trade in legal timber products and the commercialization of agricultural products.
“We re-dedicate ourselves to deepening regional economic integration by resisting all forms of protectionism and promoting trade liberalization across the Asia-Pacific region,” stressed the statement.
The countries thus pledged their “unwavering support” to the rules-based, free, open, transparent and inclusive multilateral trading system, including reforms of the World Trade Organization.
They reaffirmed their commitment to the full and effective execution of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, signing of a modern, comprehensive, high-quality and mutually beneficial Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership agreement in 2020 and upgrading the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area.
Vietnam spoke highly of New Zealand’s sustained official development assistance, especially in high-quality manpower development, climate change and economic resilience, sustainable water management, agriculture and disaster risk management.
“Education and training cooperation constitutes an important element of the strategic partnership and when the movement of people can safely resume, we are confident these linkages will continue to flourish,” the Vietnamese side noted.
The Asian country also urged New Zealand to increase the number of Vietnamese students in the island country, joint programs between their higher education institutions and cooperation over vocational training.
The upgrade to the strategic partnership is supported by several government-to-government arrangements that deepen cooperation in areas such as agriculture, education, vocational training and finance.
Concerns over developments in East Sea
The two countries reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security, safety, freedom of navigation and overflight, pursuing the peaceful resolution of disputes and respecting legal and diplomatic processes, in line with the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
They expressed continued concerns over developments in the East Sea, including disruptive activities, and underscored the importance of non-militarization and self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoidance of actions that may further complicate the situation or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.
They stressed the importance of the UNCLOS dispute settlement mechanisms and called on parties to respect the decisions rendered by these mechanisms.
They also reiterated the importance of the full and effective execution of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea in its entirety as well as the swift conclusion of an effective and substantive Code of Conduct for the waters that is consistent with international law, particularly UNCLOS, without prejudice to the interests of third parties or the rights of states under international law.
“We emphasize that UNCLOS provides a solid legal framework under which all activities in the oceans and seas must be carried out,” said the statement.
They reaffirmed their commitment toward swifter defense cooperation as a priority in the strategic partnership.
By Gia Phong