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Vietnam - New Zealand established the strategic partnership and opening opportunity for provinces in the Mekong Delta

A very special politico-diplomatic event in relationship between Vietnam and Oceania countries which took place in the last week of July 2020, attracting the attention of many domestic and international newspapers, is that Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern co-hosted the first online high-level conference between Vietnam - New Zealand at the capital of two countries: Hanoi and Wellington in the morning of July 22nd, 2020. At the conclusion of the talks, the two sides declared to officially upgrade bilateral relations to strategic partnership. This is a very important event in the history of two-country relations on the occasion of celebrating the 45-year anniversary of establishing diplomatic relations (1975-2020); bringing New Zealand to become Vietnam's 17th strategic partner and Vietnam as the first strategic partner of New Zealand.

According to researchers, when talking about the Vietnam and New Zealand relations, it is hard to identify what the most prominent achievements are in the cooperation between two parties within over the last 4 decades. Actually, the reciprocal relationship has covered many areas from politics to investment and trade, education and training, science and technology, agriculture, culture and tourism, people's exchanges... and even in the field of defense and security.

In the joint statement, two parties stated: Since the time of establishing diplomatic relations in 1975, and particularly after the announcement of the comprehensive partnership in 2009, the relations between Vietnam and New Zealand have deeply and continuously grown in bilateral, regional and multilateral frameworks. Continuing the momentum of that development and, on the basis of the common interest, the shared vision and the increasingly profound confidence level, the two countries desire to take the partnership into a new chapter and new level. Two prime ministers believe the new relationship framework will create incentive for two countries continuing to go into depth, increasingly more effective on all sectors, for the sake of two nations, contributing to the peace and prosperity of the Pacific - Indian Ocean area.

For the provinces of the Mekong Delta, including Tien Giang, the question arises: why signing strategic partnership opens up great opportunity for the provinces? To clarify this issue, we try to look back some outstanding collaborative achievements between the two countries over the past time.

- Firstly, in terms of trade, according to the Division of Commercial Affairs of Vietnamese Embassy in New Zealand, currently, Vietnam is the 16th largest trading partner of New Zealand; Vietnam is the 15th largest exporter to this market and the 18th largest importer of New Zealand. The two-way trading turnover between two countries has stably grown through the years, from 300 million USD in 2009 to 750 million USD in 2013 and reached nearly 01 billion USD in 2018. In 2019, the total trade turnover of goods and services between two countries increased by 12%, reaching more than 1.1 billion USD and projected to reach 1.7 billion USD in 2020. The economy of Vietnam and New Zealand has complementary features, especially since the time of fully and efficiently deploying the contents of the Comprehensive and Progressive Partnership Agreement (CPTPP) by two countries. New Zealand needs to import items at which Vietnam is strong such as: textiles, leather shoes, agricultural products, seafood, timber, computers, telephones, electronic products, construction materials... In the opposite direction, Vietnam needs to import from New Zealand milk and dairy products, wines, lamb, fruits, raw wood, raw materials for textile and leather footwear production. It is worth noting that until now New Zealand has granted the import license for 3 fresh fruit items of Vietnam as Mango, dragon fruit and rambutan; and Vietnam has recommendation to New Zealand to continue to grant the import license for fresh lemon and passion fruit.

- In reference to FDI, according to the updated data of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, up to May 6th, 2020, New Zealand has invested 42 projects with the total registered capital of 210 million USD, being ranked 38/136 countries and territories having investment projects in Vietnam. Privately, Vietnam has invested 10 projects in New Zealand with the total registered capital of 32.7 million USD, focusing on fields: processing and manufacturing industry, wholesale and retail, repair of automobiles and motorcycles, motorcycles and motor vehicles, being ranked 27/76 countries and territories having investment from Vietnam. Regarding ODA aid, from 2003 to now, New Zealand provided approximately 67 million USD to Vietnam.

- Agriculture is rated as a very effective cooperation area between two countries in the past time. According to Mrs. Wendy Matthews, New Zealand Ambassador in Vietnam, Vietnam's agriculture is standing in front of many opportunities due to being in its transitional period, advancing towards high-quality agriculture, commercializing its agricultural products, expanding export markets to countries with high export value. In this transition, New Zealand can support Vietnam in the most effective way. If Vietnam is strong at items such as rice, coffee and tropical fruits, New Zealand has advantage over dairy products, meat, apples, kiwi... Thus, the agricultural background of the two countries is inter-supportive, not competitive. As a high - quality agricultural exporter, New Zealand has focused on developing high - value products instead of focusing on production in large quantities, focusing on the stages of the product value chain, from the appropriate crop breeding research, applying advanced farming practices, copyright - like registration, ensuring crop safety to product marketing. Through ODA aid to Vietnam, as well as commercial contracts, New Zealand can transfer its professional knowledge, combined with the agricultural producers of Vietnam to create products with high economic value, which many Vietnam businesses are projecting.

- The cooperation in education - training is also one of the key pillars in the bilateral collaboration between two countries. New Zealand is becoming a favorite destination for many Vietnamese students. Recently, to encourage more Vietnamese students, the New Zealand government has provided with various scholarship programs. Accordingly, the numbers of Vietnamese students in New Zealand increased by 30% in the period 2016-2018, especially in 2018, there have been 2,772 Vietnamese students living and studying in New Zealand. In 2019, the New Zealand government firstly launched a scholarship for high school, aiming for students from grades 8 to 10, wanting to study in New Zealand. In addition, New Zealand also has an English language training program for government officials (ELTO) that has been deployed over the years, in which the officers of the Foreign Ministry of Vietnam have participated. In terms of the postgraduate fellowship program, New Zealand continues to maintain 30 scholarships for Vietnamese talented young friends. In addition, activities of people exchanges are increasingly expanding, thereby raising the amount of tourists from two countries increasingly "flowering". On average, annually there are about 40,000 New Zealand tourists to come to Vietnam for enjoying its natural scenery and delicious Vietnamese cuisine; and conversely, the amount of Vietnamese tourists who would like to explore New Zealand is also growing over time.

Through these above figures it showed many great opportunities to be opened to the provinces of the Mekong Delta, a land still facing many difficulties in developing sustainable agriculture with high technology and being adaptable to climate change; consumption of rice, fruits, fisheries and training high quality human resource. In the content of the joint declaration, the two countries have pledged to promote trade, agriculture and education, of which the provinces of the Mekong Delta are in need.

For Tien Giang, in the recent years, the cooperation with New Zealand has mainly focused on 04 key areas such as: high technical agriculture, education -training, fruit exporting and tourism. A typical example of cooperation in agriculture with New Zealand is the new dragon fruit variety breeding project in the province. New Zealand experts have partnered with the Southern Fruit Research Institute (SOFRI) to study, create new dragon fruit variety, having high resistance capacity to disease, longer preservation time of fruit quality. Moreover, the flavor is more attractive, suitable to the tastes of consumers in foreign markets. The project is the perfect combination of New Zealand deep expertise with the provincial agronomists and farmers in developing a specialty fruit, which has high export turnover of Vietnam.

In terms of import and export, in 2019 the total turnover of goods and services of the province reached about 5.2 billion USD, of which the export volume to Australia and New Zealand was about 135 million USD, accounting for 2.6% of the general turnover. In the field of education - training, although there is no statistical data, according to the general assessment by the provincial education and training sector there have been more and more students of Tien Giang province to come New Zealand for studying because of its friendly environment and good living conditions, as well as the quality of education being competitive with advanced countries in the world. Privately, in terms of universal education cooperation in the past years, thanks to consultation and support of oversea Vietnamese, Nguyen Dinh Chieu High School of Tien Giang signed a MOU with Freybert High School - New Zealand and has been welcoming several groups of teachers and students from New Zealand to come Tien Giang for exchanges with the provincial students. Regarding tourism, in 2019, the province welcomed about 40,561 visitors from Australia and 7,220 visitors from New Zealand.

From this good foundation as mentioned above, it can be affirmed that the cooperation between Vietnam and New Zealand is growing stronger than ever. New Zealand considers Vietnam as an important partner in the region and a dynamic and expanding economy. This creates many opportunities to promote the mutual relationship in the future. The 2020 is also an important year for both countries with many memorable events such as: Vietnam presided over the ASEAN year 2020; celebrating 45 years of establishing the bilateral relations and most importantly, two countries have raised their bilateral relations to the Strategic Partnership as mentioned above. I think in the context of deepening cooperation between two countries in many fields, especially cooperation in agriculture, trade and human resources training, the provinces in the Mekong Delta, including Tien Giang should urgently catch this opportunity to promote their development in the coming time as required./.

Translated by the Department of Foreign Affairs

 


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