New Zealand Ambassador to Vietnam: Towards the Strategic Partnership

Update: 07:00 | 19/06/2020
Given the significant progress in the Vietnam–New Zealand cooperation, Ambassador of New Zealand to Vietnam, Excellency Madam Wendy Matthews has affirmed the imminent elevation of bilateral relations from the Comprehensive Partnership to Strategic Partnership.
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Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc meets with New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Arden, on the occasion of APEC 2017 in Da Nang, Vietnam.

How have the bilateral ties been growing, particularly since the visit of Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to New Zealand in March 2018?

Over the past years, the cooperation between Vietnam and New Zealand have witnessed robust growth in multiple areas, including politics, economics, trade, investment and education. High-level leaders of both countries, from Prime Ministers to Foreign Ministers, have exchanged frequent visits.

With dynamic steps forward bilateral cooperation, I could say that our two countries will promptly announce the upgrade of relations from Comprehensive Partnership to Strategic Partnership in the near future.

Bilateral trade is ever progressing, which means the closer bond between our people, indicated by the active tourism and education cooperation.

In defense, we have developed a great numbers of cooperation programs, which is conducive to our stronger ties.

Altogether, I can’t stress enough that our two countries are in perfect harmony, which is much-needed as our relations continue to flourish.

Officials inspect preparations for asean summits in da nang

Officials inspect preparations for ASEAN summits in Da Nang

Besides, New Zealand and Vietnam are the two countries that are effectively controlling the acute respiratory infection COVID-19. This is an important premise for our bilateral comprehensive cooperation and our support to regional countries to overcome the pandemic.

To single out three “highlights” in the Vietnam – New Zealand relations, what are your choices?

I would like to pick out three areas that have brought our relations to a new height: (1) trade cooperation has achieved great successes from both sides, (2) education cooperation is testament to our people-to-people exchange, and (3) agriculture cooperation, a field of advantage that we are both proud of. These three areas play a critical role and have enormous potentials for cooperation.

Amid the considerable impacts of COVID-19 on global trade, will the target of an increase in bilateral trade turnover to 1.7 billion USD remain feasible?

During 2020, we have seen a surge in two-way trade turnover. Exports between the two countries are both rising, in which Vietnam’s exports are slightly higher, but in general, we both enjoy a balanced increase in exportation. This could be regarded as a highlight in our economic ties.

By March 2020, total trade turnover of goods and services has achieved 12% year-on-year increase, exceeding 1.8 billion NZD (approximately 1.1 billion USD).

Due to the impacts of COVID-19, bilateral trade and commerce cooperation has been hard hit. However, goods and services still maintain their growth rates with positive figure.

Despite border shutdown, bilateral trade remains stable. This makes me believe that our trade cooperation will again be on the rise as soon as we re-open our borders.

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Ambassador of New Zealand to Vietnam Wendy Matthews.

Agriculture is currently a field of cooperation with vibrant activities. How will New Zealand invest in and promote this area?

Our two countries both have a developed agriculture sector. While Vietnam has strength in such products as rice, coffee and tropical fruits, New Zealand’s strength include dairy products, meat, apples, and kiwi. Therefore, the economics and trade of our countries are supplementary, not competitive.

From my perspective, Vietnam’s agriculture is facing exciting opportunities. The sector is shifting towards the commercialization of agriculture products and high-value export markets. High-quality agriculture development will be the focus of Vietnam that New Zealand could lend our most practical support.

As an exporter of high-quality agricultural products, New Zealand focuses on products of high quality rather than large quantity. We complete all stages the product value chain, from researching suitable plant varieties, applying appropriate cultivation practices, registering seed copyrights, to protecting plant variety and product marketing.

Through New Zealand Aid Program and trade agreements, we expect to combine New Zealand’s expertise with Vietnam’s agricultural production to grow products of high economic value, which is also the aim of many Vietnamese businesses.

One notable example of agriculture cooperation is the project to create new dragon fruit variety in Tien Giang province, Vietnam. We collaborated with Vietnamese scientists in the research to bring out a new variety of dragon fruit with high disease resistance, longer storage time, and particularly with tasty taste, bringing pleasant flavors to foreign consumers. The project has showcased a perfect collaboration between international expertise from New Zealand and a made-in-Vietnam fruit.

In addition, our experts have also coordinated with Vietnamese partners to add value to avocado and passion fruit and run research projects to reduce post-harvest losses for Vietnamese rice. I believe that these cooperation programs will be maintained in the future.

Besides Australia, New Zealand is now a popular destination for Vietnamese students. Will New Zealand Government has any changes in the policy to attract Vietnamese students?

Education is a pillar in the Vietnam-New Zealand cooperation. We are proud to have more Vietnamese students choosing our country.

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To attract more Vietnamese students, New Zealand Government has opened various scholarships. We launched the New Zealand Government high school scholarship for the first time last year, which aims at high school students from grade 8 to 10 wishing to study in New Zealand.

We have organized the English language training for government officials (ELTO) over the years. The program has also received officials from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Vietnam. Besides, New Zealand Government scholarship for postgraduates is, as usual, granted to 30 Vietnamese young talents.

Although education cooperation is now suspended under the impacts of COVID-19, New Zealand Government uphold our commitment to ensure the well-being of Vietnamese students who are still staying in New Zealand. We have made determined efforts to timely provide international students with information on the pandemic, and ensure no interruption in their part-time jobs and income.

I am deeply moved at reading the letter of Vietnamese officials who has returned to Vietnam from the ELTO 53 in New Zealand. They have learnt many things during their time in New Zealand, despite the national social distancing. The program has helped them to become more active and resilient. At the same time, they have received the wholehearted support from New Zealand Government and university.

Could you share some activities to commemorate the 45th anniversary of our bilateral relations that the Embassy will hold this year?

We planned to organized many cultural activities to celebrate this milestone, but unfortunately, the schedule has not been realized because of COVID-19. We will continue with programs for Vietnamese alumni of New Zealand universities and competitions for the Vietnamese youth to better understand New Zealand and the close friendship between Vietnam and New Zealand.

Thank you, Excellency!

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