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PM Address: Lunch for Phan Van Khai, Viet Nam PM

Parliamentary Lunch for Phan Van Khai, Viet Nam PM

Address From Prime Minister Helen Clark
Monday, 09 May 2005
Parliamentary Lunch for Prime Minister Phan Van Khai of Viet Nam

This year, New Zealand and Viet Nam celebrate thirty years of diplomatic relations.

*******

The visit to New Zealand by Prime Minister Phan Van Khai of Viet Nam is very welcome. Today, Viet Nam is a country united; it is a country experiencing fast economic growth, and it is a country making an impact in our region and in the world. New Zealand's growing relationship with Vietnam reflects this dynamic.

This year, New Zealand and Viet Nam celebrate thirty years of diplomatic relations. After the 1972 general election, New Zealand withdrew from the Vietnam War, paving the way for a diplomatic relationship with a united Vietnam in 1975. This year is also the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the New Zealand Embassy in Viet Nam's capital, Ha Noi.

Our commitment to a long-term relationship with Viet Nam was reflected in the decision to establish, at the same time, a Trade Office in Ho Chi Minh City. This is now a full, and very busy, Consulate-General.

In May 2003, we welcomed the establishment of Viet Nam's Embassy in New Zealand. That signalled a big step forward in our relations. I am delighted that Viet Nam now has plans to open a Trade Office in Auckland. This will undoubtedly help our trade relationship grow.

In October 2003, I visited Viet Nam, having previously visited in 1998 as Leader of the Opposition. On both occasions, I was impressed by Vietnam's youthful population and by its energy. I know that when the Vietnamese people set goals, they are determined to meet them. I know that the government of Vietnam is determined to reform its economy and lift living standards. I am delighted, Prime Minister, that you are now making this reciprocal visit to New Zealand which is a partner in your country's development and a regional neighbour.

This morning we have signed a Joint Declaration of Co-operation between us. It provides a framework for the many areas of collaboration between our countries. There is much we are doing together now; and there is much more we can achieve in the coming years.

Trade between New Zealand and Viet Nam will grow in importance. The two way trade between us was worth $248M in the year to December 2004. Your largest exports to us were furniture, footwear, engines and motors. And our largest exports to you were dairy products and timber products.

Our timber is supporting Viet Nam's rapidly growing furniture export business. In 2003 I visited a New Zealand-Viet Nam business near Ho Chi Minh City which employs 2,500 people and exports furniture around the world. That enterprise showed how Vietnamese and New Zealand resources, energy, and expertise can be successfully combined.

Later this year we will hold the first meeting of a Joint Trade and Economic Commission which gives us an important forum in which to address bilateral trade and economic issues.

New Zealand is a firm supporter of Viet Nam's bid to join the WTO. We note that accession is a demanding process. In addition to market opening for goods and services, it also involves making major change to legislation and regulatory frameworks. We are confident that Viet Nam will be able to meet the conditions required. We believe it is in everyone's interests that Viet Nam is part of the international rules-based trading system.

Over the past thirty years New Zealand and Viet Nam have been development partners. Now the relationship is growing. New Zealand's aid to Viet Nam over the next three financial years will increase by 340 per cent - from $NZ3.1M today to $NZ10.6M by 2007/08. We are assigning a fulltime aid officer to the New Zealand Embassy in Ha Noi. Our programme will work to reduce poverty, support education, and build sustainable rural livelihoods. I had the opportunity to see our partnership at work in a project improving banana cultivation and economic returns to villagers in 2003.

A programme greatly appreciated by Viet Nam has been New Zealand's English Language Training for Officials (ELTO). Since 1990, around two hundred and fifty Vietnamese officials have studied here under the programme. Meeting some of the Vietnamese officials who have studied English in New Zealand - the so-called "kiwi mafia" - was a special part of my visit to Ha Noi in 2003.

Last year during Hon Trevor Mallard's visit to Viet Nam, an Education Co-operation Arrangement was signed. Many young Vietnamese are now choosing to study in New Zealand, and several New Zealand education institutions have built important links with their counterparts in Viet Nam. I hope, Prime Minister, that you enjoy your visits to our tertiary institutions during your time here.

The number of New Zealand tourists visiting Viet Nam is growing by about twenty five per cent each year, reflecting Viet Nam's growing reputation as a fascinating and affordable destination for us. The bilateral Air Services Agreement signed during my visit in 2003 has laid the foundation for increased tourist flows in the future.

Another important way of building people-to-people links is through parliamentary exchanges. New Zealand was honoured to receive Viet Nam's National Assembly Chairman Nguyen Van An, and his delegation last year. I hope we will see more such exchanges in both directions.

Prime Minister, New Zealand values its expanding links with the nations of ASEAN. Your country's voice is respected in ASEAN. As New Zealand's Prime Minister, I was pleased to attend the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand summit in Vientiane last year. We hope that New Zealand might also be associated with the East Asia Summit in Malaysia later this year. We appreciate Viet Nam's support and understanding of New Zealand's position on this issue.

In 2006 Viet Nam will host APEC, and the major APEC Leaders' Summit. This is a huge undertaking. New Zealand hosted in 1999, and our present ambassador in Viet Nam was closely involved with the arrangements at that time. We are happy to share our experiences with you as you prepare for this major responsibility for next year.

This year, we in New Zealand and Viet Nam celebrate an important milestone in our relationship. The Prime Minister's visit here is a highlight of this thirtieth anniversary of diplomatic relations. New Zealand is delighted to welcome the Prime Minister, and his delegation, and we look forward to increased contact and partnerships with Viet Nam in the years ahead.

ENDS

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