UK Prime Minister David Cameron has granted an exclusive interview to VietnamPlus, the online newspaper run by the Vietnam News Agency, ahead of his upcoming visit to Vietnam slated for July 29-30.

The following is the full text of the interview:

Question: In January 2013, General Secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam Nguyen Phu Trong paid an official visit to the UK at the invitation of the UK Prime Minister David Cameron. The visit helped further strengthen the strategic partnership between the two countries. What will be your plan to further improve the bilateral UK-VN relations?

Answer: I’m delighted to be the first British Prime Minister to visit Vietnam. I think there is a great opportunity to deepen and expand the relationship between our two countries and that’s what my visit is all about.

The UK and Vietnam already have a strong trading relationship with UK exports to Vietnam up by 12 percent last year but I think there is still huge untapped potential. That’s why I’ve brought a planeload of business men and women with me so they can see for themselves the opportunities in this exciting emerging market. With a young, tech-savvy population and the fastest growing middle class in South East Asia, I believe British businesses have much to offer.

We should build on the Strategic Partnership, signed between our two countries in 2010, which committed to working more closely on trade and investment, development, education and training, science and technology and security and defence.

Question: The UK has many a time confirmed the need to ensure security, safety and free navigation in the East Sea as well as to settle all disputes in the region in a peaceful manner in respect of international laws. What will the UK do to push the finalisation of COC between ASEAN and China? What is the UK view towards China’s land reclamation in the East Sea?

Answer: We are concerned about the tensions in the South China Sea (which Vietnam calls East Sea) and the potential effects on regional peace, security and global prosperity. While we take no position on underlying sovereignty claims, we are clear that provocative behaviour challenges regional stability and continue to call on all parties to settle maritime and other disputes in accordance with international law and the UN Convention.

We underlined this commitment at the G7 Summit in Germany last month when, with our partners there, we made clear that we want to maintain a rules-based order in the maritime domain based on the principles of international law, in particular as reflected in the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea and we emphasised the importance of peaceful dispute settlement as well as free and unimpeded lawful use of the world’s oceans.

Question: The UK and Vietnam are promoting their defence and security relations. In addition to cooperation in the fight against serious crimes, including internationally-organised crimes and illegal immigration, what are the other areas of cooperation in terms of security and defence?

Answer: Both our nations already co-operate on defence and maritime issues and we work together to tackle crimes such as modern slavery, child sexual exploitation, cyber and financial offences.

I was pleased that Vietnam attended the WeProtect Summit in London last December and the UK does significant work within Vietnam to help reintegrate victims of human trafficking as well as raising awareness of the risks of this abhorrent trade. And I’m keen to step up co-operation in this area in the months ahead.

In the area of defence, we already provide professional and specialist training for officers from the Vietnamese Ministry of National Defence. I hope that, as a result of this visit, we will deepen our cooperation and the Vietnamese government’s appointment of a Defence Attaché in London will provide further opportunities to do so.

Question: Trade is the core area of discussion during the visit to the UK in 2013 by the Party leader Nguyen Phu Trong. What has the UK done to promote the signing of the Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement and for an early recognition of the market regulations for Vietnam? The two-way trade turnover is under 4 billion USD. Does this figure reflect the potential of the two countries?

Answer: I think there is great potential to increase trade between our countries for the benefit of British businesses and Vietnamese businesses too. It will be a top priority of my visit and that’s why I’m going to Ho Chi Minh as well as Hanoi and it’s why I’ve got a planeload of business men and women with me. As Vietnam continues to develop and to expand its infrastructure, I think our world-class engineering and energy companies have a lot to offer. And there is also a great opportunity for the UK and Vietnam to work together on education, science and innovation.

The UK is one of the strongest supporters of free trade in the EU and we have put our weight fully behind an EU-Vietnam free trade agreement. I’m delighted that negotiations appear to be closer to conclusion and I hope that paves the way to get the deal signed, sealed and delivered so that it can start benefiting businesses both in Europe and Vietnam.

Question: In your opinion, what should the Vietnamese Government and its businesses do to overcome all commercial barriers, thus increasing its exports to the UK and to other EU countries?

Answer: This visit will provide me with an opportunity to hear from British and Vietnamese businesses about how they can improve trade links. This kind of open dialogue between government and business is vital for creating a competitive economic environment. It’s right that we are responsive to the needs of business and try to remove unnecessary barriers because that’s how we open up new opportunities that can spur growth and create jobs.

In negotiating both the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement and the Trans Pacific Partnership, the Vietnamese government is showing real willingness and I continue to encourage them to open up markets and encourage greater transparency.-VNA