Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung will pay an official visit to New Zealand from March 19 to 20 at the invitation of the country’s leader, John Key, with a view to strengthening cooperation and people-to-people exchanges between the two nations.

Vietnam and New Zealand established diplomatic relations in June 1975. To mark Party General Secretary Nong Duc Manh’s visit to New Zealand in September 2009, the two sides agreed to upgrade their relations to the Comprehensive Partnership level.

The two nations maintain high-level visit exchange, while effectively operating mechanisms such as the Deputy Foreign Minister-level political consultation, the Joint Trade and Economic Commission (JTEC), the defence consultation and the annual consultation on Vietnam-New Zealand development cooperation.

Both Vietnam and New Zealand are members of major regional and global forums and organizations such as the United Nations, the World Trade Organisation, the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) and bodies within ASEAN. Both are working for an early conclusion of negotiations on the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) agreement in the near future.

Two-way trade saw an annual 20-percent growth, hitting 750 million USD in 2013 from only 300 million USD in 2009. This figure during the first nine months of last year was 590 million USD, up 14 percent against the same period of 2013.

New Zealand is currently running 25 investment projects in Vietnam, with a combined capital of nearly 82 million USD. It ranks 42 nd amongst the 101 countries and territories investing in Vietnam. Meanwhile, Vietnam is operating two joint venture projects in New Zealand .

New Zealand’s official development assistance (ODA) provision for Vietnam surged to 10.5 million NZ dollars (over 7.7 million USD) in 2012-2013 from only 3.2 million NZ dollar in 2003-2004, with a focus on human resources development, education-training, agricultural and rural development and sustainable development.

Cooperation in other fields has also recorded positive development. The two sides have conducted negotiations, aiming to sign an agreement on food safety and animal and vegetable quarantines. Vietnam’s mango and dragon fruit are currently permitted to be exported to the New Zealand market.

At present, around 2,000 Vietnamese students are studying in New Zealand. The two governments inked a cooperation agreement on education and training in the 2012-2015 period during Deputy Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s visit to New Zealand in 2012. The New Zealand side continues to run scholarship programmes for Vietnamese students to study in its universities.

The number of overseas Vietnamese living in New Zealand is about 5,000.

Prime Minister Dung’s visit is hoped to consolidate and further deepen the bilateral Comprehensive Partnership, thus expanding all-around cooperation.-VNA