Vietnam is a valued partner for New Zealand in the region and New Zealand welcomes the cooperation with Vietnam given her important role in ASEAN, Prime Minister John Key has said.

The NZ PM has evaluated the two countries’ relations and talked about its prospect when replying to the Vietnam News Agency’s related questions on the occasion of Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung’s official visit to New Zealand on March 19-20.

Following is Prime Minister Key’s full responses.

“Q: Vietnam and New Zealand established diplomatic relations 40 years ago. What is your assessment of the Comprehensive Partnership relationship between New Zealand and Vietnam?

Firstly I’d like to recognise those 40 years of friendship and say how pleased I am to welcome Prime Minister Dung and his ministers to New Zealand. I think the fact that such a large delegation of more than 100 people including senior business leaders is coming to New Zealand with Prime Minister Dung is testament to the depth of friendship shared between our two countries and the optimism that we hold for that relationship going forward.

And looking at what we have achieved over the past 40 years we have every reason to be so optimistic. Over recent years that relationship has gone from strength to strength, particularly since our Comprehensive Partnership was agreed in 2009. We’ve seen a significant boost in trade - including 120 percent growth in two-way merchandise trade in the past five years alone, as well as deepening cooperation in other important areas including agriculture, education, development assistance, and our defence relationship. We are also important regional partners working together on a range of issues.
Prime Minister Dung’s visit provides us with an excellent opportunity to look to the future, and consider how we can further enhance our Comprehensive Partnership over the next five years.

Q: What do you think about the prospects for New Zealand-Vietnam relations? What should Vietnam and New Zealand do to develop bilateral relations to a higher level?

I think there are opportunities for expansion in many areas which will greatly benefit both countries. We are already on track to meet our goal of 1 billion USD in total two-way trade by the end of 2015. Given recent growth rates I think we can be more ambitious and we should be looking to increase this level significantly over the next five years. What will help with that is the fact we are partners in the TPP negotiations which are nearing conclusion. The TPP will deepen ties between our countries and those around the negotiating table by opening up trade in goods and services, boosting investment flows, and promoting closer links across a range issues.

Education, agriculture, aviation, tourism and food safety are all areas where we have seen success which we can build on. Education particularly is a key part of the relationship bringing together New Zealand’s capacity to offer a world class education with Vietnam’s desire to up-skill its workforce. Those education links also allow New Zealanders and Vietnamese to forge long-term friendships and foster greater understanding of each other’s countries and cultures. This in turn helps create further business and cultural links and opportunities. Aviation provides vital links necessary for other parts of the relationship including trade, education, tourism and I’m very pleased the two countries will sign an updated Air Services Agreement during Prime Minister Dung’s visit. New Zealand’s food safety credentials are also amongst the best in the world and we look forward to signing a Food Safety Cooperation Arrangement during the visit. This will deepen our cooperation in this critical area.

Q: How important is the cooperation between New Zealand and Vietnam in order to bring prosperity and maintain peace, security and stability in the region and world as well?

Vietnam is a valued partner for New Zealand in the region and we welcome the cooperation we have with Vietnam given its important role within ASEAN. Our two countries work together closely in many regional forums, including APEC, the ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus process, and the East Asia Summit. We also have a positive defence cooperation relationship, particularly with respect to English language training and peacekeeping. Peace and security is essential for prosperity, and it is important that all countries in the region work together to build understanding and to maintain stability.-VNA