Your Excellency, Chairman Le Hoang Quan; Distinguished guests, Ladies and Gentlemen – Xin chao qui vi. Thank you again for the warm welcome you have extended to me, my wife Janine and my delegation to Ho Chi Minh City. Also, thank you for this opportunity to share lunch with you.
Chairman Quan, it is a privilege to finally visit Ho Chi Minh City. Although my wife and I have been to Viet Nam two times before, we have not visited south of Hoi An. Let me say that we have been impressed by your city’s dynamic and energetic centre; and its friendly and welcoming people. We look forward to meeting with many Vietnamese and New Zealand residents of Ho Chi Minh City over the next two days.
Mr Chairman, in my discussions with your national leaders in Ha Noi this week, a consistent and key theme has been the excellent developments in the positive and constructive relationship between our two countries. Those developments can be seen in many different fields.
Since we established our Comprehensive Partnership in 2009, the trade of goods between Viet Nam and New Zealand has increased by almost 70 per cent. Also, the number of Vietnamese students studying in New Zealand, many of them from Ho Chi Minh City, has almost doubled since 2008. The students and their friends in New Zealand form an important core of ‘ambassadors’ for our future relationship.
On the diplomatic front, we have signed bilateral arrangements in areas as diverse as science and technology, customs co-operation, combating of transnational crime, education and training, and a working holiday scheme. While I was in Ha Noi a Double Taxation Agreement was signed; and soon we will have a revised Air Services Agreement, with the prospect of direct flights between New Zealand and Viet Nam in future. New Zealand and Viet Nam are also cornerstone partners in critical regional economic processes, including the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations.
In delivering on the potential relationship between our two countries, Ho Chi Minh City has an important role to play. As Viet Nam’s most populous city, and the economic centre of Viet Nam with a GDP of almost $US30B, it is not surprising that our economic and trade interests are strong here. The resident New Zealand business community and their local partners will play a critical role in delivering on our shared goal of reaching US$1 billion in two-way trade by 2015.
We look forward to continuing to build a relationship with Viet Nam and Ho Chi Minh City that delivers benefits to all sides, and enables us to achieve more together than we could alone.
I now want to offer a toast. I toast the good health of Chairman Quan, your spouse and your family, and I toast the bright future of Ho Chi Minh City and New Zealand-Ho Chi Minh City relations. Chuc suc khoe!