Vietnam – Canada: Partnership for Development

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For the past decades, Vietnam – Canada relations have been developing in all fields in the interests of the people of the two countries and contributing to the peace, stability and development of the region. On the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries, Vietnam Business Forum interviewed Mr Ha Kim Ngoc, Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs. Nguyen Mai reports.

Would you please tell us about the developments of Vietnam-Canada relationship in the past 40 years?

This year, Vietnam and Canada celebrate the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations. In fact, bilateral relations started much earlier with the participation of Canada twice in the International Commission for Supervision and Control of the implementation of the Geneva Agreement 1954 and Paris Agreement 1973 in Vietnam. I wish to review the developments of Vietnam-Canada relations in the past four decades:

First, political- diplomatic relations have been strengthened and developed with high-level visits of the governments, parliaments, ministries and partner organizations of the two countries. In particular, during the visit of Prime Minister Phan Van Khai in June 2005, the two countries established stable and long-term comprehensive partnership. Those events have promoted mutual understanding and confidence and deepened fruitful cooperation between the two countries.

Second, trade and economic cooperation has been markedly increased (20 times since 1995, from US$75 million to over US$1.6 billion in 2012). Canada ranks 14th among foreign investors in Vietnam, with 130 projects worth US$4.7 billion. Among major investors are Olympus Pacific Minerals, Nortel, ACDL, Manulife, Bombardier, Talisman, Vinacapital and Sun Life Financial. Vietnam and Canada have signed several agreements on trade and economic cooperation. The two countries are also cooperating in the negotiation for Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP).

Third, development cooperation is also a bright spot in Vietnam-Canada relations. Canada resumed official development assistance (ODA) to Vietnam in 1990. In 2009, Canada included Vietnam in the list of 20 countries of high priority for ODA and has continued the assistance to date. In fiscal year 2011-2012, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Canadian government provided over US$600 million in ODA for Vietnam (some US$18 million a year by bilateral channels and some US$29 million a year by both NGOs and international organizations). Canadian projects are being implemented in several provinces and cities, contributing to improved livelihoods for local people. In addition, Canada has also assisted in other sectors such as health, finance, banking, etc. The Vietnam-Canada environment project (1996-2006) worth US$21.5 million is regarded as the most successful project of CIDA in Southeast Asia.

Fourth, in education and training, through CIDA, the Canadian government has assisted in projects helping disadvantaged children, and upgrading universities and colleges in Vietnam. So far, some 70 Canadian education establishments are helping Vietnam in training human resources. By 2011, over 3,000 Vietnamese students are studying in Canada, ranking 16th among countries sending students to study in Canada.

The two countries are also coordinating with each other in international and regional organizations such as UN, APEC, Francophonie, WTO, ARF, etc.

Looking back over the past 40 years, I may conclude that in spite of geographical distance, Vietnam and Canada have made great efforts to increase mutual understanding and confidence, promoting relations in all fields. However, the outcome remains modest in comparison with the great potential for cooperation between the two countries. Therefore, while celebrating the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, the two countries should make greater efforts to promote the comprehensive partnership, meeting the aspirations of the two peoples and the role of the two countries in the dynamic Asia-Pacific region.

As you and your Canadian counterpart, Mr Morris Rosenberg, have recently discussed measures to promote bilateral relations, could you mention some of these measures?

As I said earlier, though the Vietnam-Canada relationship has been promoted in various fields, it remains modest in comparison with existing potential. Therefore, in the coming years, the two sides will explore and develop to the maximum this potential, especially in trade-economic field, investment, science-technology and education. For the Vietnamese side, ministries and agencies, business community, organizations and individuals must make every effort to promote fruitful cooperation with Canada.

In the meantime, specific measures should be taken: One, the two sides increase political-diplomatic activities, especially high-level visits to promote bilateral relations. Two, Canada allows more Vietnamese exports to the Canadian market and increase investments in Vietnam. Vietnam should try to meet the criteria for exports to Canada. The two sides will continue to negotiate on the Foreign Investment Promotion and Protection Agreements (FIPA) and TPP, as well as bilateral agreements on trade and economic cooperation. Three, Vietnam will increase cooperation in science and technology, especially in environment and biology, while cooperation in education will be further promoted. Meanwhile, cooperation between different localities and people’s organisations will also be encouraged to promote understanding between the two countries.

How do the two countries celebrate the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations?

40 years is an important period of time to review bilateral relations and promote the friendship and images of the land and people in Vietnam and Canada. For its part, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs has coordinated with concerned authorities, the Vietnamese Embassy in Canada and the Canadian Embassy in Vietnam on several important and diverse events.

In political-diplomatic field, exchanges of visits have been increased such as the visits of Canadian Director General in charge of Asia (January 2013), delegation of Canadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (March 2013), Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs (June 2013), as well as the visit of Vietnamese Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs Ho Xuan Son to Canada (February 2013).

For celebration events, the Canadian Embassy has sponsored several activities such as: performances by famous pianist Alain Lefevre in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City in June 2013, Gala dinner introducing Canadian food and wine, and the logo competition for the 40th anniversary. For the Vietnamese side, we have prepared for Vietnam Week in Canada in October with several activities. In August, the Vietnam Union of Friendship Associations will sponsor a friendship meeting with the Canadian Embassy, businesses and friends in Vietnam. A special publication will be issued with articles by Vietnamese and Canadian organisations and personalities.

The above-mentioned activities will no doubt further promote bilateral relations on the foundation of comprehensive partnership between Vietnam and Canada.

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