|Head to head: A traditional Maori greeting – the "hongi". — Photo Frans Lemmens/Getty Images
(VNS)Today New Zealand marks Waitangi Day. On February 6, 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed – the document that founded New Zealand as a modern nation. The Treaty provides the framework for the strong and enduring partnership between the government and Maori, the indigenous people of New Zealand.
Today is a holiday in New Zealand – a chance for us to reflect on the past, to celebrate our shared achievements, and to look to the future. New Zealanders are proud of their increasingly ethnically diverse and multicultural modern society; strong migration flows from Asian and Pacific nations in recent years are contributing to the development of a distinctive "fusion" culture in New Zealand.
As with the Treaty of Waitangi in New Zealand, the theme of partnership and mutual respect between peoples forms the foundation of our relationship with Viet Nam. Our bilateral relationship – whether at the political level, or in trade, education, development, defence and security – is healthy and dynamic.
Of course there is much more that can be done to further improve our ties, particularly as our two countries look forward to the celebration of 40 years of diplomatic relations in 2015.
I'd like to highlight some initiatives where New Zealand – through our embassy in Ha Noi, and our Consulate-General in HCM City – is working on to deepen our comprehensive partnership with Viet Nam.
Firstly, we are working to build greater awareness among Vietnamese about New Zealand, our values, what we have to offer, and what's going on in the bilateral relationship.
Our recently launched Facebook page www.facebook.com/nzembassyvietnam is an important tool for this, and we have been delighted with the response so far – as Vietnamese become increasingly sophisticated users and consumers of social media.
Our bilateral Working Holiday Scheme established last year has also allowed 100 young Vietnamese to experience New Zealand first hand in its first year of operation.
Secondly, we are promoting an ever strengthening education relationship with Viet Nam.
Viet Nam is now the 10th largest source of international students in New Zealand. The number of the Vietnamese students has increased sharply as more Vietnamese become aware of the unique package New Zealand has to offer – world class education with internationally recognised qualifications; value for money; a safe, welcoming, clean living environment; and opportunities for employment while studying in New Zealand, or after graduation.
A number of New Zealand institutions have also established excellent joint programmes with Vietnamese partners here in Viet Nam. As more Vietnamese get to know about New Zealand I have no doubt we will see many more young Vietnamese (and their families) choosing a New Zealand education.
We are also proud of the high quality scholarship programmes available to Vietnamese students. There is a real "fit" here with Viet Nam's important human development goals.
Thirdly, we are working closely with Viet Nam in regional economic integration processes.
Both New Zealand and Viet Nam are committed "regionalists" and are involved in many of the processes currently underway which will shape the way that business is done in the region in future, including the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) negotiations.
The TPP – involving countries from the Americas as well as the Asia Pacific – offers potentially huge benefits to countries such as New Zealand and Viet Nam, through the promise of removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, and by providing greater certainty and alignment over the rules for movement of goods, services and capital across borders.
So there's much to be proud of already in the relationship, but also much to be done! For today, however, I want to reflect again on Waitangi Day, the theme of strength in partnership, and how this applies to our efforts to deepen New Zealand's relationship with Viet Nam. I also wish to offer my best wishes to readers in Viet Nam for the upcoming Tet holiday – Chuc Mung Nam Moi! — VNS