On Waitangi Day, the National Day of New Zealand, Minister of Foreign Affairs Nanaia Mahuta writes for Việt Nam News
February 6 marks an important day for Aotearoa New Zealand. We celebrate Waitangi Day and the Treaty of Waitangi, Te Tiriti o Waitangi – our founding document.
On this day in 1840, the Treaty of Waitangi was signed by the Māori, the indigenous people of New Zealand, and the British people, representing the British Crown. The Treaty was about strategic engagement where both sides understood the value that could be derived through coming together. It established a tangible representation of partnership, a partnership from which our nation Aotearoa New Zealand was borne.
To this day, the Treaty of Waitangi and the enduring legacy of partnership it established, has guided Aotearoa New Zealand in our diplomatic relations through the values embedded in our foundation. These values underpin our identity and sit at the heart of our relationship with Việt Nam.
As New Zealand and Việt Nam celebrate 47 years of diplomatic relations in 2022, kotahitanga, the Māori value of working together and standing united comes to mind. Throughout our years of relations, our relationship has transformed into the modern and mutually affirming partnership that we have today. This was reiterated at the end of last year when I was honoured to sign and officially launch our Strategic Partnership Action Plan (2021-2024) together with Foreign Minister Bùi Thanh Sơn.
The Plan aims to strengthen the ties between our two countries in a way that ensures our continued mutual safety, prosperity, and that we together act as custodians for generations to follow. This is known as the principle of kaitiakitanga, or guardianship of the land and its resources; a concept that I know is also very meaningful to the people of Việt Nam.
Two-way merchandise trade in 2021 topped US$1.38 billion, an increase of 5 per cent, and by September 2021 Việt Nam was New Zealand’s 16th largest trading partner. We are proud to bring New Zealand’s safe and high-quality food and beverage products to Việt Nam.
I love hearing stories of Vietnamese enjoying New Zealand’s world-famous dairy products, and increasingly our wine, fruit, and even lamb. I am also pleased that innovation is also now a driving force in our relationship, including some of New Zealand’s world-leading medical equipment that has been used in COVID-19 treatment to save lives in Vietnamese hospitals during the pandemic.
As both our countries now look to achieve strong economic growth as part of our COVID-19 recovery, the ambitious trade goals we have set will be an important focus. We are fortunate that such high-quality free trade agreements link our two countries, so we will be working hard to ensure that exporters in both countries can maximise those agreements.
Between our two nations, there is much to recognise and celebrate. New Zealanders also have a long tradition of mixing creative innovation with practical solutions. A great example of this is our premium-variety dragonfruit development project that has allowed New Zealand and Vietnamese companies and research organisations to share agricultural expertise.
This project brought together the best of New Zealand’s agricultural knowledge and technology with one of Việt Nam’s most recognizable icons – the dragon fruit. The three new dragon fruit varieties will soon be licensed and exported to the world, and I’m looking forward to seeing them in my local supermarket soon.
New Zealand and Việt Nam are also close partners in a multitude of regional and international fora. Like Việt Nam’s experience with chairing ASEAN in 2020, New Zealand’s chairing of APEC 2021 was an extraordinary journey, undertaken during an extraordinary time. However, we could not have achieved what we set out to do without the support, knowledge sharing and enthusiastic participation from other countries, particularly Việt Nam’s as a vocal supporter from the very beginning.
Looking ahead, there will be many other issues of common interest that will continue to unite Việt Nam and New Zealand, including developing effective responses to the challenges of climate change and building inclusive and sustainable economic growth in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Last and most significantly, I would like to acknowledge our strong people-to-people links as the foundation for our friendship today. Through the value of manaaki, meaning kindness and the reciprocity of goodwill, I am proud to see the growing Vietnamese community in New Zealand.
Your community in New Zealand has continued to enrich our own multicultural identity across many areas including business, the arts, the culinary field, and education. We are delighted that Vietnamese students recognize the value of New Zealand’s world-class education to learn, grow, and shape their futures and the future of Việt Nam.
There is a well-known Māori proverb “Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te iwi” - with your basket, and my basket, the people will thrive. In Việt Nam you have a similar expression “Lá lành đùm lá rách”.
In this spirit, humanitarian support remains an important part of our relationship. New Zealand has provided nearly US$200,000 as COVID-19 response in Việt Nam, which has included US$166,000 of direct financial support to over 3,200 women workers negatively affected by COVID-19, and US$24,000 to support 130 children with intellectual disabilities and members of the hearing-impaired community in Việt Nam. We continue looking for ways to provide future pandemic relief support.
For Aotearoa New Zealand, February 6 is a day for reflecting on our history as a nation, what makes us Aotearoa, and how we can contribute to the global community and continue building our good friendships, as we have with Việt Nam
Finally, I wish the people of Việt Nam a happy and prosperous Year of the Tiger. Tết represents the start of spring in Việt Nam and the hopes for a new year. As such, I am excited for what this year will bring for our relationship between New Zealand and Việt Nam.
To find out more about New Zealand’s activities in Việt Nam, please check out: facebook.com/nzembassyvietnam. VNS