Promising future of Việt Nam - Netherlands bilateral cooperation: Ambassador

April 09, 2023 - 16:08
Ambassador of the Netherlands to Việt Nam Kees van Baar grants an interview to Vietnam News Agency on the 50th anniversary of the Việt Nam-Netherlands diplomatic relationship.
Ambassador of the Netherlands to Việt Nam Kees van Baar. — Photo courtesy of the Netherlands Embassy to Việt Nam

Ambassador of the Netherlands to Việt Nam Kees van Baar grants an interview to Vietnam News Agency on the 50th anniversary of the Việt Nam-Netherlands diplomatic relationship.

How do you evaluate the relations between Việt Nam and the Netherlands since the establishment of the bilateral diplomatic ties 50 years ago and what should the two countries do to further promote their relations?

I think our relations are multifaceted and strong and continue to develop and grow. The Netherlands and Việt Nam have supported each other in good and in bad times and became trusted partners. 50 years ago, we started as your development partner and now the Netherlands is the biggest trade and investment partner of Việt Nam in Europe.

Việt Nam and the Netherlands have a lot in common. Both our countries depend on international trade and investment, have large deltas, face serious water and climate challenges, and are home to an export oriented agriculture sector. Being small, we both have learned to build on the international rule of law and the multilateral system.

Our cooperation does not stop at the government level (with the most recent high-level visits of the Netherlands Prime Minister Mark Rutte to Việt Nam in 2019 and Vietnamese Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính to the Netherlands in 2022), but it is strong and deep between universities/research institutions, businesses and CSOs. I am proud to see the sustainable and significant Dutch footprints in different areas, from the flagship Hà Nội Amsterdam High School to cooperation in water, agriculture and climate between universities in Hà Nội, Mekong provinces, and HCM City, and those in the Netherlands, from the inspirational Dutch delta plan to Việt Nam Government’s Resolution 120 and later the Mekong Delta Regional Master Plan.

Dutch companies also bring ‘quality investment’ to Việt Nam, such as six Heineken Vietnam breweries and its circular waste water system, animal feed factories and research centre of DeHeus Vietnam, the world’s first fully electric tug from Damen Song Cam, not to mention Friesland Campina Vietnam and its famous milk brand ‘Cô gái Hà Lan’ (Dutch Lady).

The year 2023 marks 50 years of bilateral relations between Việt Nam and the Netherlands. In this special year, we wish to celebrate our strong relationship by exploring how we can further cooperate – both in terms of innovative technological solutions in the fields of agriculture, water and logistics, high tech, green energy and circular economy as well as in terms of cultural exchanges and people-to-people ties.

Do you have any recommendations for the two countries to utilise opportunities that the EU-Việt Nam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) brings to boost their trade and investment ties?

The Netherlands is the largest export destination of Việt Nam in the EU, where Việt Nam enjoys a large trade surplus. And the two-way trade continues to grow thanks to the favourable conditions offered by the EVFTA and EVIPA. Việt Nam and Singapore are the only two countries in the ASEAN region could be the signatories together with the EU in such trade and investment agreements, which are the modern and ambitious instruments to fostering sustainable trade and investment, as well as advancing human rights, and environmental and labour standards.

On top of that, other EU regulations are about to enter into forces which require exporters to comply with the ESG (Environmental – Social – Governance) criteria. So to say, the wellbeing of the environment and employees should be taken into account, and not only in your own factory, but also in your value chain. That is an important factor. That might not always be easy. The Dutch Business Association in Việt Nam, supported by the Netherlands and Vietnamese government, implements the “Ready to Export” programme to enhance the capacity of Vietnamese SMEs to do business in Europe.

In terms of investment, the Netherlands currently is the largest European investor in Việt Nam with total projects worth US$14 billion. Dutch companies, as I mentioned, bring sustainable innovations and solutions to contribute to Việt Nam's green economic transformation. For Việt Nam to capitalise on new ties of investment, it is crucial that Việt Nam could offer favourable business climate to foster sustainable foreign investors as well as develop green mechanisms such as the DPPA or the domestic carbon trading market soon to be in line with the international carbon trading market.

Students at the Hà Nội-Amsterdam High School. Built in 1985 with the aim of producing generations of outstanding students for the capital city and high-quality human resources for Việt Nam, the school stands as a symbol of Việt Nam-Netherlands ties, — VNA/VNS Photo Thanh Tùng

In 2010, Việt Nam and the Netherlands established a Strategic Partnership in Climate Change Adaptation and Water Management. In 2014, the two countries established a Strategic Partnership in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security. How do you evaluate cooperation projects between the two countries in these fields in the past and prospects in the future?

Like Việt Nam, the Netherlands faces numerous water challenges such as too much, too little, too dirty and too salty water and is severely affected by the rising sea levels as a result of climate change. Our economies for an important part rely on a backbone of agriculture sector and hardworking farmers. The SPAs are commitments of Việt Nam and the Netherlands to work together in response to water and climate challenges and to jointly develop sustainable agriculture. I am a proud Dutch ambassador to see the Mekong Delta Plan, which was developed with support of Dutch experts and is a source of inspiration to the establishment of Việt Nam's Government Resolution 120 and later the Mekong Delta Regional Master Plan. These directives and governing documents present the Vietnamese Government’s strong commitment to employ the nature-based and integrated solutions and call for the coordination of the national and local government to develop a healthy and sustainable Mekong Delta.

I think it is also important to make more use of nature-based solutions. By working with nature instead of against it, our solutions are more sustainable in the long run. Coastal erosion in the Mekong Delta is a very good example. You know, if you want to protect the coast, then you should actually cut back of what you took away. These are the mangrove forests, and you should get the shore and the forest back. And the mangrove forest is an ideal and effective environment for shrimp farming. And a great way to store carbon and to achieve your climate targets at the same time.

The cooperation between our two countries continues to grow and develop and goes way beyond just agro-water nexus, connecting other dots such as smart logistics, circular solutions, waste treatment, inland waterway transport, seaport development to enable better and faster access for products from the Mekong Delta to other parts of Việt Nam and international markets. On top of that, Việt Nam will need to develop its own mechanism to finance the resilience of the Mekong Delta, and the Netherlands is willing to inspire Việt Nam by its examples on financing and to collaborate with the government to improve public funding and attract private funding.

What are major events in the series of activities celebrating the 50th anniversary of the bilateral diplomatic ties this year?

The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic ties between our countries started since last year, with the visit to Việt Nam of the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Liesje Schreinemacher and the visit to the Netherlands of Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính, along with the large trade missions. We will continue our full and meaningful economic agenda with activities and events in water and waste management, aquaculture, horticulture, high tech, logistics, green energy, to name just a few.

Naturally, our relationship comprises a lot more than just trade and investment. There has also been a lot of cultural exchanges between Việt Nam and the Netherlands, most notably in the fields of music and photography. One of our flagship projects in recent years has been the World Press Photo exhibition. We hope to be able to continue our cooperation with Vietnamese partners in bringing such important exhibitions to Việt Nam in the future. Naturally, in the framework of celebrating 50 years of bilateral relations, we hope to further strengthen and deepen these cultural ties.

We have very interesting and exciting years ahead in our bilateral cooperation. We look forward to working together with Việt Nam to the benefit of our countries and peoples. To do so, we will continue to engage and work with each other, involving our government agencies, our businesses, our knowledge institutes and, most importantly, our citizens. I feel privileged to be able to contribute to that in the years to come. — VNS

Việt Nam's Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính and his Dutch counterpart Mark Rutte on April 8 exchanged letters of greetings on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries (April 9, 1973-2023).Prime Minister Rute wrote: “Việt Nam and the Netherlands have a lot in common. Both are delta countries, for instance. We also share an open, outward-looking, enterprising spirit. Furthermore, both our countries recognise the value of the rules-based international order and are committed to its protection.”The 50th anniversary of the long-standing and constructive partnership is a major milestone, he said, adding that this it is "an opportunity for us not only to reflect on the past but also to look ahead to the future. The global challenges of our time require even closer and more comprehensive cooperation."I look forward to seeing what the next 50 years will bring," the Netherlands leader noted.