Việt Nam-UK relationship at 'very dynamic moment': British Ambassador

May 04, 2023 - 07:56
In an interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) ahead of Vietnamese President Võ Văn Thưởng's trip to the UK for the coronation of King Charles III from May 4-6, Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to Việt Nam Iain Frew said that the bilateral relationship now stands at a “very dynamic moment” with “real achievements” recorded over the past years.
Vietnamese President Võ Văn Thưởng (right) and Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to Việt Nam Iain Frew at a reception in Hà Nội on April 28. — VNA/VNS Photo Thống Nhất

In an interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) ahead of Vietnamese President Võ Văn Thưởng's trip to the UK for the coronation of King Charles III from May 4-6, Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland to Việt Nam Iain Frew said that the bilateral relationship now stands at a “very dynamic moment” with “real achievements” recorded over the past years.

How important is President Võ Văn Thưởng's attendance at King Charles's coronation in the context of the two countries celebrating the 50th anniversary of the bilateral diplomatic ties this year?

For the UK, this is actually a very big moment. We haven't done this for 70 years. So I think it's a really significant moment for our country, as it is a national moment and a constitutional moment. So given that, it's really significant that President Thưởng is going to come to the UK, alongside other world leaders, to mark this very significant occasion.

And I think in the context of the 50th anniversary of the bilateral relations, this is really a strong signal of how we can work together to deepen that relationship and also of the potential for us to develop different areas. I think this is a relatively early visit for the President in his term after his visit to Laos, and that's a particular honour for us.

During the visit, we will see the potential for us to mark in the framework of the 50th anniversary the areas and directions that we want to do more together on, whether it is on trade, climate, energy, defence and security.

The Việt Nam-UK strategic partnership is developing fruitfully, especially in education, trade and sustainable development. What can we expect from the trip to the UK by President Võ Văn Thưởng in promoting bilateral cooperation?

As part of the President's visit and the coronation programme, he will have opportunities to meet UK leaders and senior ministers. I'm sure that they will have opportunities to cover some of these priority areas and to discuss the ambition that we have in the areas you've mentioned, education, sustainability, and trade.

We've identified these areas where we think there's huge potential to do more, even though we've achieved a lot together so far in the relationship. And also, as part of the President's programme, he's going to have the opportunity to meet and talk to business leaders, NGOs, and others who connect the UK and Việt Nam together to explore some of that potential.

It's clear from my own discussion with the President, but also with other senior leaders here at Việt Nam, that the potential for us to develop education, in particular, is very high. UK universities and other higher education institutions offer a huge amount and we're delighted that so many Vietnamese students are studying and want to study in the UK. I think we could do more to build those partnerships and also to ensure that the partnerships then strengthen and support the education system and development here in Việt Nam.

How do you evaluate the prospects of bilateral relations in the future?

This is a very dynamic moment in the UK-Việt Nam relationship. We have had some real achievements over recent years within the strategic partnership in areas such as the UK-Việt Nam Free Trade Agreement. But I think if we look across the other areas of the relationship, there is a lot of potential to do more.

I'll start with trade. We've recently concluded the negotiations for the UK to join the CPTPP agreement. Việt Nam has been a great supporter of that. We have seen over the past year that bilateral trade between the UK and Việt Nam has increased by 20 per cent to 6.4 billion pounds sterling. That's excellent, but I think we can do better still. I think we can support our companies to invest more, to trade more. And I know that UK investors see Việt Nam as a high-growth and high-potential market. This is a country that's very open to investments, creating a stable environment for that. And that, in turn, will support Việt Nam's own economic growth. So I think there's a huge potential in trade and investment between our countries.

And then on the question of environment and climate, I think we are already doing a huge amount to help meet the high ambition of both countries. The Vietnamese Government and leadership set a very ambitious pathway to net zero by 2050 at the COP 26 Summit in Glasgow in the UK.

We have recognised that the ambition needs to be matched with partnerships from the international community and, in particular, from the G7 Plus Norway and Denmark, who have joined in this Just Energy Transition Partnership.

This is the leading effort, and the UK is co-leading this here in Việt Nam, both with a declaration that has matched US$15.5 billion with an ambition for reform and creating a framework for renewable energy investment in Việt Nam. So that's a commitment from international partners, but also a commitment from the Vietnamese Government to really create the environment to bring investment, the development of renewable sector here and the energy grid in Việt Nam.

And the potential here is huge. The green economy and green jobs of the future can be created here. Investors are looking for opportunities where they can access renewable energy. Consumers are looking for products that have excellent green credentials. I think the Vietnamese Government recognises the huge potential of this. So the UK is here supporting that. And I think that's another area that will continue to develop very strongly.

The final area I would mention is our defence and security relationship. And I think we recognise that the UK and Việt Nam, in many ways, see the world similarly. We are very attached to the international rules-based order, international law and important principles such as sovereignty and territorial integrity, which leads us to take similar positions on some international issues, particularly the importance of regional and international stability and security.

Within this region, the UK has been very supportive of a free and open Indo-Pacific, which includes the East Sea being managed in a stable way that respects countries' interests, including Việt Nam. The UK is very supportive of international law and Việt Nam's position within that in this regard.

But I think more broadly, Việt Nam and the Vietnamese Government are looking to modernise and diversify its military and defence sphere. The UK has a lot of potential, which we are beginning to see realised. That is on military training, where we're cooperating in areas like peacekeeping and also in developing the defence industry.

I think in the future we will see more military exchanges, including, for example, ship visits. I was delighted to welcome a Royal Navy ship to HCM City in February this year, and we're going to see a more effective future. — VNS