08:11 | 17/02/2018 Cooperation
(VEN) - In his last days of 2017, British Ambassador to Vietnam Giles Lever spent time with Vietnam Economic News’ Nguyen Huong and Nhat Quang looking back on what Vietnam and the UK have achieved in the past year and highlighting 2018 plans.
Could you please share with us the results of the cooperation between Vietnam and the UK recently? What is the most successful field in the cooperation between the two sides?
Last year was a good year for our partnership. In my opinion, the biggest highlight last year has been the strong increase in trade between the two countries. The UK’s exports to Vietnam rose by 30 percent between 2015 and 2016. Meanwhile, Vietnam’s exports to the UK also improved strongly. In fact, bilateral trade now stands almost five billion pounds a year which has grown double than it was in 2010 when the two countries started their strategic partnership.
Particularly it makes Vietnam the fastest growing trading partner in the ASEAN region so British businesses are seeing opportunities in this country, while they are not in others ASEAN countries. I am very pleased with that achievement.
Apart from that, what I am particularly pleased with last year is our cooperation with Vietnam in science and research. The British government has brought Newton Fund to Vietnam, which is one of 16 partner countries around the world, benefited from bilateral research and innovation policies.
This year, we celebrate the 3rd year of the Newton Fund program in Vietnam. The program has now attained full capacity which is worth three million pounds per year from the UK side. What we are seeing is really exciting because collaboration research between the two countries has improved in many areas including public health, agriculture, environment, 3D materials and printing technology.
What is your expectation on the cooperation between Vietnam and the UK in the future? Do you have any specific plan to strengthen the relations between the two sides in 2018?
2018 is an important year because it marks two anniversaries. The first one is the 45th anniversary of bilateral diplomatic ties (1973-2018). At the same time, it is 25 years since the British Council started operating in Vietnam. Therefore, we have been looking to have a program of different events to celebrate. We share the information about the celebration on the Facebook page: UK in Vietnam.
In the field of trade and investment, it is going to be an extremely important year because it is the year when we expect the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) to be signed and ratified by both sides. EVFTA is a new generation of trade agreement, therefore it is extremely high-level in terms of the ambitions and the amount of market opening on both sides. This will give a massive boost trade between the EU and Vietnam in both directions. The EU market will be more open to Vietnamese products and vice versa.
At the same time, of course, as you know, the UK is planning to leave the EU; therefore, the two sides will keep discussing how we can preserve the benefit of the EVFTA for British and Vietnamese businesses who want to trade after Brexit. More importantly, we do not have the “cliff edge” where people loose the benefit, therefore we are working with the Vietnamese government to make sure that we can address the problems.
This will be a significantly important year in terms of liberalizing, opening up trade between the two sides; therefore I am sure that once the FTA comes into force, the figure will reflect that many opportunities.
I also expect that in 2018, the UK government will start rolling out some major technical assistance in Southeast Asia including Vietnam which will be supporting a better business environment, better quality regulations and improve economic policies making.
There are two other things that I particularly expect to see in 2018. The first one is shared cooperation in fighting against illegal trade in wildlife and endangered species. Hanoi hosted a big international conference on the issue in 2016 when Prince William came as well as our Environment Secretary. In 2018, the UK will host the next conference in London and Vietnam is the outgoing chairman. We will work closely with Vietnam to ensure the London Conference successful and to support Vietnam in taking action to tackle the illegal wildlife trade.
Another important area where the two countries are working together is the fight against the organized crime in human trafficking. Unfortunately, we see a number of Vietnamese people being trafficked to the UK with the promise to get good jobs and they are forced into illegal, dangerous and unpleasant works. We term it modern slavery and this is a global problem and we want to further strengthen our cooperation with Vietnam to tackle the problem.
On the occasion of the Lunar New Year 2018, do you have any message to the two business communities?
On the occasion of the Lunar New Year 2018 , I want to wish you all who are the readers and viewers of Vietnam Economic News a happy, peaceful, prosperous and successful 2018.
My message to British and Vietnamese businesses who want to trade and invest is that 2018 would be an exciting year with the new free trade agreement. Both economies are growing well.
My message to British businesses is that Vietnam is a land of opportunities. There is massive potential here; therefore, come to this market before it is too late.
My message to Vietnamese businesses is that even though the UK is leaving the EU, we continue to be a free and open market. We believe in fair and rule-based global trading system. Those who want to invest in the UK are always welcomed.
Nguyen Huong & Nhat Quang