Vietnamese visit Wellington for fourth annual dialogue
“New Zealand is an honest broker” Vietnamese delegates told New Zealand at the fourth annual Track II dialogue between Vietnam and New Zealand held earlier this month.
The dialogue in Wellington, which included delegates from the Diplomatic Academy of Vietnam, provided an opportunity to exchange views on topics including the South China Sea, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Sino-US relations, climate change and economic issues.
During the talks, the Vietnamese delegates said New Zealand was seen as a neutral player in the region. It’s a line others have used before about New Zealand, though as tensions heighten in Asia there is a call from some countries for New Zealand to deliver on this perception.
The dialogue began with discussions on the South China Sea – which was to be a recurring theme. The failure earlier this year of ASEAN foreign ministers to agree on a communiqué – the first time this has happened in ASEAN’s history – was directly related to competing territorial claims in the South China Sea.
US-Sino relations also featured strongly in the dialogue. Both New Zealand and Vietnam have interests in the Korean peninsula, in Southeast Asia and in economic development in Asia. The US’ “rebalancing” to Asia, which is often thought of in strategic and military terms, is also seen in the context of the global financial crisis and the economic growth of East Asia.
Both New Zealand and Vietnam are in negotiation on the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade agreement (TPP). Vietnam views the TPP as an important part of its national economic development and integration into the global economic system.
The TPP, however, is also is a point of tension in US-Sino relations, with many Chinese commentators viewing it as US-led containment of China – a charge that both New Zealand and Vietnam deny.
Climate change poses significant economic and security risks for Southeast Asia and for the Pacific, so is of interest to both Vietnam and New Zealand. It exacerbates existing problems such as resource competition, and food and water security. Two of Vietnam’s principal rivers, the Mekong and Red, are vulnerable to pollution and water shortage. Seventy percent of Vietnam’s water comes from outside the country – 50 percent from China.
New Zealand and Vietnam have significant links in education. Both sides would like to widen these educational ties to include fields such as postgraduate engineering and science in green technologies, agriculture and biotechnology. The Vietnamese place a high value on New Zealand education.
Both sides agreed this year’s dialogue was the most productive yet. The next bilateral dialogue will be held next year in Vietnam.
By Dr Andrew Butcher
Asia New Zealand Foundation’s deputy chairman and former Secretary of Foreign Affairs and Trade Ambassador Richard Nottage led the New Zealand team, which included Professor Alex Tan, Dr Adrian Macey, Terence O’Brien, Dr Andrew Butcher, Dr Nicholas Khoo and Dr Marc Lanteigne. Ambassador Dinh Quy Dang led the Vietnamese delegation.
Papers presented by the New Zealand delegation
- Climate Change: Economic and security challenges in the Asia-Pacific region (PDF - 311KB) - Dr Adrian Macey
- Status Quo in the Korean Peninsula (PDF - 306KB) - Professor Alex Tan
- ASEAN update (PDF - 362KB) - Dr Andrew Butcher
- The Uncertain Promise of Economic Interdependence: Sino-US relations in the Post-Cold War era (PDf - 346KB) - Dr Nicholas Khoo
- Economic Issues and Trans Pacific Partnership (PDF - 328KB) - Terence O'Brien