The Asia New Zealand Foundation Te Whītau Tūhono commissioned the report from Haike Manning, a former Ambassador to Viet Nam, to mark the 45th year of the diplomatic relationship.
In July 2020, New Zealand and Viet Nam upgraded their relationship to a “Strategic Partnership”, strengthening the relationship in a range of areas, including trade and investment, education, agriculture, defence, political cooperation, and development.
Viet Nam is one of a handful of countries in Asia expected to register positive economic growth in 2020, despite the coronavirus pandemic. The report notes that Viet Nam and New Zealand have both been praised internationally for their pandemic responses; Viet Nam has recorded among the lowest cases of Covid-19 internationally and has had very few deaths among its 97 million people.
Prior to the pandemic, New Zealand’s engagement with Viet Nam was growing through a wide range of measures, including tourism and international education.
Regional trade agreements have helped raise Viet Nam from New Zealand’s 22nd largest trading partner in 2013, to its 15th largest trading partner in 2020. Two-way trade in goods and services is now worth more than NZ$2 billion — and while Covid-19 has put a hold on tourism, trade in goods has remained robust.
Asia New Zealand Foundation executive director Simon Draper says the report demonstrates the need for New Zealand to continue to invest in its relationships in Asia, both for maintaining existing partnerships but also for exploring new opportunities.
“Viet Nam may well be one of the first countries New Zealand is able to reconnect with when international travel becomes more feasible. The report shows a strong mutual interest and a desire to know and do more with each other.
“It’s time for New Zealanders to update their perceptions of Viet Nam. For instance, it is now the second largest exporter of smartphones internationally, second only to China, and has been the fastest growing beer market in the world over the past five years.”
Report author Haike Manning says: “Viet Nam’s future is bright and I’m sure we’ll see more and more Kiwis engaging with Viet Nam in the coming years."
Simon Draper: "It’s time for New Zealanders to update their perceptions of Viet Nam"
In the report, Manning writes that by some measures Viet Nam is the most globalised economy in modern history, with a raft of free trade agreements with partners across the world and as a hub for manufacturing and increasingly services. It is attracting billions of dollars in foreign investment in sectors such as manufacturing, retail, real estate and energy.
“Optimism, dynamism and scale are what the world sees in Viet Nam in 2020. While average incomes are still modest, Viet Nam has been the second fastest growing economy on the planet over the past 25 years and remains a bright spot in an otherwise gloomy economic picture.”
The report highlights individuals and organisations who have forged close connections between the two countries, including Vietnamese who studied in New Zealand in the 1960s through the Colombo Plan, New Zealand medical professionals supporting medical teams in southern Viet Nam, and contemporary business leaders and entrepreneurs.
Those profiled include Vietnamese New Zealander Mitchell Pham, who is chair of the Digital Council for Aotearoa New Zealand and an Asia New Zealand Foundation Honorary Adviser. He argues that New Zealand tech companies should be increasingly orienting their products and services towards Asia.
“The real opportunity is to collaborate in Asia, and to customise to local markets in the region. Vietnamese tech entrepreneurs are hungry to work with Western partners and entrepreneurs,” Pham says.
Viet Nam and New Zealand: Let’s go! includes original research carried out by the Asia New Zealand Foundation and Research New Zealand into how young New Zealanders and young Vietnamese view the others’ country. It finds that young people in the two countries have similar aspirations, and are globally minded, ambitious and curious about each other.
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