45 years celebration of diplomatic relations between Viet Nam and the Netherlands

Edition 30 August 2018, by Nanda Jagusiak-Monteiro

On this occasion Nanda Jagusiak-Monteiro interviews the Ambassador of Viet Nam, H.E. Mrs. Ngo Thi Hoa.

Former Posts: Director General, Chief Inspector of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Deputy Director General of the Organization and Personnel Department and different other functions at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs; Minister at the Embassy of Viet Nam in Cambodia; Deputy Director General of the Southeast Asia, South Asia and South Pacific Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and a posting at the Embassy of Viet Nam in the Philippines. On January 25, 2016, Ambassador Ngo Thi Hoa presented the Credentials to His Majesty, King of the Netherlands Willem Alexander at the Noordeinde Palace starting her term in the Netherlands, a strategic partner of Viet Nam with the 45-year-long diplomatic relations (9/4/1973 – 9/4/2018).

This year, Viet Nam and the Netherlands celebrate the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations. In your opinion, what have been the major developments in the bilateral relations so far?
Since their establishment of diplomatic relations 45 years ago (April 9, 1973 – April 9, 2018), Viet Nam and the Netherlands have cooperated with each other for development, peace and prosperity, on the basis of common interests and mutual respect. In terms of bilateral relations, the Netherlands was one among the first Western countries to establish diplomatic relations with Viet Nam and opened its Embassy in 1976. The former provided Viet Nam with development assistance. The bilateral relations flourished in the early 1990s as the Southeast Asian economies entered a vigorous stage of development, attracting attention of European and Dutch business community. Similarities in geographical conditions, common challenges in agriculture, water and climate sectors have brought Viet Nam-the Netherlands relationship from an ordinary partnership to a strategic one. The Strategic Partnership on Climate Change and Water Management and the Strategic Partnership for Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security were concluded respectively in 2010 and 2014 making the Netherlands the first strategic sectoral partner of Viet Nam. Since January 2014, Viet Nam and the Netherlands have decided to shift from development aid cooperation to “trade partnership”, with a focus on promoting bilateral trade and investment activities. In subsequent years, trade relations incessantly thrive with a large turnover and an annual increase of around 15%-20%. The two-way trade turnover reached US $ 6.68 billion in 2016, and US $ 7.7 billion in 2017, scored $ 2.3 billion in the first 4 months of 2018 (up by 13% over the same period of 2017).

The Netherlands has become the biggest EU export market for Viet Nam and in terms of investment, the largest European investor, ranking the 11th out of 116 countries and territories investing in Viet Nam, with 304 projects and a total registered capital of $ 8.17 billion. Many investment projects of De Heus, Friesland Campina, Peja Viet Nam, Heineken, Unilever, Royal Dutch Shell, Akzo Nobel, Philips have been operating effectively in Viet Nam. The bilateral cooperation in other fields such as defense, culture and tourism, education and training, transportation, cooperation among cities, and multilateral cooperation, etc., also enjoyed remarkable progress. In September 2011, the two sides signed the MOU for defense cooperation. The number of tourists traveling between the two countries increases gradually each year, and in the first 6 months of 2018, that number increases 17%. In the Netherlands, the Vietnamese expat community of over 20000 people and the Vietnamese Student Association of around 1000 students always play an important role in promoting cultural exchanges and mutual understanding between the two countries.

Over the past 45 years, more than 60 Dutch education institutions and around 120 Vietnamese institutions have established higher education cooperation. Fellowships and scholarships from the Netherlands have amounted to 90 million euros. The Netherlands Education Support Office (NUFFIC NESO Vietnam) has operated in Viet Nam (since 2006), promoting scholarship information and connecting Vietnamese alumni. In the past few years, the two countries have found new momentums for cooperation in trade, agriculture, education, science and technology. On the basis of potentials and needs of the two countries, new agreements have been concluded to strengthen the bilateral cooperation. The agreements reached by Viet Nam Prime Minister Mr. Nguyen Xuan Phuc (July 2017) and by Chairwoman of Viet Nam National Assembly Mrs. Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan (3/2018) with the Dutch counterparts have laid important milestones, setting orientations for the cooperation at all levels. In 2018 and onwards, the two countries have been proactive in and will continue implementing cooperative programs in the framework of strategic partnerships, prioritized sectors and take steps in expanding cooperation to new areas.

Can you elaborate the prospect of the bilateral relations in the future?
As showed above, our bilateral relationship is a dynamic and effective partnership based on trusting political cooperation, strong trade and investment relations and inter-woven interests in many fields. The Framework of Strategic Partnerships between Viet Nam and the Netherlands is proved to be an appropriate cooperative model and will continue to be effective in enabling the two sides to cooperate in dealing with common challenges in the future. In the coming years, the two sides will focus on the following cooperation priorities: Firstly, to maintain and promote good political- diplomatic relations conducive to cooperative relationship in all fields through high-level contacts and exchanges of delegations at all levels in both bilateral and multilateral frameworks; Secondly, to implement effectively the ongoing programs of the strategic partnerships; to expand cooperation and establish practical mechanisms in potential areas such as sciencetechnology, education and training, energy, transportation, maritime economics etc., in order to set up a comprehensive strategic partnership in the future. Thirdly, to promote cultural activities and people-to-people diplomacy to consolidate mutual understanding and connection between the two peoples; Fourthly, to strengthen the cooperation at the city and provincial level, in order to realize efficiently the strategic cooperation frameworks between the two sides. During my term as Ambassador, I have worked and will continue to work to bring all parties and stakeholders Viet Nam and the Netherlands together to put forward joint efforts aimed at achieving the above-mentioned four goals.

Since my arrival in 2016, I have had constructive talks with Dutch counterparts in ministries, cities, business – academic circles on issues of bilateral cooperation. Hundreds of Vietnamese delegations have come to the Netherlands to exchange experience and explore cooperation opportunities. Our missions always receive the close cooperation from the Netherlands, especially the Parliament, Government, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Infrastructure, Ministry of Agriculture of the Netherlands, Dutch business and social organizations. I am confident that given our long lasting relationship, with share values between the two countries: such as special empathy, similarities and complementariness in terms of natural, cultural and economic conditions, shared interests, Viet Nam and the Netherlands will grow stronger and bring higher benefits to both sides.

The people-to-people relationship between Viet Nam and the Netherlands has developed over fifty years. Can you describe the importance of this relationship?
In May 2018, I attended the 50th anniversary of Joris Ivens Foundation in Nijmegen. The city was the birth place of major solidarity movements for Viet Nam against the war by the Americans. At the ceremony, I was touched by the stories told by many Dutch friends about their works for Viet Nam. In the 1960-1970s, the movements for solidarity with Viet Nam started in Nijmegen and became very popular among peace-loving Dutch nationals. The Netherlands-Viet Nam Health Committee (MCNV) was established in 1968 in Nijmegen and started providing Viet Nam with medical assistance during the war. The people-to-people relationship between the Netherlands and Viet Nam began. In the pro-Viet Nam movements, there were many organizations, groups of supporters from Nijmegen such as the Nijmegen-Viet Nam Committee, Nijmegen Viet Nam Movement Council, the Health Team and the Cyclist Group for Viet Nam. The movements enlarged among students and universities in the Netherlands.

Several Dutch universities collaborated with Viet Nam in a range of projects in agriculture, technology and health. Universities in Nijmegen also provided fellowships and training for Viet Nam. From 1978-1980, hundreds of Vietnamese scientists and engineers in health, medicine, technology, agriculture and irrigation sectors came to the Netherlands to study. Since the establishment of diplomatic relations and after the war, many Dutch activists continued their work in medical, agricultural projects, or for international organisations operated in Viet Nam such as FAO. They have witnessed our country’s tremendous changes since the economic reform in 1986. Most of them are aged now but their memories of Viet Nam are still fresh. The contribution and assistance that the organisations and people made for Viet Nam are so valuable that the Vietnamese people and I always feel grateful for their works. Looking at the history of this relationship, we feel more confident about the future. To many of us, this 50-year-solidarity has built up a solid foundation for Viet Nam-the Netherlands cooperation in the future.