|UK Ambassador to Vietnam Iain Frew.__Photo: VNA
UK Ambassador to Vietnam Iain Frew has commended progress in cooperation between the two countries in a range of areas in his interview with the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) on the occasion of New Year 2024.
Following is the full text of the interview.
Reporter: As the year 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam-UK diplomatic ties, how do you assess cooperation achievements so far and what are prospects for the bilateral relations in 2024 and beyond?
Ambassador Iain Frew: We have been celebrating this very important anniversary 50 years of diplomatic relationship between the UK and Vietnam. And as we do that, we've looked back at some of the really important achievements in the relationship over these 50 years.
A key one was the agreement of our strategic partnership 13 years ago, which we renewed three years ago and that strategic partnership covers a broad range of areas of cooperation. Within that, we have been celebrating throughout the year the ties in trade, education and sustainability in particular.
Now, this year, we've seen a range of high-level political visits. We've had the visit from our Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We've had visits from the Secretary of State for Scotland, and a range of other ministers on trade and foreign affairs, and defence. And we've also seen this year the very important visit of President Vo Van Thuong to the UK for the coronation of King Charles III and I think that shows the level of trust and the importance of the political relationship.
Now, we've also been working on some really concrete areas of cooperation. I'm proud to say that our trade ties have increased significantly. We have seen trade going up last year by 29 percent to GBP 6.9 billion (USD 8.72 billion). And that comes alongside UK and Vietnam having agreed a free trade agreement two years ago and this year, with Vietnam’s support, the UK joining the CPTPP trade agreement.
Alongside that we've seen some real progress on our education cooperation. There are now about 11,000 Vietnamese students studying in the UK. I'm really pleased to see the ties growing between schools and universities in technical and vocational education. We all know that education is something that every Vietnamese family cares about, and that the UK has a lot to offer in terms of partnership.
I'm increasingly valuing the relationship and the developing importance of how we work together on security together. And we've seen this year the visit of the Royal Navy ship to Ho Chi Minh City. We've seen increasing cooperation in areas like maritime security, and looking ahead to how we work together on defense modernization.
Reporter: The UK concluded negotiations to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans- Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) on March 31and signed the Protocol of Accession on July 16. What will the agreement affect the bilateral trade ties, along with the UK- Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (UKVFTA)?
Ambassador Iain Frew: We are delighted that Vietnam was the host for the final round of the negotiations for the UK to join the CPTPP agreement in full court. With that agreement for the UK to join, I think that adds another layer to what is already a very productive and very strong trade relationship.
The UK-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement provides a very strong basis. Over the past two years, we've seen trade increasing on the basis of that. What CPTPP adds is another layer in specific areas where we will see tariffs liberalized. For example, we're going to see an increased rice quota for Vietnamese exporters to the UK. We're also going to see further opportunities and other agricultural products. And some very specific areas like chocolate is one of the areas that will be liberalized in which I'm very pleased about. At the same time, I think we're going to see our trade expanding into other areas and CPTPP will underpin that.
Finally, I think that CPTPP is an agreement for the future. So it's partly about what we're getting now. It's also about how we together develop this trade bloc. With the UK joining, it's no longer just a Pacific agreement. It's a global agreement. That means it's going to be setting standards for the future. And the UK and Vietnam are going to be helping to shape the rules of world trade for the next generation.
Reporter: Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on December 1, 2023 announced a Resource Mobilization Plan to implement the political declaration on establishing a Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP) between Vietnam and the International Partnership Group (IPG). How do you evaluate Vietnam’s efforts in energy transition and the Vietnam-UK cooperation in this field?
Ambassador Iain Frew: The commitment that Vietnam and Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh made at COP 26 in Glasgow to net zero by 2050 is an ambitious and very important demonstration of Vietnam's leadership on climate. And we've seen that over the past two years, deepen and continue.
The commitment to net zero has been followed up by the establishment of a steering committee at the national level. Last year, Vietnam updated its nationally determined contribution, which is the commitment that every country makes to reduce emissions over time. It also issued its national climate change strategy. So Vietnam has made some important steps forward. And this year, we've seen progress on the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). This is the agreement between the G7 countries and Vietnam to support and underpin Vietnam's green energy transition with investments in USD 15.5 billion of financing with technology and technical assistance.
At the same time, Vietnam is making regulatory changes and creating the right framework so that the energy grid can shift from carbon intensive areas of energy generation like coal through to renewables like offshore wind and solar and that transition has already begun. But the JETP is going to really help to speed that up.
I'm delighted that at our COP28, we have seen Prime Minister Chinh launch this resource mobilization plan, which is the next step in the JETP. That is going to help to unlock that investment. And we need to work together further. The UK is one of the colleagues on the JETP here in Vietnam together with the EU. We're going to work for the long term, committed together for this difficult but very important task of energy transition.
Reporter: Vietnam’s Traditional New Year (Tet) is approaching. How do you feel about the Tet atmosphere in the country?
Ambassador Iain Frew: I come from part of the UK - Scotland - with very specific New Year traditions. Some of those around say goodbye to the old year by opening your door and sweeping it out, and some of the traditions of welcoming in the New Year with your family and your neighbors are very strong. So I recognize a real connection to the Tet traditions in Vietnam. Last year was my first time here, and I really enjoyed all of the traditions and the feeling that is generated by the Tet holiday. There's a celebration, a joy, a unity of family. You can see when you walk out on the streets the blossoms and the care that people have taken to decorate and to celebrate the New Year. So I'm excited to go into the new Tet and enjoy those traditions again. Last year, I was taught how to make Banh Chung and practized calligraphy, so I'm looking forward to learning some new skills and understanding more deeply some of Vietnam's traditions in the New Year.
Reporter: Thank you for your interview.-(VNA/VLLF)