Promising future of Vietnam - Netherlands bilateral cooperation

Ambassador of the Netherlands to Vietnam Kees van Baar grants an interview to Vietnam News Agency on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam-Netherlands diplomatic relationship.

Reporter: How do you evaluate the relations between Vietnam and the Netherlands since the establishment of the bilateral diplomatic ties 50 years ago. What should the two countries do to further promote their relations?

Ambassador of the Netherlands to Vietnam Kees van Baar (Photo: Courtesy of Netherlands Embassy in Vietnam)

Ambassador of the Netherlands to Vietnam Kees van Baar (Photo: Courtesy of Netherlands Embassy in Vietnam)

Ambassador Kees van Baar: I think our relations are multifaceted and strong and continue to develop and grow. The Netherlands and Vietnam have supported each other in good and in bad times and became trusted partners. 50 years ago, we started as your development partner and now the Netherlands is the biggest trade and investment partner of Vietnam in Europe. Vietnam and the Netherlands have a lot in common. Both our countries depend on international trade and investment, have large deltas, face serious water and climate challenges, and are home to an export oriented agriculture sector.

Being small, we both have learned to build on the international rule of law and the multilateral system.Our cooperation does not stop at the government level (with the most recent high-level visits of the Netherlands Prime Minister Rutte to Vietnam in 2019 and Vietnam’s Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to the Netherlands is 2022), but it is strong and deep between universities/research institutions, businesses and CSOs.

I am proud to see the sustainable and significant Dutch footprints in different areas, from the flagship Hanoi Amsterdam school to cooperation in water, agriculture and climate between universities in Hanoi, Mekong provinces, and Ho Chi Minh City, and those in the Netherlands, from the inspirational Dutch delta plan to Vietnam Government’s Resolution 120 and later the Mekong Delta Regional Master Plan.

Dutch companies also bring ‘quality investment’ to Vietnam, such as six Heineken Vietnam breweries and its circular waste water system, animal feed factories and research center of DeHeus Vietnam, the world’s first fully electric tug from Damen Song Cam, not to mention Friesland Campina Vietnam and its famous milk brand ‘Co gai Ha Lan’ (Dutch Lady).The year 2023 marks fifty years of bilateral relations between Vietnam and the Netherlands. In this special year, we wish to celebrate our strong relationship by exploring how we can further cooperate – both in terms of innovative technological solutions in the fields of agriculture, water and logistics, high tech, green energy and circular economy as well as in terms of cultural exchanges and people-to-people ties.

Reporter: Do you have any recommendations for the two countries to utilise opportunities that the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) brings to boost their trade and investment ties?

Ambassador Kees van Baar: The Netherlands is the largest export destination of Vietnam in the EU, where Vietnam enjoys a large trade surplus. And the two-way trade continues to grow thanks to the favorable conditions offered by the EVFTA and EVIPA. Vietnam and Singapore are the only two countries in the ASEAN region could be the signatories together with the EU in such trade and investment agreements, which are the modern and ambitious instruments to fostering sustainable trade and investment, as well as advancing human rights, and environmental and labor standards.

On top of that, other EU regulations are about to enter into forces which require exporters to comply with the ESG (Environmental – Social – Governance) criteria.

So to say, the wellbeing of the environment and employees should be taken into account, and not only in your own factory, but also in your value chain. That is an important factor.

That might not always be easy. The Dutch Business Association in Vietnam, supported by the Netherlands and Vietnamese government, implements the “Ready to Export” program to enhance the capacity of Vietnamese SMEs to do business in Europe.In terms of investment, the Netherlands currently is the largest European investor in Vietnam with total projects worth US$14 billion.

Dutch companies, as I mentioned, bring sustainable innovations and solutions to contribute to Vietnam’s green economic transformation. For Vietnam to capitalise on new ties of investment, it is crucial that Vietnam could offer favorable business climate to foster sustainable foreign investors as well as develop green mechanisms such as the DPPA or the domestic carbon trading market soon to be in line with the international carbon trading market.

Reporter: In 2010, Vietnam and the Netherlands established a Strategic Partnership in Climate Change Adaptation and Water Management. In 2014, the two countries established a Strategic Partnership in Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security. How do you evaluate cooperation projects between the two countries in these fields in the past time and prospects in the coming time?

Ambassador Kees van Baar: Like Vietnam, the Netherlands faces numerous water challenges such as too much, too little, too dirty and too salty water and is severely affected by the rising sea levels as a result of climate change. Our economies for an important part rely on a backbone of agriculture sector and hardworking farmers. The SPAs are commitments of Vietnam and the Netherlands to work together in response to water and climate challenges and to jointly develop sustainable agriculture.

I am a proud Dutch ambassador to see the Mekong Delta Plan, which was developed with support of Dutch experts, is a source of inspiration to the establishment of Vietnam’s Government Resolution 120 and later the Mekong Delta Regional Master Plan. These directives and governing documents present the Vietnam’s Government’s strong commitment to employ the nature-based and integrated solutions and call for the coordination of the national and local government to develop a healthy and sustainable Mekong Delta.

I think it’s also important to make more use of nature-based solutions. By working with nature instead of against it, our solutions are more sustainable in the long run. Coastal erosion in the Mekong Delta is a very good example. You know, if you want to protect the coast, then you should actually cut back of what you took away. These are the mangrove forests, and you should get the shore, the forest back. And the mangrove forest is an ideal and effective environment for shrimp farming. And a great way to store carbon and to achieve your climate targets at the same time.

The cooperation between our two countries continues to grow and develop and goes way beyond just agro-water nexus, connecting other dots such as smart logistics, circular solutions, waste treatment, inland waterway transport, seaport development to enable better and faster access for products from the Mekong Delta to other parts of Vietnam and international markets.

On top of that, Viet Nam will need to develop its own mechanism to finance the resilience of the Mekong Delta, and the Netherlands is willing to inspire Viet Nam by its examples on financing and to collaborate with the government to improve public funding and attract private funding.

Reporter: What are major events in the series of activities celebrating the 50th anniversary of the bilateral diplomatic ties this year?

Ambassador Kees van Baar: The celebration of the 50th anniversary of the diplomatic ties between our countries started since last year, with the visit to Vietnam of the Netherlands Minister for Foreign Trade and Development Cooperation Liesje Schreinemacher and the visit to the Netherlands of Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh, along with the large trade missions.

We will continue our full and meaningful economic agenda with activities and events in water and waste management, aquaculture, horticulture, high tech, logistics, green energy, to name just a few.

Naturally, our relationship comprises a lot more than just trade and investment. There has also been a lot of cultural exchange between Viietnam and the Netherlands, most notably in the fields of music and photography. One of our flagship projects in recent years has been the World Press Photo exhibition. We hope to be able to continue our cooperation with Vietnamese partners in bringing such important exhibitions to Vietnam in the future.

Naturally, in the framework of celebrating 50 years of bilateral relations, we hope to further strengthen and deepen these cultural ties.We have very interesting and exciting years ahead in our bilateral cooperation. We look forward to working together with Vietnam to the benefit of our countries and peoples. To do so, we will continue to engage and work with each other, involving our government agencies, our businesses, our knowledge institutes and, most importantly, our citizens. I feel privileged to be able to contribute to that in the years to come.

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