Interview with Ambassador Pham Viet Anh, Ambassador of Vietnam to the Netherlands with Diplomat Magazine
In the framework of the visit of the Prime Minister of Vietnam to the Netherlands and in preparation for the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations (1973 – 2023) between the two countries, Diplomat Magazine interviews the Ambassador of Vietnam, H.E. Mr. Pham Viet Ahn.
1. Mr. Ambassador, could you tell us the purpose and message of Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s official visit to the Netherlands?
On 6/12/2021, while the Covid-19 pandemic situation was still very tense in both countries, during a brief phone call, in addition to important content on anti-pandemic cooperation, Prime Minister Mark Rutte invited Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh to pay an official visit to the Netherlands in the hope that the visit will broaden and deepen the already strong relations between the two countries. The Dutch Prime Minister made clear the purpose of this important visit.
The Covid-19 pandemic is a terrible and unprecedented thing in history that has weakened even the most powerful countries. This year, the world witnessed the chaos that unfolded in ways few could imagine. All these hasty events taught us that only peaceful and honest cooperation for the common goal of humanity can help us survive and develop.
I think this is also the message that Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh wants to bring to the Netherlands, especially before the New Year 2023, when the two countries celebrate the half-century of establishing diplomatic relations.
2. What is the Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s focus during this visit?
The Netherlands and Vietnam have two strategic partnerships: “Strategic Partnership on Climate Change Adaptation and Water Management” (since 2010) and “Strategic Partnership on Sustainable Agriculture and Food Security” (since 2014). During the visit, the Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh paid special attention to cooperation on climate change adaptation and energy transition.
In addition, cooperation in the fields of science and technology, high-tech agriculture, semiconductor industry, digital transition, construction of smart seaports… are also content of interest to the Prime Minister. He also paid great attention to trade and investment cooperation.
3. Over the past 50 years, what are the impressive marks in the Vietnam-Netherlands relationship?
I am impressed by the length of the 400-year history of relations between the two countries. I was also impressed by the Dutch protests against the American war of aggression in Vietnam, by the valuable help that the Dutch gave to the Vietnamese people during the war years and in the most difficult times. I was also impressed by the achievements that the Netherlands helped Vietnam overcome difficulties in the 1980s to become a rice exporter after long decades of food shortages.
Between the year 2000 and 2022, the relations of the two countries experienced a great leap forward. The number of high-level delegations from both countries has increased by 5 or even 6 times in the 1990s. As a result, cooperation in all fields of economy, science, education, culture, trade and investment has increased rapidly. Both strategic partnerships emerged during this period and the two countries agreed to upgrade relations to a comprehensive partnership during the Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s visit to Vietnam (April 4, 2019).
4. Mr. Ambassador, what areas of cooperation should Viet Nam promote in the coming time?
The two countries have a lot of potential for cooperation on a sharing basis in raising awareness of humanity’s common challenges for sustainable development. Among the urgent needs, I could mention the following areas:
– Cooperation on adaptation to climate change. The Netherlands sets very high climate targets and is determined to promote development cooperation, which motivates both countries to work together. Advanced Dutch technologies and initiatives can be tested and applied in Vietnam.
– Cooperation on energy transition. The Netherlands is working to develop renewable energy sources, green energy to replace fossil energy. Vietnam is also determined to develop solar, wind energy, even hydrogen.
– Cooperation in the development of semiconductor technology in Vietnam. This is a very important link for other industries, providing the brains of smart, modern machines and electronics that the whole world needs.
4. What do you think of the commercial cooperation between the two countries?
Trade and investment cooperation between the two countries has developed very strongly, partly thanks to the good policies of both governments, but the important part being the needs and efforts of businesses.
Regarding trade, the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) has contributed significantly to creating positive changes in bilateral economic and trade cooperation. In 2022, the Netherlands is the Vietnam’s 2nd largest trading partner in the EU with bilateral trade turnover in the first 9 months of the year reaching nearly US$8.3 billion.
In terms of investment, the Netherlands is the EU’s largest investor in Vietnam with a total registered capital of about US$13.58 billion with nearly 400 projects, focused on the fields of processing industry, production, distribution of electricity, gas, water… The prospects for investment cooperation promise bright results when the EU-Vietnam Investment Protection Agreement (EVIPA) is approved by EU members.
Dutch companies remain very dynamic, have been investing in Vietnam for decades and are very successful. Although Vietnamese companies have a very weak presence here, there have been very positive signs that Vietnam’s largest companies will bring Vietnamese products and establish offices in the Netherlands, such as Vinfast in automotive and FPT in software development.
I believe that businesses in both countries will benefit many times, contributing to the prosperity of both countries. In particular, I believe that cooperation with Dutch companies in the Netherlands is more than just a business. The Netherlands is proud of its entrepreneurs. In the 17th century, Dutch businessmen conquered markets around the world. Today, the growth of the Dutch economy is based on foreign trade. The experience of the Dutch businessman is therefore rich and respectable. This is the added value of this cooperation.
5. What do you think of the Vietnamese community in the Netherlands in promoting friendly relations between the two countries?
I am surprised at the capacity and accuracy of Statistics Netherlands (CBS). According to CBS, as of July 2021, the Vietnamese community numbered 24,594 people, of which the first generation numbered 14,910 people, the second generation 9,684 people. The Vietnamese community is well integrated and has stable jobs, respects the law and poses no obstacles to Dutch society. The Dutch Vietnamese are now contributing back to Vietnam. They want to be useful to both countries. In everyday life, they are the bridge of the Dutch and Vietnamese communities, they contribute to a better understanding of the Vietnamese people and Vietnamese culture among the Dutch.
I would like to give you a special story which impressed me much. It’s about Mr. Arjen IJff, a Dutch designer who was born in Vinh Long province (Viet Nam) in January 1975. He was adopted at his 3 months old and brought to the Netherlands. He is now in the journey to find his blood parents who, in his feeling, are Vietnamese. Last month, he won the logo design competition to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of Dutch-Vietnamese diplomatic relations organized by the Dutch Embassy in Ha noi and Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City.
By all activities regarding the above-mentioned anniversary next year, I hope that he will have some clues to find his Vietnamese relatives. This story also reflects the friendship relations which promoted by a specific person.