Viet Nam, the Netherlands mark anniversary

Dutch expertise: The Maeslant Storm Surge Barrier is an impressive example of the country's Deltaworks in the Nieuwe Waterweg waterway between the towns of Hoek van Holland and Maassluis. — Photo courtesy Kingdom of Netherlands' Embassy

Dutch expertise: The Maeslant Storm Surge Barrier is an impressive example of the country’s Deltaworks in the Nieuwe Waterweg waterway between the towns of Hoek van Holland and Maassluis. — Photo courtesy Kingdom of Netherlands’ Embassy

(VNS)To celebrate the National Day of the Netherlands on April 30, Dutch Ambassador to Viet Nam Joop Scheffers reflects on the long-running sustainable partnership between the two countries.

The month of April is a month of celebrations. On April 9, 1973, it is 40 years since Viet Nam and the Netherlands established diplomatic relations. On April 30 we celebrate our National Day which this year is an extra special occasion, since the Netherlands will mark the abdication of Queen Beatrix and the investiture of King Willem-Alexander.

Until recently, the relationship between Viet Nam and the Netherlands was mainly based on bilateral development co-operation. The Netherlands has been one of the most active bilateral donors in helping Viet Nam in water management, forestry and its health sector, for example by supporting the fight against tuberculosis and HIV/Aids. In line with Viet Nam’s fascinating growth, the current focus is on supporting trade and investment by helping to improve business climate and expand the scope of business opportunities to both countries’ mutual benefit. Today, the Netherlands is the biggest EU investor in Viet Nam and the fourth biggest EU trading partner. Two-way trade amounted to US$3.2 billion in 2012, with a huge trade surplus for Viet Nam of $1.8 billion.

Over the years, Viet Nam has become an important partner for the Netherlands. The many similarities between both countries make them sustainable partners, and friends, in various fields. First of all, both countries are delta countries and must face the challenges of climate change because of sea level rise and more heavy rainfall. The Netherlands has a leading position and valuable knowledge and expertise in water management. It is working closely together with the Vietnamese government on drafting the Mekong Delta Plan. Moreover, the Netherlands is also working closely with HCM City, to make the city flood and climate proof. Earlier this month Rotterdam and HCM City agreed on a Climate Adaptation Strategy, a guide towards a climate proof future for HCM City. Secondly, since both countries are coastal states with a strategic position in regional markets, they are natural partners in maritime affairs, transport and logistics. Besides that, they are major world players in the export of agricultural products. But also in other areas, like the chemical industry and energy sector, both countries have a lot to offer to each other.

Higher education is also an important pillar in our bilateral cooperation with Viet Nam. Since the mid-1970s hundreds of Vietnamese students have found their way to study in the Netherlands, mainly through the Netherlands Fellowship Programme (NFP). I strongly believe educational exchange programmes to be a cornerstone of close bilateral cooperation. As former students in the Netherlands, alumni represent the Netherlands by the experience of having studied there. I am convinced of the great value the alumni can have for the cooperation between the Netherlands and Viet Nam, whether it is in the field of education or doing business.

The frequent high-level visits from both the Netherlands and Viet Nam are a clear testament of the excellent bilateral relations. Almost every week the embassy in Ha Noi or the consulate general in HCM City receives specialised economic missions from the Netherlands and companies who are exploring opportunities to do business in or with Viet Nam. Since early this year we already have assisted business delegations in the field of oil and gas, water management, agriculture and shipbuilding. All delegations were satisfied with the concrete opportunities offered for profitable business to mutual benefit.

To honour and strengthen the excellent ties between the Netherlands and Viet Nam and to celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations, several activities are being organised in both the Netherlands and Viet Nam throughout the year. The events will showcase on the one hand the friendship between both nations and on the other Dutch innovation and technology. I would kindly refer to our website for more information on our activities and hope your readers will join us in the activities!