The UK’s newly-appointed Ambassador to Vietnam Gareth Ward has affirmed that defence relationship is a very important indicator to strengthen the Vietnam-UK relations.
UK Ambassador to Vietnam Gareth Ward.
In an exclusive interview with the Vietnam News Agency on the occasion of the 45th anniversary of the Vietnam-UK diplomatic relations, Ambassador Gareth Ward said: “Britain is a permanent member of the U.N. Security Council and active in peacekeeping. Vietnam is bidding to become a member of Security Council for the 2020-2021 and so we would like to cooperate on a lot of issues.”
Defence cooperation between Vietnam and the UK has been developing, especially in terms of delegation exchange, training and participation in the United Nations peacekeeping force. The two countries’ militaries have cooperated in the areas of maritime law, training coast guards and peacekeepers along with developing understanding between the two navies.
UK's Royal Naval Ship HMS Albion visited Ho Chi Minh City on Sept. 3, 2018.
Vietnamese peacekeepers will go to take over from a military hospital in South Sudan which is currently run by the British.
The first defence policy dialogue at the deputy ministerial level between Vietnam and the UK is slated for later this year.
“The defence strategic talks will also focus on training, particularly training for U.N. peacekeeping,” the ambassador said, adding both sides will focus on issues like military engineering capacity in the future.
The progress across the relationship between Vietnam and the UK has been extremely rapid particularly in the last eight years since the two countries upgraded their relations to strategic partnership.
“The volume of trade has been growing at around about 10 per cent a year and the number of British companies interested in Vietnam has also been growing,” he said.
The 10th meeting of the Vietnam-UK Joint Economic and Trade Committee held in Manchester in June, 2018.
Statistics released by the Vietnam General Department of Customs showed that in the first half of 2018, Vietnam and the UK enjoyed USD 3.12 billion in two-way trade, up 14.2 per cent against the same period last year.
Last year, 285,000 British people visited Vietnam, including 116,000 arrivals to Ho Chi Minh City.
Gareth Ward revealed that his priority during his four-year tenure in Vietnam will focus on education and health.
“Britain is very good in innovation, good with education. There are five of the top 20 universities globally are British so I see huge potential for us to cooperate in research and equally on health,” he said.
Currently, there are over 50 joint decrees and about 30 research partnership taking place between Vietnamese and British universities.
More than 10,000 Vietnamese students are pursuing study in the European country.
According to the ambassador, Vietnam now has a good life expectancy but it is facing new health challenges such as diabetes, drug resistance diseases.
“We can do a lot of work together on developing better public health and better medicine,” he said.
Regarding the upcoming events as part of activities to mark the 45th anniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic ties, ambassador Gareth Ward said the London symphony orchestra will be performing around Hoan Kiem Lake during the British festival in Hanoi on October 4-5. Similar event will be held in Ho Chi Minh City in November.
UK ambassador also expressed his impression on Vietnam’s change since his first visit to the country as a tourist 20 years ago which he said “is rapid and significant”.
“I think the single most important factor has been the openness to trade which Vietnam demonstrated in joining the WTO and encouraging foreign investment and working to improve the business environment.”
The ambassador also said he is pleased to see that Vietnam has risen 14 places in the World Bank index of Ease of Doing Business Rankings, adding this is a great signal relating to the improvement in business environment./.