Vietnam, UK to Actively Deepen Strategic Partnership

Over the past 50 years, Vietnam-UK bilateral relations have gained many significant achievements. The two countries have created a framework for comprehensive cooperation in many areas.
September 12, 2023 | 10:12

50 years of fruitful collaboration

According to Vietnamese Ambassador to the UK Nguyen Hoang Long, Vietnam and the UK established diplomatic relations in 1973, but trade relations between the two countries have existed for many centuries. Therefore, it can be said that the relationship between Vietnam and the UK is much deeper than the 50-year milestone.

Over the past 50 years, the bilateral cooperation between the two countries has gained many significant achievements. Most importantly, the two sides have created a framework for comprehensive cooperation in many areas.

In terms of political-diplomatic relations, the two countries have established an annual strategic dialogue mechanism at the Deputy Foreign Minister level, periodically rotating and regularly maintaining the exchange of high-level delegations.

State President Vo Van Thuong met with King Charles III of the UK
Vietnamese President Vo Van Thuong met with King Charles III of the UK. Photo: VNA

Since 2021, three delegations of Vietnamese senior officials have visited and worked in the UK, as have ten delegations of British ministers and state secretaries. Maintaining high-level contact promotes cooperation in all areas and improves political understanding and trust between the two countries.

In terms of economics and trade cooperation, the two sides have maintained the annual Vietnam-UK Joint Economic and Trade Committee (JETCO) meetings. Immediately after the UK left the European Union, Vietnam and the UK reached a Free Trade Agreement (UKVFTA), which ensured that two-way trade would not be affected by Brexit.

As a result, the Vietnam-UK bilateral trade turnover has continuously increased in recent years, even during the COVID-19 pandemic, reaching 6.7 billion USD in 2021 and 6.83 billion USD in 2022. Especially, in which Vietnam's trade surplus reaches over five billion USD in 2022. Vietnam is the UK's ninth trade-in goods partner, while the UK is Vietnam's third largest trading partner in the European market.

In terms of development cooperation, the UK is one of Vietnam's biggest investors, having completed a 10-year Agreement on Development Partnership (ADP) with Vietnam from 2006 to 2015.

Despite not providing ODA since 2016, the UK has continued to support Vietnam through development funds such as the Prosperity Fund and the Newton Fund, continuing to support Vietnam's technological development, research, and innovation, strengthening public administration, business environment improvement, green growth, and renewable energy.

Education and training cooperation has been promoted. Currently, nearly 15,000 Vietnamese students are studying in the UK. Besides, British and Vietnamese universities are effectively implementing more than 100 cooperation programs.

In terms of science and technology, the two countries have established science and technology cooperation offices at embassies. In the upcoming time, the UK will proactively support Vietnam towards Industry 4.0, a low-carbon economy and climate resilience, research and innovation, green growth, and renewable energy. The two sides also promote cooperation in new areas in which the UK has strengths such as biotechnology, new materials, quantum, and artificial intelligence.

The Vietnam-UK defense-security cooperation has been proactively promoted. The two countries have exchanged many defense and security delegations and promoted cooperation in training, information exchange, and equipment procurement. The UK’s Secretary of State for Defence paid his first official visit to Vietnam in July 2021. In recent years, British navy ships have regularly visited Vietnam.

The Ministries of Defense of the two countries have raised the annual defense policy dialogue to the Deputy Minister level, established a working group on defense cooperation, and promoted cooperation in many priority areas such as UN peacekeeping, English training, and maritime security.

Vietnam and the UK signed a Joint Declaration to establish a Strategic Partnership in September 2010. In 2020, the two countries issued a new Joint Statement on Strategic Partnership with seven priority areas of cooperation including politics-diplomacy, trade-investment-business, sustainable development and growth, education-training, science-technology, national defense, security, organized crime, people-to-people exchanges, and international issues. The two sides also affirmed their aim to raise the bilateral relations to a higher level in the next ten years.

Vietnam and the UK have also promoted coordination in preventing transnational organized crime, terrorism, illegal migration, and human trafficking, and signed the Treaty between the UK and Vietnam on the transfer of sentenced prisoners and the Treaty on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters. Since 2022, the two countries have established a migration dialogue between the Vietnamese Ministry of Public Security and the UK Home Office, creating an important framework for cooperation in these fields.

the 9th Vietnam-UK Strategic Dialogue. (Photo: VNA)
The 9th Vietnam-UK Strategic Dialogue. (Photo: VNA)

People-to-people exchanges and cultural exchanges between the two countries have many advantages such as the English language, which is considered one of the important means for international integration, being widely taught and learned in Vietnam. More and more British people consider Vietnam as an attractive tourist destination while the number of Vietnamese tourists wanting to visit the UK and experience British culture, sports, and music is also increasing.

The Vietnamese community in the UK with about 100,000 people is a cultural bridge between the two countries. Moreover, direct flights between Vietnam and the UK are a geographical connection, bringing the people of the two countries closer together.

The meaningful activities of Vietnamese associations in the UK and other programs of the Overseas Vietnamese Committee for Overseas Vietnamese have contributed to further connecting the Vietnamese community in the UK to their homeland.

Along with the above advantages, the Embassies of the two countries have also held cultural promotion events, such as the Vietnamese Cultural Days in the UK, which is a bridge connecting the people of the two countries, promoting British people's understanding of Vietnam and introducing the image of Vietnam's country, people, and culture in the UK.

At regional and international forums, the two countries have closely and effectively cooperated during Vietnam's term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council for the 2008-2009 term and the 2020-2021 term. Both countries are members of the United Nations Human Rights Council for the 2014-2016 term.

In addition, Vietnam has supported the UK's request to become a dialogue partner of ASEAN, and promoted the cooperation between the UK and ASEAN, especially in the ASEAN Chairman in 2020. Vietnam has also supported the UK to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP).

Great potential for future cooperation

The two countries' potential for cooperation is large, particularly in areas where the UK has capabilities and Vietnam requires cooperation, said the Ambassador.

In terms of trade and investment, the two economies are very open and complementary. Britain intends to become more involved in the Indo-Pacific area following Brexit. As a result, Vietnam must capitalize on these prospects and potentials more effectively.

The field of education-science-technology has enormous potential, and it is critical to maintain and expand the Chevening Scholarship Program, to welcome more students to study in the UK under Scholarship 89 of the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training and to deploy and expand the Newton Research Support Program.

In terms of addressing climate change, the Vietnamese government has established a road map to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 during the 26th Conference of the Parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP26) in Glasgow, Scotland.

Wind power farm in Ninh Thuan Province. (Photo: Cong Thu/VNA)
Wind power farm in Ninh Thuan Province. (Photo: Cong Thu/VNA)

In 2022, the Group of Industrialized Countries (G7) together with Norway, Denmark, and Vietnam adopted a Political Declaration to join the Just Energy Transition Partnership (JETP). This is a great effort of all countries, including the important role of the UK, which has mobilized 15.5 billion USD to reform and create a framework for renewable energy investment in Vietnam.

This, in my opinion, will be a key area of cooperation between the two countries in the near future. Vietnam must implement and effectively utilize JETP support to transition to green energy and achieve the net zero emissions target.

The priority of Vietnam-UK collaboration

The focus of the Vietnamese Embassy's work in the UK is to actively promote and deepen the Vietnam-UK Strategic Partnership, with the key activity in 2023 being the 50th anniversary of the two countries' diplomatic relations.

The priorities to promote the strategic partnerships include strengthening economic and trade relations with the effective implementation of the UKVFTA; taking advantage of opportunities after the UK joins the CPTPP; and promoting cooperation in financial services, renewable energy, investment, digital economy; promoting defense-security cooperation, especially in maritime security, cyber security, and illegal immigration; supporting the green transition and combating climate change through the JETP implementation; improving educational cooperation, including university, high school, vocational education, quality certification; enhancing cultural, tourism and people-to-people exchanges; and promoting bilateral cooperation at multilateral forums such as the United Nations, ASEAN.

To strengthen bilateral relations, the two countries need to increase the high-level delegation exchange, thereby creating new momentum for bilateral relations. The two nations must also effectively implement the signed cooperation frameworks, including the UKVFTA, the JETP, and other mechanisms for collaboration in education, science and technology, security, and defense. Furthermore, the two sides should develop and approve an action plan to concretize commitments and goals for bilateral cooperation in the future term.

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