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Oct 28, 2021 / 19:53

Enhancing UK-Vietnam relations in competitive era

Given its central geostrategic location, a burgeoning economy, and large population, Vietnam is fast becoming a key partner of the UK in the Indo-Pacific region.

The UK wants to deepen its strategic partnership with Vietnam, given the importance, both countries afford one another.

 Overview of the launch. Source: VNA

Director of Research at Council on Geostrategy (COG) James Rogers gave the assessment at the launch of the COG’s latest Policy Paper titled “Enhancing British-Vietnamese relations in a more competitive era” on October 27, the Vietnam News Agency reported.

The event was chaired by Member of the Joint Committee on National Security Strategy, House of Lords, Baroness Neville-Jones, and took place ahead of Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s trip to attend the 26th UN Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow from October 31 – November 12, which marks a significant step in the bilateral relations.

According to Rogers, the policy paper reviews the UK-Vietnam relations and proposes a number of recommendations as to how the governments of the two countries might strengthen their strategic partnership in the years ahead.

Rogers added with the UK’s tilt towards the Indo-Pacific, both countries are growing closer, particularly given Vietnam’s central geostrategic location, a burgeoning economy, and large population.

He pointed out a number of ministerial exchanges, which have taken place, most recently the visits by Dominic Raab, the British Foreign Secretary, and Ben Wallace, the British Defence Secretary, to Vietnam in June and July 2021, respectively, to make speeches about the future of relations between the two countries in a changing international environment. Likewise, high-ranking members of the Vietnamese Government are expected to visit the UK in November 2021 to partake in the COP26 Summit.

Bill Hayton, associate fellow at the Chatham House Asia-Pacific suggested both sides could further strengthen cooperation in Covid-19 response, climate change, as well as in trade, security, and defense.

Hayton said Vietnam’s current priority is getting enough vaccines to slow down the progress of the Covid-19 pandemic across its population, presenting London with an opportunity for vaccine diplomacy and medical cooperation across a range of sectors.

Meanwhile, Hayton added Chinh’s trip to Glasgow shows Vietnam’s strong commitment to addressing climate change. In this regard, the UK could assist Vietnam in promoting renewables for sustainable development.

The fact that the two countries signed the UK-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (UKVFTA) also presents opportunities for both to maximize economic potentials.

Sharing the same view, the Vietnamese Ambassador to the UK Nguyen Hoang Long expected both sides to further economic cooperation, especially in infrastructure development and wind energy.

Vice-Chairman of the Vietnam-UK Network Paul Smith added the Vietnamese business environment has significantly improved over the past 20 years.

Smith added one of the key strong points in Vietnam’s business environment was the active response of the Government in addressing investors’ feedbacks and its willingness for changes for the benefit of the country.

Drawing from a combination of open-source documents, interviews with experts from both countries, and a research seminar, the Policy Paper outlines opportunities for the two countries across a range of sectors.

"As a ‘middle power’ with a larger and more ambitious neighbor, Vietnam continues to hedge against regional tensions by searching for equilibrium and balance in its network of friendly partners across the international system. As a nuclear power, with globally deployable maritime capabilities, advanced technology, and privileged positions in international forums, the UK is a good partner for Vietnam."

"The UK, for its part, has a deep interest in developing greater engagement in Southeast Asia to diversify its diplomatic and trading arrangements. Vietnam is already welcoming greater economic ties with the UK by encouraging greater two-way trade and supporting British inclusion in regional diplomatic and economic blocs, particularly the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – of which the UK recently became a ‘Dialogue Partner’ – and the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP)."