Education and aviation top agenda as New Zealand PM John Key kicks off Viet Nam tour

16 November 2015: Today in Hanoi, New Zealand Prime Minister Rt. Hon. John Key was hosted by his Vietnamese counterpart Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung in a meeting marking 40 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries. 

The reciprocal visit, following Prime Minister Dung’s historic trip to New Zealand in March 2015, sees Prime Minister Key and his delegation sign a number of strategic Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) and agreements in the region, with education and aviation headlining the program. The delegation comprises the New Zealand Economic Development and Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Steven Joyce and 14 business leaders across the aviation and education sectors. Relationships between the countries have gone from strength to strength and Viet Nam, in fact, has been New Zealand’s fastest-growing trading partner in South East Asia over the past five years, with two-way goods and services trade increasing by 120 per cent.

Following the welcome ceremony, the delegates settled down to official talks about the bilateral relationship led by Prime Minister Dung and Prime Minister Key. This set the stage for the signing of three MoUs, presided over by both Prime Ministers, covering education and aviation, created to ensure greater cooperation between the countries across each of these sectors.

Education is integral to New Zealand’s relationship with Viet Nam. Over 2,000 Vietnamese students, chose to study in New Zealand in 2014, making them the second largest segment of the ten-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) international students choosing the Pacific island country for higher education. With all of New Zealand’s universities ranking in the top three per cent in the world, according to QS World University Rankings, this number is set to increase. This plan looks to identify and strengthen mutually beneficial areas of engagement for both countries, an equation already underpinned by an Education Cooperation Arrangement (ECA) first signed in 2004 and a Joint Education Commission (JEC). The Strategic Engagement Plan on Education by Education NZ and the Ministry of Education and Training of Viet Nam will look to increase education opportunities and collaboration between the two countries.

From an aviation standpoint, Viet Nam boasts the third-fastest growing international aviation passenger numbers in the world, expected to touch 63 million in 2020. This growth is attracting airline investments in commercial aircrafts and also drives a major need for training, systems, experience, products and services that can keep pace with growth. Also signed at today’s event was the Arrangement on Aviation Cooperation between the Ministry of Transport of New Zealand and Ministry of Transport of Viet Nam. New Zealand’s rich history in aviation positions the country well to serve this need and build a growing aviation relationship with Viet Nam, bolstered by existing free trade agreements - the NZ/Viet Nam Air Service Agreement 2013 (code share and regulatory cooperation clause) and the NZ/Viet Nam Action Plan 2013-2016 (aviation identified as one of five priority sectors).

An agreement to strengthen opportunities for health-related industries in both countries was also signed. The Letter of Arrangement between the Ministry of Health of Viet Nam and the New Zealand Government will see the two countries sharing respective healthcare expertise. New Zealand will help to strengthen Viet Nam’s healthcare infrastructure across priority areas including hospital management, food safety and IT application in the healthcare sector.

Bilateral business stood centre stage in the afternoon program further to an official lunch hosted by Prime Minister Dung. Four business-to-business arrangements were signed with the heads of state as witnesses – Global Trust Alliance-AsureQuality-Vinamilk, Airways International-VATM (Viet Nam Air Traffic Management Corporation), Airways International-Vietnam Aviation Academy and Aviation New Zealand-VietJet Air – pointing to an elaborate and sustained effort to fortify ties between the two countries.

A Heads of Understanding (HoU) signed between Global Trust Alliance, AsureQuality and Vinamilk will see the companies collectively drive agricultural development that could be applied in both Viet Nam and New Zealand. 

Vietnam Air Traffic Management and Airways International signed an MoU that formalises the existing relationship. New Zealand aviation companies are already active in Viet Nam and this agreement will further drive the growth of Viet Nam’s air navigation services through world-class staff training with an initial focus on air surveillance control, approach surveillance control and tower control.

Another aviation MoU, between Aviation New Zealand and VietJet Air, formalises co-operation across policies, knowledge sharing and training delivery. Areas of focus here include air transport, training, air navigation, equipment supplies, business systems, and consultancy and advisory services.
A further MoU between Airways New Zealand and Vietnam Aviation Academy (VAA) will provide opportunities for VAA students to participate in Air Traffic Control training as part of the Airways International Study Abroad Programme.

Further to these signings, Prime Minister Key made his way to an event at KOTO (Know One, Teach One), a social enterprise set up to teach hospitality skills to disadvantaged youth. A cooking contest and a tasting session were hosted at the enterprise’s training school and restaurant. This was followed by informal drinks for the delegation and media with the NZ Prime Minister ending the first day of the tour.

Reiterating the mutually beneficial developments of these talks, Tony Martin, Trade Commissioner, Viet Nam, said, “This year we celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations with the ASEAN region and there are few better ways to celebrate the past than to establish the foundation for a future of collaboration between our respective governments and our businesses. By formalising their intent to work together these companies are making a significant investment in each other to collaborate for the benefit of not only their companies, but the wider industry as well.”

During Prime Minster Dung’s visit to New Zealand in March, the two countries signed a landmark agreement to double trade between them to around $2.2 billion a year by 2020.

This week’s reciprocal visit, together with the 40-year anniversary of New Zealand’s diplomatic relations with ASEAN, is set to deepen this engagement by building awareness, relationships, and opportunities for New Zealand education and business in Viet Nam.

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