Foreign and Commonwealth Office Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific, the Rt Hon Mark Field MP, and Permanent Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs Bui Thanh Son, co-chaired the sixth UK-Vietnam Strategic Dialogue on 5 January 2018 in Hanoi. The Dialogue flowed from the bilateral Strategic Partnership signed in 2010 and was an important moment to assess and steer the Partnership.
Both sides agreed to promote exchange of delegations at various levels, including high-level visits and to enhance the effectiveness of bilateral cooperation mechanisms. There was a shared understanding of the importance of championing and delivering free trade, including the support for early ratification of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement and commitment to avoiding any disruption in the growth of bilateral relations following the UK’s exit from the European Union and to ensuring continuity in key areas. Both sides welcomed the further broadening and strengthening of the Strategic Partnership. Bilateral trade and investment continues to expand as the total trade in goods and services increased 22% in 2016 reaching £4.8 billion. There was discussion and agreement to further enhance cooperation on improving the business environment in Vietnam, including through the UK’s Prosperity Fund Programme.
Cooperation on education, training, skills, research and innovation remains at the core of the Partnership and is growing strongly. The number of UK Chevening Scholarship places available for Vietnamese applicants has increased significantly in recent years and both sides agreed to work more closely to promote the scheme to applicants from all areas including the public sector.
There was discussion about the importance of cooperation on consular matters. The UK thanked the Vietnamese authorities for their help and support when British citizens had needed during the past year. Both sides agreed to continue discussions aimed at strengthening further cooperation in this area.
Both sides welcomed new areas of collaboration since the fifth Strategic Dialogue in 2016. This included more and higher level defence engagement in all areas of cooperation including delegation exchange, training, sharing of views and information on issues of mutual interest, defence industry and UN peacekeeping. To further enhance this cooperation, both sides agreed to continue effectively implementing all the signed documents and taking full advantage of the current working mechanisms. The cooperation to tackle serious organised crime was commended and both sides agreed to focus even more effort to tackle the risks of sexual exploitation and abuse of children. The importance of joint work to combat modern slavery and human trafficking was emphasised. To drive forward this cooperation, both sides agreed to quickly complete a bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on human trafficking/modern slavery. The importance of human rights and the role they play in building stable, open and prosperous societies was also discussed.
Vietnam-UK collaboration on combating illegal wildlife trade was discussed, particularly the positive steps Vietnam has taken domestically and in hosting the Hanoi Conference in 2016. Both sides agreed to continue their collaboration, including in the preparation for the London Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference that will take place in 2018.
The Dialogue included detailed discussions of the many regional and global challenges faced at present, including chemical and nuclear proliferation, international terrorism and climate change. Both sides underlined the need for multilateralism and cooperation at multilateral fora, respect for international law and a rules-based approach to finding enduring solutions to the issues, and agreed to further work together at the United Nations and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM). The UK took note of Vietnam’s intention to host, and undertook to consider support for the ASEM Conference on Climate Action to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals hosted by Vietnam in 2018. On the South China Sea, both sides reaffirmed the importance of maintaining regional peace, stability, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight in this region. Both sides reaffirm that all disputes need to be resolved by peaceful means in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), without resorting to the threat or use of force. Both sides highlighted that all Parties concerned should implement their international obligations in good faith and refrain from actions that could further complicate the situation and increase tensions in the region. The UK supports ASEAN and China’s early signing of Code of Conduct.
2018 will mark the dual anniversary of 45 years of diplomatic relations between the UK and Vietnam and 25 years of the British Council operating in Vietnam. To mark this, and the strength and warmth of the Strategic Partnership, both sides agreed to plan a year of events to celebrate the Vietnam in the UK and the UK in Vietnam.