Last updated: Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Vietnam - Canada Cooperation: Continuing to Be Progressive and Mutually BeneficialPosted: Monday, August 19, 2013
As of this year, Vietnam and Canada have enjoyed 40 years of diplomatic relations (1973-2013). This occasion calls for celebration, which Canada has welcomed through events like the 40th anniversary piano concert featuring world-renowned Canadian pianist Alain Lefevre and the 40th anniversary delegation visits to Can Tho City and Tra Vinh Province. Mr Audri Mukhopadhyay, Consul General of Canada in Ho Chi Minh City said that in addition to being a celebratory milestone, the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Canada is a good vantage point from which to look back on the recent years of Canada’s presence in Vietnam and trace the diplomatic progress that has been made in that time.
According to Mr Audri Mukhopadhyay, there are several metrics that could be used to measure the success of a diplomatic relationship. “In Canada, we like to focus on the growth of trade, educational, and people-to-people links. These are areas in which Canada and Vietnam have successfully cooperated to build progress over the past 40 years, and in which progress looks set to continue into the future”, said Mr Audri Mukhopadhyay. Trade between Vietnam and Canada, for example, has grown significantly in recent years. Last year, bilateral merchandise trade hit an all-time high of approximately $2 billion, 19 percent more than in 2011. For the future, Canada wishes to accelerate this already fast-paced growth and improve the ease of Canada-Vietnam trade and investment, as evidenced by Canadian membership alongside Vietnam and other nations in the Trans-Pacific-Partnership (TPP) free trade negotiations, which seek to eliminate barriers to trade between negotiating states. As Vietnam continues to develop and grow, so will opportunities for the export of Canadian specialty products, including live cattle, small ruminants (for genetics and herd development) and certain types of live seafood.
Besides, a number of Canadian businesses have come to see Vietnam as an attractive space for investment due to its increasing transparency, geostrategic position, and competitive labour pool. Such companies include Manulife, one of Canada’s largest insurance and financial service firms, and Talisman Energy, one of Canada’s largest oil and gas companies. Together, these Canadian businesses and many smaller Canadian firms contribute significantly to Vietnam’s economic growth through their investments and operations. In terms of investment, Canada is also heavily invested in Vietnam’s socio-economic development. The Government of Canada’s Department of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development (DFATD) operates development projects around the world to promote sustainable economic growth and food security. The Government of Canada selected Vietnam in 2009 as a country of focus for its development programs and is now actively involved in approximately 27 projects across Vietnam. These programmes target development in areas such as agriculture, skills training and education, healthcare, and legal infrastructure, to name just a few. One concrete example of an ongoing Canadian development project in Vietnam is the Banking Regulation and Supervision Support Project (BRASS), which began in December 2012 when a Memorandum of Understanding was concluded between the Government of Canada and the Government of Vietnam. In this memorandum, Canada pledged $14 million over the next five years to help strengthen the regulatory and supervisory structure of Vietnam’s banking and financial sector, in order to improve Vietnam’s competitiveness and adherence to international standards. Perhaps the most exciting area of cooperative growth between Canada and Vietnam in the past four years is education. The Consulate of Canada in Ho Chi Minh City places a high priority on this sector, and has undertaken multiple initiatives with the goal of bolstering Vietnamese awareness of Canada’s world-class educational institutions. The success of this programming, which has included education fairs, speaking with students at campuses across southern Vietnam, and other events, has been strong. Recent statistics bear out the fact that Vietnamese students are increasingly keen on Canadian education. Last year, for example, Canada issued almost 1000 study permits to Vietnamese students, the most issued to any ASEAN country and a fourfold increase from the number issued in 2007. Such growth has raised the total number of Vietnamese students in Canada to approximately 3,495, and has been so pronounced that if education were counted as a merchandise export, it would be Canada’s largest to Vietnam, totaling $108 million annually.
Canadian educational investment within Vietnam has also grown alongside Vietnamese interest for Canadian education abroad. At present, there are six Canada-Vietnam educational partnerships operating in Ho Chi Minh City. These institutions, which include the Canadian International School, the Saskatchewan Institute of Applied Science and Technology, and others, make it possible for Vietnamese students to earn an internationally recognized Canadian education in fields as wide ranging as accounting, executive management, and engineering technology, while remaining close to home. Educational cooperation both here in Vietnam and Canada has a clear mutual economic benefit. The benefits do not end there, however. Such cooperation also grows the people-to-people links between Canada and Vietnam, currently represented by the 220,000 people of Vietnamese origin living in Canada, and the small but positively engaged community of approximately 2,500 Canadians living in Vietnam. These kinds of ties have the power to affect positive cooperation. Take the annual Ho Chi Minh Terry Fox Run for example. 17 years ago, only a small contingent of participants joined to raise money in the fight against cancer in Vietnam. In 2012, by contrast, the people-to-people links between Canada and Vietnam generated 14,600 participants and hundreds of millions of Vietnamese dong for donation to cancer research and treatment projects in Ho Chi Minh City. “It is our hope that as the people-to-people links between our countries continue to grow, so will the cooperation in the not-for-profit sectors represented by events like the Terry Fox Run”, added Mr Audri Mukhopadhyay. Each of the past 40 years of the diplomatic relationship between Canada and Vietnam has brought with it progress in their areas of priority: trade, education, and people-to-people links. The Canadian Consulate team has been fortunate to work with positive local businesspeople, politicians, educators, and community leaders who are interested in furthering opportunities for Canada-Vietnam cooperation in the areas of priority.
Mr Audri Mukhopadhyay revealed that working with people of such a positive disposition has been the defining highlight of his time here. He is confident that as long as people such as these remain active in Ho Chi Minh City, the future of diplomatic cooperation between Canada and Vietnam will continue to be progressive and mutually beneficial.