Photo: Netherlands Embassy in Hanoi
Ms.Marjolijn Sonnema, the Netherlands' Deputy Minister of Agriculture, tells VET during her official visit to Vietnam that the two countries will boost cooperation in agriculture and food security in the years to come.
Can you tell us about the business delegation now visiting Vietnam?
The delegation is a mix of companies that are new to Vietnam and those that have prior experience in doing business in the country. Most have concrete business plans and have invested time and money to be part of this visit. With networking events and matchmaking opportunities with Vietnamese companies and meetings with government stakeholders, the visit is an excellent chance for the firms to get to know Vietnam better and move their plans forward. We are supporting their efforts with a program that focuses on Vietnam’s two main economic centers: Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.
What does the delegation expect to achieve from the visit?
The delegation comprises 20 companies and knowledge institutions active in the agriculture sector. They include not only renowned and internationally-established companies but also many medium-sized enterprises that see Vietnam as a potential market and investment destination.
The Netherlands is the world’s second-largest agricultural exporter, so we are well placed to work with Vietnam on adding value to its agricultural export products in terms of efficiency, quality and sustainability.
We are also seeing more political and public focus on the consequences of climate change in Vietnam. Dutch experts have advised Vietnam on the development of the Mekong Delta Plan, a long-term vision for the sustainable development of the Delta region. Private parties and knowledge institutions from the Netherlands are also well equipped to help Vietnam tackle issues like wastewater management and, in particular, coastal erosion, with state-of-the-art but affordable solutions.
What is the long-term vision for trade and investment opportunities between Vietnam and the Netherlands, especially in agriculture?
The EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA) is in the process of being ratified. When implemented, it will provide trade and investment opportunities for Vietnam and EU member states. As part of this visit, we want to ensure that Dutch businesses and their Vietnamese partners are aware of the agreement’s contents and are ready to benefit from its provisions.
As part of the Dutch-Vietnamese Strategic Partnership Arrangement (SPA) on sustainable agriculture and food security, agriculture and food companies see many opportunities to further develop Vietnamese agriculture. The Netherlands and Vietnam also have a Strategic Partnership Arrangement regarding water. The overlap between the two SPAs is increasing and the nexus between water and agriculture will be the focus of even more attention in the years ahead.
The Netherlands has a lot of expertise and experience when it comes to clean and sustainable innovations. These help ensure that economic growth goes hand-in-hand with a sustainable environmental footprint. Vietnamese people’s increasing focus on climate change, environmental disasters, and pollution provides many new opportunities. We see the potential for Dutch and Vietnamese companies, public authorities, and academics to partner up in the interests of sustainability, so we can look after the planet, both for ourselves and for future generations.
How do Dutch companies see the Vietnamese market in particular and the ASEAN market in general?
ASEAN shares many similarities with the EU, while Vietnam shares many similarities with the Netherlands. Both blocs have a key focus on supporting trade and investment through the formation of a single market. With the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community, ASEAN has taken a significant step forward. The Netherlands - home to the EU’s largest port and a major airport hub - is the gateway to the EU. Vietnam can occupy a similar position within ASEAN through the EU-Vietnam FTA and the AEC.
How will the EVFTA affect the business and investment plans of Dutch companies in Vietnam? What are the advantages of the EVFTA for Dutch-Vietnamese trade?
The agreement will provide new opportunities for companies on both sides, by increasing market access for goods, services and investment. We hope to strengthen the cooperation between our countries not only in the agriculture and water sectors but also in the financial and transport sectors. The agreement will also encourage sustainable development, thanks to the inclusion of a robust and comprehensive chapter on trade and sustainable development.