NZ looks to boost ties with Vietnam

  • 14/11/2015
Prime Minister John Key (Briar Marbeck)
Prime Minister John Key (Briar Marbeck)

Vietnam's economic star is on the rise and New Zealand wants to be there front and centre to cash in on it.

Prime Minister John Key is off to Vietnam's capital Hanoi on Saturday (local time), leading a trade mission aimed at growing the relationship between the two countries.

In the five years between 2009 and 2014, two-way trade between New Zealand and Vietnam increased 120 percent, making it New Zealand's fastest growing market in South East Asia.

In much the same way as its northern neighbour China has done, Vietnam has been progressively opening up its economy, ditching some of the tight communist controls of old in favour of a more market-based approach.

It's one of the 12 countries involved in the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade deal, and its young population and growing wealth also bode well in terms of New Zealand's long-term trade prospects.

Mr Key says the trade mission is important because of the amount of business New Zealand is currently doing in Vietnam and because there are plenty of chances to do more.

"We're trying to send a message we think that market's important," he told NZ Newswire ahead of the trip.

"There's no doubt potential and we just want to lock in our opportunity to catch that potential."

While Mr Key is in Hanoi he'll meet with Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, who visited New Zealand in March, and some of the top brass of Vietnam's reigning communist party.

This year also marks 40 years of diplomatic relations between New Zealand and Vietnam.

"There are a number of countries where we've been involved in conflict and war in their country, and they've turned out now to be very good friends with New Zealand," Mr Key said.

"Turkey is a good example of that, and Vietnam is another where a lot of New Zealanders' initial thoughts would turn to the Vietnam war, but we've come a long way in those years."

Mr Key wraps up his visit to Vietnam on Tuesday, before heading to Manila for the annual APEC leaders' meeting.

After that he goes to Kuala Lumpur for the East Asia Summit.