On the occasion of 2019 Lunar New Year, the Year of the Pig, Ambassador of Canada to Vietnam Deborah Paul talks to Hanoitimes on the Canada – Vietnam relationship in 2018 and hopes for an impetus in 2019. She also shares her thoughts about the traditional Tet in Vietnam.

Ambassador Deborah Paul spoke in the conference ‘The next generation of international academic partnerships: colleges in Vietnam, British Columbia and Canada’, Hue – January, 2019. Photo: Embassy of Canada in Hanoi

Ambassador Deborah Paul spoke in the conference ‘The next generation of international academic partnerships: colleges in Vietnam, British Columbia and Canada’, Hue – January, 2019. Photo: Embassy of Canada in Hanoi

Could you name the biggest highlights of the Canada – Vietnam relationship over the past year?

2018 marked an important milestone as Canada and Vietnam celebrated the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations, underpinned by strong people-to-people ties.

A significant contribution to the strength of our relations is made by the vibrant Vietnamese-Canadian community of nearly 250,000 in Canada – one of the largest overseas Vietnamese communities in the world. The community has enriched our society and done much to contribute to better mutual understanding between our countries. 

This past year, we were thrilled to host a jazz concert at the beautiful Hanoi Opera House, to celebrate Canada and Vietnam’s anniversary of diplomatic relations. The jazz concert featured the wonderful Canadian jazz band, B’s Bees, and was enthusiastically attended by over 550 guests from the diplomatic community, Ministers and senior Vietnamese government officials, key business partners, media, and friends of Canada. Through this event, Canadians, Vietnamese, and other partners connected to celebrate the 45th anniversary through Canadian music and culture.

The positive momentum in bilateral relations was exemplified by two high-ranking official delegations this past year. We welcomed Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to Charlevoix, Canada as he attended the G7 Leaders’ Outreach Session, and our Canadian Defense Minister Harjit Sajjan visited Vietnam in June 2018. This marked the first visit of a Canadian defense minister to Vietnam. We also welcomed the Royal Canadian Navy aboard Her Majesty’s Canadian Ship (HMCS) Calgary and MV Asterix to Da Nang for a port visit in September.

2018 also marked the first year of the Canada-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership established during Canadian Prime Minister Trudeau’s visit to Vietnam in November 2017. This Partnership identified areas for enhanced cooperation including poverty reduction, trade and investment, inclusive economic growth, peace and stability, and maintenance of a ruled-based order. Canada and Vietnam also signed the CPTPP agreement which has now come into force.

2018 was a very important year for Canada and Vietnam’s relationship, and Canada looks forward to continuing to grow this fruitful partnership in the year to come.

What will be the major events we could expect from the bilateral relations this year?

Bilateral relations are growing rapidly, and this year we remain committed to building on our strong and long-standing relations with our Vietnamese partners, and finding ways to deepen these ties. This includes working together on education, and environmental initiatives such as reducing plastic waste.

This year, we also look forward to the opportunities from the Comprehensive Partnership established by Canada and Vietnam in 2017, as well as the recently ratified CPTPP free trade agreement – which has immediate benefits for both nations.

We will also continue to focus on gender equality, as Canada hosts the 2019 Women Deliver conference in Vancouver. We look forward to the attendance of Vietnamese delegates.

As the CPTPP came into force in both Canada and Vietnam, how will this trade agreement support trade and investment links between the two nations?

The recent entry into force of CPTTP for Canada and Vietnam is great news for both countries. CPTPP will form a trading bloc between 11 countries that represent 13.5% of global GDP and 495 million consumers. It is an ambitious and high-standard free trade agreement that will help strengthen the rules-based international trading system. CPTPP will strengthen commercial relations in the Asia Pacific at a time of tremendous turbulence in international markets.

CPTPP will establish duty-free access for trade in goods between Canada and Vietnam, eliminating tariffs for key Canadian and Vietnamese exports. 

Key Canadian sectors that stand benefit from improved access include agricultural commodities and agri-food, fish and seafood products, forest and value-added wood products. The on-going restructuring of Vietnam’s agricultural sector will open more opportunities for Canadian expertise, such as in genomics and bio-technology, as well as sustainability. CPTPP will also benefit Canadian service providers to Vietnam, by providing improved access in areas such as financial services

The CPTPP will also deliver benefits for Vietnam by eliminating tariffs on important exports to Canada, for example, in areas such as electrical and electronic machinery and equipment, textiles and apparel, and fisheries.

All of these factors form the building blocks of a bilateral relationship with Vietnam that Canada values. Canada will work with Vietnamese stakeholders in the coming months to promote the CPTPP to Canadian and Vietnamese business communities and to help them tap into the opportunities that this agreement offers.

Last but not least, do you plan to celebrate the Tet fest in Vietnam? What is your message to the Vietnamese people in the Lunar New Year?

Yes, I definitely plan to celebrate Tet - this will be my very first Tet celebration in Vietnam and I am very excited. I have been learning about the traditions and stories behind Tet customs, including colorful traditions such as the dragon and lion dances.

Tet is a wonderful time in Vietnam that symbolizes inclusion and togetherness – values that are similarly celebrated and practiced in Canada, as inclusion is a proven path to peace and prosperity. When all members of the community come together and participate meaningfully such as during Tet, society as a whole enjoys the benefits.

Last week, I went to the Nguyen Dinh Chieu primary and secondary school with three Fellow Ambassadors and joined with the visually impaired children in making bánh chưng, preparing for the Tet celebrations. It was such a meaningful and enjoyable experience to participate in such important traditions together.

I would like to wish the people of Vietnam a wonderful Tet celebration with family and friends. I know that Tet celebrations also mean that many travel far and wide to reunite with family and loved ones. Whether travelling or not, I wish all Vietnamese a safe and joyous holiday.

May the Year of the Pig give you 12 months of joy, 52 weeks of good health, and 365 days of prosperity and success! My very best wishes for a wonderful year ahead! Chúc mừng năm mới!

Thank you very much, Ambassador!