Speech by the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, at the government dinner in Hanoi

Speech by the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte, at the government dinner in Hanoi, 16 June 2014.

Prime Minister,
Your Excellencies,
ladies and gentlemen,

One of the first Dutchmen to set foot in Vietnam - back in 1601 - was the merchant Jeronimus Wonderaer.
In his letters home he spoke highly of the hospitality he received in your beautiful country.
Whatever may have changed since then, that has not, and I would like to thank you - on behalf of the entire Dutch delegation - for the very warm reception you have given us.

Prime Minister Dung, after your visits to our country, I'm delighted to have the opportunity to visit yours.
I follow in the footsteps of many of my compatriots, including our current King and Queen, who paid a very successful visit to Vietnam in 2011.
These bilateral contacts underline the growing importance of the ties between our two countries.

Last year we celebrated forty years of diplomatic relations and hundreds of thousands of people visited Holland Village in Ho Chi Minh City.
And more and more Vietnamese and Dutch politicians, business people and experts are getting connected.
That's no coincidence.
Of all the EU member states, the Netherlands is the biggest investor in Vietnam and its third-biggest trade partner.
A hundred and twenty Dutch firms already operate in your country and many others are ready to follow their example.
In the last decade, trade between the Netherlands and Vietnam has increased nearly tenfold, to 3.6 billion dollars.

These facts and figures say a lot about the amazing speed of your country's development.
It fills us with admiration.
Vietnam's progress has been truly remarkable.
Your unique location, your young, hard-working population and your open and international outlook make Vietnam what it is today: a vibrant economy with great potential, and an attractive partner for a country like ours.

I strongly believe that Vietnam and the Netherlands are natural allies.
Both our countries are world players in the export of agricultural products.
We are both coastal states with strategic locations, and we excel in maritime affairs and logistics.
And as delta countries, we both face the challenges of climate change, especially in the fields of water management and energy.
So I've come to Vietnam with representatives of major Dutch companies that are active in these four sectors of mutual interest: water and maritime affairs, agriculture and energy.
We're all convinced that we can learn a lot from each other and that doing business will benefit both our countries.

Back in 2010 we signed a strategic partnership arrangement on water management and climate change adaptation.
We're now putting that partnership into practice with the Mekong Delta Plan, which brings together Vietnamese and Dutch expertise in the field of water.
The plan combines flood protection with great opportunities for the agricultural sector.
I look forward to our talks tomorrow with the international donors involved.

Today we agreed a second strategic partnership on sustainable agriculture and food security.
It's the next step in our framework for long-term bilateral cooperation.
We believe that sustainability is key to future economic success.
So the Dutch businesses here today are all committed to complying with international standards.
In recent years your country has made remarkable progress in reducing poverty.
This paves the way for new goals to promote the ongoing international integration of the Vietnamese economy.
And let me assure you that the Netherlands will remain committed to Vietnam's sustainable development.

I'm confident Vietnam will continue to open up through economic and political reforms.
Because that's essential to remain competitive.
We admire your efforts to reform the state-owned sector, promote public-private partnerships and fight red tape and corruption.
But it's a hard job and major challenges remain.
The Netherlands stands ready to support you wherever we can.
The EU-Vietnam Partnership and Cooperation Agreement and the Free Trade Agreement between the EU and Vietnam will be very important in this respect.
Not only will they boost trade and investment, to our mutual benefit.
They will also help generate support for your reforms.
The deadline for signing the Free Trade Agreement is ambitious, but I understand that both sides are keen to finalise it this year.

Prime Minister Dung, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, Vietnam will remain a top priority country, both for the Dutch government and the Dutch business community.
Together we will move forward, building on firm foundations of bilateral cooperation and friendship.

So now let me propose a toast.
To the friendship between the Vietnamese and Dutch peoples.
To successful partnerships between our businesses.
And to the future of your beautiful country, whose fantastic hospitality I have now experienced for myself.

Thank you.