Vietnam’s Prime Minister, Nguyễn Xuân Phúc, will visit New Zealand 12–14 March. Here are six things to know about Vietnam and Vietnam-NZ relations.
Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc
New Zealanders may remember Vietnam PM Nguyễn Xuân Phúc from when he presented PM Ardern with a portrait at APEC last year. Ahead of the same meeting, he was photographed briefly holding hands with Canada PM Justin Trudeau.
In Vietnam, a one-party state, the prime minister acts as the head of government and is one of the country’s three top leaders. The others are the president as head of state and the general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam.
PM Phúc previously acted as a provincial governor and deputy prime minister (visiting New Zealand in that role in 2012), before his appointment by the Vietnam’s National Assembly as PM in 2016.
His tenure has been marked by Vietnam’s participation in the CPTPP, tensions around developments in the South China Sea and the Mekong River, and the impacts of severe drought.
The smartphone industry is huge
Exports have been a key reason for Vietnam’s rapid economic growth. Vietnam’s trade is dominated by manufacturing, especially in electronics. Smartphone manufacturing has been a big part of that story. About 30 percent of Samsung mobile phones come from two factory complexes in the northern provinces of Bac Ninh and Thai Nguyen. In 2016, 27.1 percent of Vietnam’s total exports were smartphones, worth US$34.3 billion. Vietnam exported a total of US$45B worth of phones in 2017.
If you’re out for the night, beer is probably on the table
Vietnamese are enthusiastic beer drinkers. The country’s (mostly male) drinkers consume more than 4 billion litres a year, and consumption is growing. Big domestic and multinational brands producing mainly lager-style beers still dominate the market. But thanks to Vietnamese and foreign entrepreneurs catering to Vietnam’s growing middle-class, there is a growing space for craft beer as well.
The internet is changing life quickly
More than half of Vietnam’s population of 96 million people use the internet in some way. Most are active mobile and social media users. But Vietnamese enthusiasm for the internet and social media has met with attempts by the government to regulate use, such as the establishment of the 10,000 person military cyber warfare unit with the purpose to combat “wrong” views. It has also proposed new cybersecurity legislation requiring companies to localise data. Critics have raised concerns about internet freedom and there are also fears the restrictive moves will hurt Vietnam’s ability to attract foreign business.
Infrastructure is a major priority
Visit any of Vietnam’s major centres, and you’ll be sure to see cranes on the horizon. The country has invested heavily in improving its infrastructure, ranking second only to China in its infrastructure spending as a percentage of GDP. Priority areas include transport, power supply and irrigation. Much of the development is supported by foreign direct investment in infrastructure projects, particularly from Japan and increasingly from China. Continued infrastructure development will be critical for the country to maintain its international business and investment competitiveness, as well as rising standards of living.
Kiwis like to holiday in Vietnam
In 2017, 22,400 New Zealanders visited Vietnam as their main holiday destination and 1,480 visited on business (total New Zealand traveller numbers were 28,880).
In return, 7,792 Vietnamese visited New Zealand (3,120 of whom came on holiday).
Kiwis aged between 18 and 30 can spend 12 months working and travelling in Vietnam, thanks to the reciprocal working holiday visa agreement between the two countries. The scheme is under-subscribed in terms of young New Zealanders travelling to Vietnam.
– Asia Media Centre