Brush up on perceptions of ASEAN trade partners, envoy tells NZ

Ho Chi Minh City today ... a skyline of progress for a country being tipped to host a new "Silicon Valley". Image: Relocate Magazine

By TJ Aumua in Auckland

New Zealanders need to catch up with reality about the country’s trade partners in the South-East Asia region, says an ambassador.

Speaking to the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) NZ Business Council today, New Zealand Ambassador to Viet Nam Haike Manning said it was important for ASEAN members to work together to change outdated perspectives of potential business in the region.

“What I find in general is that a lot of perceptions about Viet Nam in New Zealand lags behind the reality of the country,” he told council members.

New Zealand’s Heads of Mission from ASEAN country members met at an Auckland University of Technology breakfast to update each other on recent developments.

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“Yesterday I took a screenshot of an article that said, ‘Could Viet Nam become the next Silicon Valley’, and I think it’s a really interesting and provocative proposition,” Manning said.

“What we are certainly seeing is the rapid emergence in Viet Nam of a knowledge economy, we are seeing a rapid emergence of Viet Nam has a high-tech place.”

‘Academic freedom’
In an interview with Pacific Media Watch, Manning said that as part of Viet Nam’s step towards a growing knowledge economy, the country is working on establishing its very first university to have academic freedom.

“I think in Viet Nam it’s pretty well understood that the public education system cannot properly deliver all the needs for its people and that’s why we see a lot of Vietnamese students coming to New Zealand,” Manning said.

“But something’s got to happen inside the country as well in terms of supplying the public education system.”

“It’s a brave step by the Vietnamese government to give this freedom.”

The New Zealand Ambassador to the Philippines, David Strachan, also spoke at the event, saying New Zealanders needed to understand the Philippines was a great business and trading hub.

His speech also highlighted the controversy around Philippines President-elect, Rodrigo Duterte, who has become known for his hate speech and approval of increased death squads to reduce crime.

But he noted that the Philippines had been the top performing south-east Asian economy in recent years and he expected Duterte’s decisive leadership would be good for New Zealanders doing business with the country.

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TJ Aumua is Pacific Media Watch freedom project contributing editor for the Pacific Media Centre (2016). She is a recent graduate of Auckland University of Technology with a Bachelor of Communication Studies (Honours) degree and with a BCS majoring in journalism and a minor in screen writing. TJ is also a contributor for the PMC Online and Asia Pacific Report and has been a recent summer research intern with Pacific Journalism Review.