16 Nov 2022

PM Jacinda Ardern's visit to Vietnam focuses on trade, food production technology

11:04 am on 16 November 2022
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern with Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh on the red carpet at a full ceremonial welcome in Hanoi at the start of her two day visit.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern's visit to Vietnam has moved focus moved from ceremonial events in Hanoi hosted by Prime minister Pham Minh Chinh to the commercial centre of Ho Chi Minh city, where New Zealand companies are located Photo: Supplied

An agreement to allow the import of Vietnamese limes after years of difficulty because of biosecurity fears looks to be a wedge in a trade door this summer.

The lifting of the import barriers for limes and approval for a new fruit, pomelo, to also be imported were the picked to recharge New Zealand's trade ties with the south-east Asian nation.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Vietnamese PM Pham Minh Chinh.

Vietnamese Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and NZ Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern through gardens where they picked pomelo. File photo. Photo: RNZ / Gyles Beckford

The entry of the fruit was unveiled by Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Trade Minister Damien O'Connor on the first day of a trade mission to Vietnam to rejuvenate trade ties and refresh New Zealand's brand in the fast growing country of about 100 million people.

"We may be a market of five million for limes, but in Vietnam, you know that's tens of millions of potential consumers for New Zealand products."

In return, New Zealand is asking for access for strawberries and squash. But the hope is that will lead to Vietnam also picking up New Zealand agricultural and scientific knowledge, such as the work done by Plant & Food to breed new varieties of disease resistant dragon fruit, using similar technology developed to combat the PSA virus that attacked kiwifruit.

The current mission will not lead to any drastic rewriting of trade links between the two, which have already been determined by trade deals such as CPTPP, RCEP, and the recently refreshed free trade deal with the ASEAN nations.

But the plan looks to be to make incremental gains in areas such as farming and food production technology.

"Food production is very important to Vietnam as it is to us, and I guess if we can share technology and new systems ... incredible opportunities," O'Connor said.

The focus of the trade mission has moved south from political Hanoi to commercial Ho Chi Minh City, where 10 New Zealand companies ranging from a drug maker to a host of small food producers are centred.

It will also be the focus on restoring New Zealand's attractiveness as a place to to study for foreign students. Before the pandemic closed borders Vietnam was the fourth biggest source of students in New Zealand.