British PM on landmark first visit to Vietnam

David_Cameron_officialDavid Cameron hailed rapidly growing trade with Vietnam Wednesday during the first visit by a British Prime Minister to the communist country, as a number of key business deals were signed.

Bilateral trade between the two countries has doubled in the last three years, but it still represents just 0.5 percent of the UK’s total global trade, Cameron said in Hanoi.

“That indicated the enormous opportunity that there is… we believe there is much more to come,” he said, at a press briefing after talks with Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

A $580 million maintenance deal between aircraft engine manufacturer Rolls-Royce and Vietnam’s flag-carrier Vietnam Airlines was signed Wednesday.

The president of Rolls-Royce’s aerospace division, Tony Wood, told AFP the deal was “hugely important” for the company.

A £100 million ($156 million) 20-year bond issue deal between Prudential and the State Bank of Vietnam was also signed, as well as a separate agreement on oil and gas.

The UK also agreed to extend some half a billion pounds of credit to Vietnam for infrastructure development, Cameron said, adding he had discussed the need for “better business integrity” with his Vietnamese counterpart.

Cameron is on a four-day trip to Southeast Asia, with trade a major focus as Britain seeks new markets in the fast-growing region.

Accompanied by 30 British business leaders and his minister of state for trade Francis Maude, he is pushing for deals worth more than £750 million ($1.2 billion) during the trip which has already taken him to Indonesia and Singapore.

He will head to Malaysia Thursday after spending the morning in Vietnam’s southern business hub Ho Chi Minh City.

Cameron was due to meet with the General Secretary of Vietnam’s Communist Party, Nguyen Phu Trong — who earlier this month met President Obama at the White House — and President Truong Tan Sang late Wednesday in Hanoi.

Also on the agenda was discussion of how to improve cooperation on fighting human trafficking. Vietnam is one of the top five source countries for underage trafficking victims in the UK.

Experts say hundreds of Vietnamese minors are trafficked into the UK each year often to work in cannabis factories.

“The cannabis is what we see — but that’s the tip of the iceberg,” Diep Vuong, president of Pacific Links Foundation which works on trafficking in Vietnam, told AFP.

She said she was happy Cameron had raised the issue in Vietnam but called for more resources and for the cooperation with the Vietnamese government “to go beyond police response.”

Receive News Alerts on Whatsapp: +2348136370421

No comments yet