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Opportunities available for Netherlands' businesses in Vietnam: Dutch minister

Opportunities available for Netherlands' businesses in Vietnam: Dutch minister

Tuesday, March 26, 2024, 17:15 GMT+7
Opportunities available for Netherlands' businesses in Vietnam: Dutch minister
Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Mark Harbers gestures in an interview with Tuoi Tre News on March 21, 2024. Photo: Nghi Vu / Tuoi Tre

There are ample investment opportunities for Dutch companies in Vietnam as the Southeast Asian country is appealing thanks to its growing economy and strategic geographical position in the region, according to Dutch Minister of Infrastructure and Water Management Mark Harbers.

In an exclusive interview with Tuoi Tre News last week, Harbers shared his thoughts on the cooperation between the two countries on environmental issues, such as water management, sand mining, and the 'nature-based solution' model.

The interview was conducted on the sidelines of the Vietnam visit by the Dutch economic mission, consisting of 140 business entrepreneurs, from March 18 to 22, led by Harbers, Minister at the Ministry of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality Christianne van der Wal and President of the Confederation of Netherlands Industry and Employers Ingrid Thijssen.

“I've heard from friends in the Netherlands about Vietnam, but I'm really amazed at what I saw this week,” Harbers told Tuoi Tre News.

“Last year, we celebrated 50 years of friendship between Vietnam and the Netherlands.

"And in this week, every day I saw what 50 years of friendship means.

"That is all the fruits of 50 years of partnership between Vietnam and the Netherlands.”

A big economic mission from the Netherlands is visiting Vietnam. What would this visit tell about our cooperation both in economic and political aspects? What would be the Netherlands’ top investment opportunities in Vietnam, especially when it comes to infrastructural and environmental issues?

What you see is that investment opportunities are divided. There are investment opportunities not only for Dutch companies in Vietnam but also for Vietnamese companies to cooperate with the Dutch companies. And after four days in Vietnam, I can easily tell we share the same challenges and we have the same opportunities.

We share the same concerns when it comes to water management, as we are low-lying delta countries. So when climate changes, we are both very vulnerable, for instance, to the rising of the sea level.

However, we both have a strong will to overcome these challenges and to come up with the best solutions. That's where our companies and knowledge institutions start partnering together, be it universities or companies in Vietnam and the Netherlands.

Companies from both countries can bring something and take something. That's a 50-50 division. So that's really strong cooperation.

Vietnam is interesting for the Netherlands because of its strongly growing economy and strategic geographical position in Asia.

The Netherlands, I think, is interesting for Vietnam because we are the largest export destination for Vietnam in Europe, and also its second-largest trading partner in the European Union.

You have attended a series of meetings during the trip so far. How do you assess the results of these meetings?

It was a big success. This week, new contracts and new memoranda of understanding have been signed. And the new contacts that have been established this week will be used in cooperation in the forthcoming years.

From the view of the Netherlands, I think it's almost a record number of new documents and new contracts that have been signed and that's proof of the good relationship between Vietnam and the Netherlands. And part of that, it's also new opportunities being explored.

For instance, here in Ho Chi Minh City, a new partnership is established with the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands. It's my hometown. It's the biggest port in Europe, a gateway to the continent. But when climate changes, it's also vulnerable to flooding. So there's a new partnership between Rotterdam and Ho Chi Minh City on water management and on the combination of technical and nature-based solutions to make the cities more resilient.

Also, we can learn from the developments here because we were not used to drought. But in recent years, four of our last six summers have shown drought in the Netherlands. And that's where we can learn from countries such as Vietnam. So it works both ways.

The Netherlands is widely considered a global leader on sustainable development and water management, and also the founder of nature-based solutions. What exactly is a nature-based solution model, and what is the best way to understand nature-based development models?

Nature-based solutions are those that work with nature instead of against nature. Because sometimes nature is so powerful, it can help us, for instance, to prevent floods or to deal with an enormous amount of water.

Back in the Netherlands, for instance, we have sandy dunes to protect us from the sea, along the coast. And we invented the way of having nature to supply the coast with sand. We just put one part of sand in the sea, and because of the currents, that would change, there is more sand being transported to the coastline. So we don't have to have manpower to bring the sand to the coast to have a stronger coastline.

Here in Vietnam, I think it is a very good example: the cooperation between the Vietnamese Thuy Loi University and the Dutch Delft University of Technology. Based on their data, they found that the mangrove forests protect better against flooding.

Therefore, these universities are researching under which circumstances mangroves will grow best. In this way, they can enlarge the amount of mangrove forest in the Mekong Delta, which will lead to more water security. I think that is the perfect example of a nature-based solution. Mangroves are nature but you have to find out how to use them best.

And the Room for the River program in the Netherlands, I think, is a very excellent example of working with nature instead of controlling nature or working against it.

In your opinion, what is the toughest challenge for Vietnam and the Mekong Delta in terms of water management?

Actually the Netherlands and Vietnam are very much alike concerning the challenges we face when it comes to water. We have to confront common issues such as sea level rise and the availability of drinking water, especially when more and more people go to live in cities.

Salination, subsidence, prolonged droughts, and increasingly severe rainfall – many of these issues are caused by climate change.

That's also why we are cooperating on several levels to tackle these problems, especially for water management. We have had a special partnership between Vietnam and the Netherlands for 14 years now. I already look forward to next year when we celebrate 15 years of the special partnership.

The primary challenges lie in addressing floods, extreme rainfall, rising sea levels, and ensuring water reserves for periods of drought.

We require high-quality water for producing drinking water and supplying households, as well as for various sectors like the food industry.

So we have to handle the same issues, and no country can do this on their own. We always need each other to have the best exchange of expertise and knowledge. There are so many knowledge institutions and so many companies that have all the expertise available to help us out.

A total of 140 representatives from businesses and organizations from the Netherlands participated in the Vietnam – Netherlands Mekong Delta Business Forum & Exhibition 2024 in Ho Chi Minh City on March 21.

The forum was part of the activities of the Dutch economic and trade delegation to Vietnam.

At the forum, businesses from both countries signed 18 agreements in various fields, with the primary aim of promoting green growth and sustainable development.

These fields include sustainable agricultural value chains, organic shrimp farming, sustainable rice cultivation, alternative sweeteners to sugar, and sustainable food supply chains.

In recent years, Vietnam and the Netherlands have had extensive cooperation in the Mekong Delta region.

The delta planning for the 2021-30 period, with a vision to 2050, has received significant support from the Netherlands.

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Nghi Vu - Nhat Dang / Tuoi Tre News

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