A New Beginning For Ontario-Vietnam Trade Relations

This past December, a historic meeting took place between Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne and Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc in Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi. The meeting’s goal was to strengthen the province’s growing ties with Vietnam and open doors to new economic opportunities and research partnerships.

In an interview with Culture Magazin, the premier stated that travelling to Vietnam was a priority because the markets are growing so quickly.

Wynne spent four days in Vietnam, along with a delegation of almost 60 Ontario business and academic leaders. This was the largest Canadian delegation ever to go to Vietnam and the first time an Ontario Premier visited the country. “It was a great first trip. I saw it as the opening of a relationship,” Wynne said.

During the trip, Wynne announced agreements valued at about $30 million between Ontario and Vietnamese institutions, including:

  • Ontario’s Ownace International Group and Vietnam’s Costcovn Import Export Co. Ltd. signed a $3 million agreement to sell and distribute Ontario-grown specialty grains and other food products in Vietnam.
  • Centennial College signed three agreements, valued at more than $5 million each, for academic cooperation with HUTECH University of Technology, Hoa Sen College and Khanh Hoa University.
  • Ontario’s Organization of Women in International Trade signed a Memorandum of Understanding with the Vietnam Women Entrepreneurs Council to apply their respective and collective capabilities to benefit women business owners in Vietnam and other countries.

Wynne noted there is a huge opportunity for clean technology, medical technology and infrastructure expertise when working with Vietnam’s business sectors. “Health technology is a huge concern. In most of the meetings that I had we talked about health care one time or another,” she said.

The Premier also mentioned that she thought Vietnam was a vibrant country. “Ho Chi Minh City and Hanoi are very different. Ho Chi Minh City is growing very quickly and has lots of tall buildings. The architecture in Hanoi is very different so the cities have different environments, but I was really pleasantly surprised by how warmly we were greeted in both places,” she recalled.

Wynne chose Vietnam for her most recent international business mission because it is an opening and growing market. After her second trip to China, she told her staff that she thought it was important that they explore other markets. “We have to diversify our markets. The U.S. is by far our largest one. We need our businesses to be looking elsewhere so we aren’t so dependent on the U.S.,” she explained.

The Chinese mission has already started to pay off. A recent announcement by the Ontario government, in partnership with Tourism Toronto, stated that Amway China has selected Toronto to host its 25th Anniversary Leadership Seminar in 2020. This event will welcome about 10,000 distributors to Toronto, generating an estimated $80 million in revenue.

Hopes are for similar productive results from the Vietnam mission.

Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne (front row, centre right) participated in a roundtable discussion today with NGO and business community leaders in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam. Participants included representatives from CHANGE, the LIN Center for Community Development, Clean and Green Vietnam, Teach for Vietnam, VinaCapital, Loreto Kids Charity and the World Bank Group. Back row, left to right: Nhan Nguyen, Founder, Clean and Green Vietnam; Rad Kivette, Vice President, VinaCapital Foundation; and Kyle Nunas, Consul General of Canada in Ho Chi Minh City. Front row, left to right: Phuc Huynh, Founder and CEO of Teach For Vietnam; Jaom Fisher, Executive Director, Loreto Kids Charity; Giang Tran, Executive Director, LIN Center; Hong Hoang, Executive Director, CHANGE; Premier Wynne; Dana McNairn, Gender and Social Inclusion Specialist and author and former CEO of KOTO; Jinchang Lai, Lead Financial Service Specialist and Financial Infrastructure Lead for East Asia World Bank Group; and Stewart Wheeler, Assistant Deputy Minister, International Relations for the Government of Ontario.

Wynne thinks Vietnamese businesses can be very successful if they work with Canada. “It’s a matter of getting to understand the system. There are environmental regulations and administrative regulations here that they would have to get to know. But the same holds for Vietnam for Ontario companies. You have to get to know each other’s country and culture, and how it works. That’s why these trade missions are so important.”

Ontario is Canada’s biggest province so the country’s trade relationship is going to be enhanced by Ontario being there and being involved in whichever market the province chooses. “So I would say it’s a very significant step that the first Ontario Premier has travelled to Vietnam,” Wynne explained.

While there, the Premier delivered an economic speech on how Vietnam offers a special partnership opportunity for Ontario. She also spoke in a roundtable discussion on climate change, corporate social responsibility and child welfare with NGO and community business leaders, including CHANGE, the LIN Center for Community Development and the World Bank Group.

The Premier also visited Vietnam National University’s University of Social Sciences and Humanities in Hanoi to speak with students and Rector Dr. Pham Quang Minh about women in leadership.

“I saw meeting with Vietnam’s leaders as the beginning of a great relationship between Ontario businesses and Vietnamese businesses. The trip was a great success and I hope I get a chance to go back again,” said Wynne.

This post is also available in: Tiếng Việt

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