Pace and scale of Vietnam’s development is hugely impressive: Irish Ambassador Deirdre Ní Fhallúin

WVR - In an interview with The World & Vietnam Report, Ambassador of Ireland to Vietnam Deirdre Ní Fhallúin affirmed that she was impressed by the dynamism and energy of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam’s success in sharing the benefits of development widely across society and in reducing poverty are truly remarkable.
Ambassador of Ireland to Vietnam Deirdre Ní Fhallúin  Speaking at the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Asian Youth Championship in Hanoi in November 2023
Ambassador of Ireland to Vietnam Deirdre Ní Fhallúin Speaking at the Gaelic Athletic Association (GAA) Asian Youth Championship in Hanoi in November 2023

Vietnam and Ireland have established diplomatic relations for 28 years (1996-2024). In your opinion, what are the positive highlights of the relationship between the two countries?

I think that shared historical perspectives and the similarity in the development trajectory of our two countries, underpin what has always been a warm and friendly bilateral relationship. Since the Irish Embassy in Hanoi opened in 2005, there has been a strong focus on supporting Vietnam’s development, and this remains a core part of our work.

At the same time, as Vietnam approaches Upper Middle Income status and plays an increasingly active role in international affairs, our relationship is developing a more strategic focus. The State Visit of Ireland’s President Michael D. Higgins to Vietnam in 2016 marked a high point in our relations, and I hope that a return visit by Vietnam’s President to Ireland can happen during my tenure as Ambassador.

Can the Ambassador share your impressions about Vietnam's recent socio-economic development?

The pace and scale of Vietnam’s development is hugely impressive. I have been struck since my arrival last summer by the dynamism and energy of the cities of Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City. Vietnam’s success in sharing the benefits of development widely across society and in reducing poverty are truly remarkable.

Ireland was amongst the poorest countries in Europe for much of the twentieth century and we have also experienced rapid, transformative economic development in recent decades, underpinned by successful education policies.

I recognise the same opportunities for Vietnam, which has an ambitious and talented young population. It has been my pleasure as Ambassador to meet with some of the impressive Vietnamese alumni of Irish Universities, and it is evident that young people will be the driving force behind Vietnam’s continued success in the years ahead.

The Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement has been in effect for more than 3 years (since August 2020), bringing positive impacts on trade cooperation between the two sides. How do you evaluate the effectiveness of the Agreement on import and export between the two countries?

The area of bilateral trade is one that the Embassy will be focusing more strongly on in the coming years. The historic Vietnam-EU Free Trade Agreement offers enormous potential for our trade in goods and services, however, this potential has not been fully realised yet in Ireland’s case.

It is a priority for me as Ambassador to enhance the level of activity and support to Irish companies and businesses that see opportunities for trade and manufacturing with Vietnam. I hope to see growth in the time ahead in particular in the food and beverage sector, where Ireland produces high-quality, sustainable products from dairy and beef, to seafood and whiskey.

What is the Ambassador’s advice for Vietnamese businesses who want to invest and do business in Ireland in particular and the EU in general?

Ireland is one of the world’s leading locations for attracting Foreign Direct Investment and home to many of the top global corporations in pharmaceuticals, medtech, ICT and financial services. We have the youngest population in the EU and the largest level of STEM graduates per capita in the EU.

These strengths have ensured a strong post-pandemic bounce-back and resilience in the face of unprecedented global volatility and turbulence. A stable, pro-business environment has also been maintained across successive governments. Even as the global effective minimum tax rate comes into force, we will continue to be a competitive and attractive location for international investment.

Every aspect of Ireland’s competitiveness and attractiveness is underpinned by our membership of the European Union and its Single Market, which provides us with access to a market of 500 million consumers, and also a central role in global standard-setting for the world’s high growth industries.

Can the Ambassador share more about development cooperation projects funded by Ireland in Vietnam in recent years?

As our relationship with Vietnam continues to evolve in line with Vietnam’s approach to Upper Middle Income status, Ireland will remain a committed partner, with an ethos of reaching the Furthest Behind First at the core of our work. This means that the projects that we support are focused on rural communities experiencing high levels of poverty, including ethnic minority communities. We also continue to support partners in humanitarian mine assistance and promoting good governance.

Additionally, we have a strong focus on both higher education and on sustainable agri-food – two areas where we believe that in addition to providing financial support, we can also share expertise with Vietnamese partners, to our mutual benefit.

With the Embassy team at a recent strategy planning away day, January 2024Ambassador of Ireland to Vietnam Deirdre Ní Fhallúin
Ambassador with the Embassy team at a recent strategy planning away day, January 2024.

What are Ireland's orientations and priorities for cooperation with Vietnam in the coming time? What plans does the Embassy have to implement these cooperation priorities?

The Embassy’s overall priorities for the coming period are set out in our Mission Strategy 2023-2027 (which also covers Cambodia and Laos to which we have secondary accreditation from Hanoi). This framework establishes our priorities across three interlinked pillars – bilateral relations, development co-operation, and consular services and diaspora engagement.

We are also focused on how we can increase the visibility and knowledge of Ireland here in Vietnam, through online and offline methods. Modern diplomacy requires us to be adept at communications with a wide range of diverse stakeholders and audiences, and we continue to look for innovative and imaginative ways to share details of our work and activities through public diplomacy.

Lunar New Year is approaching, will this be the first time the Ambassador celebrates the traditional Asian New Year?

I am familiar with Lunar New Year and its beautiful traditions from a previous diplomatic posting to China. I can already feel the excitement building around the city in Hanoi as people begin to prepare. As in Ireland, the holiday season is a time for family to celebrate together and I am thankful to be celebrating this year together with my husband Paul and our three children, who are accompanying us on our posting.

The turn of the New Year is also an opportunity to reflect on the past year and look ahead to what is come. We are grateful for the wonderful opportunity we have had to move to Vietnam and we are looking forward to the opportunities to deepen our knowledge of the country and its people in the time ahead.

What are the plans to celebrate the 2024 Dragon Year of the Ambassador and your relatives?

The Irish Embassy will be closed for the holidays and so we will be spending time together as a family, with our golden doodle dog Bobbie, who is also enjoying life in Hanoi! We hope to cycle around the lake at Tay Ho, while there is less traffic and to visit the temple on Dang Thai Mai.

Of course, the focus on food at Tet is very important – we’ll be doing lots of cooking and baking during the holidays!

Thank you very much Ambassador!

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