Tafelrede van de Prins van Oranje in antwoord op de welkomstwoorden van vice-premier Khiem te Hanoi

De toespraak is een ingekorte en licht aangepaste versie van de later uitgesproken tafelrede en is uitgesproken in het Engels.

Deputy Prime Minister Khiem, Your Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen,

'The moon and the sun move across the skies, and although the years are counted in different ways, the seasons are the same; (...) although the languages are different, the feelings of justice are equal'.

These are the opening lines of a precious red-sealed letter from the envoy of the country of Annam to Dutch governor-general Johan Pietersz Coen, offering trade relations, written in 1626 (or, alternatively, in the 8th year of the period Vinh To of the House of Le).
Vietnam and the Netherlands share more than four centuries of history. Throughout this long period, turbulent at times, the intensity of our relations has not always been constant. As the envoy already noted in his letter, 'this may have been because the times and questions were different, or because the sea was too wide, and the darkness too deep'. But at the same time, is it highly rewarding to note the constant factors in our longstanding relationship.

Today, Vietnam and the Netherlands enjoy excellent bilateral relations and maintain frequent high-level contacts. Ministers and high officials visit one another with increasing frequency, often accompanied by business leaders and experts in areas of mutual interest. Our delegation this week, led by foreign trade minister Henk Bleker, includes over a hundred business representatives, making it one of the biggest that I have ever had the honour to be associated with. In other sectors, too, like higher education, culture and tourism, our contacts have multiplied in recent decades. The twenty thousand Dutch residents of Vietnamese origin continue to play a special role in this regard.

Vietnam today is displaying impressive levels of socio-economic success. In the last decade the country has achieved export-oriented economic growth of seven per cent on average. This has reduced poverty levels from 60 per cent to 10 per cent in an extremely short period. It also makes Vietnam one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. At the same time, Vietnam has become further integrated into the global economy through its accession to the WTO, and as a leader in ASEAN.

Due to its strategic location in Southeast Asia, just south of China, with a long coastline and two important river deltas, Vietnam has great potential to produce for, trade with and distribute to around half-a-billion consumers in southern China, plus another half-billion throughout the ASEAN region. Perhaps we are looking at a dragon rather than a tiger!

Vietnam is now a middle-income country and aims to become a fully-fledged industrialised nation by 2020. In the next phase of development, macroeconomic stability needs to be maintained while feeding further value and quality into the economic process. Developing higher education, sustaining value chains and adapting to climate change have become essential themes. This is also true for further reforms in the area of good governance. The continuation of these policies, based on the choices made by the 11th national congress, will no doubt further improve Vietnam's competitive position. It will open the way to a free trade agreement with the European Union. And it will foster Vietnam's ongoing regional and international integration.

The Netherlands hopes to remain an active participant in these processes. We are already the number one EU investor in Vietnam, and we continue to see Vietnam as a promising and attractive emerging market. Although we are a relatively small country, we are used to operating on a global scale. We're eager to work with strategic partners like Vietnam on an equal footing and to our mutual benefit.

As our ancestors understood, both our countries' economic prospects are determined by their strategic location on river deltas, serving as gateways to much bigger continental land masses. Deltas and gateways are therefore the key themes of our mission to Vietnam. This is the shared identity that underscores our common history - and could shape our common future.

Building on the 'deltas and gateways' theme, after close consultation, Vietnam and the Netherlands have identified five key sectors where strategic cooperation should be mutually profitable. These are the sectors represented in this mission: water, agriculture, transport and logistics, the maritime sector and oil and gas.

We have jointly concluded that these five sectors offer the best prospects for strategic cooperation between our two countries, thanks to our common experience of the challenges and opportunities of deltas and gateways. These are the areas in which we can provide you with innovative and sustainable solutions for further development, introducing global standards for responsible entrepreneurship that should fit Vietnam's ambitions like a glove.

Deputy Prime Minister Khiem,

Thank you for your kind words, and for the warm hospitality the Vietnamese government and business community have shown us. I last visited your country five years ago and once again I am most impressed by the progress being made here. I very much hope that a further intensifying of relations may follow, in the strong belief that a strategic partnership is a two-way street. We would be delighted to offer your companies and institutions our modern infrastructure as your gateway to Europe. And we'll make sure that you feel as welcome in the Netherlands as we feel here in Vietnam!

Ladies and gentlemen,

In his red-sealed letter, the envoy of the country of Annam concluded by expressing the hope that 'when reading the lines of this simple letter, you will sing a song of flourishing times and of prosperity, and will presently send forth ships, in order to jointly conclude a treaty of opulent growth, thereby developing the worthy interests of the two countries and creating splendid prospects for this moment' .

Deputy prime Minister Khiem, I could not say it any better, and the ships have arrived today!

So let me propose a toast to the wellbeing an prosperity of the government and the people of Vietnam.