Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam Grete Lochen 

The statement was made by Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam Grete Lochen with the reporter of the Communist Party of Vietnam Online Newspaper.

Reporter:  Ambassador, in the context of the world being heavily affected by the pandemic, how do you see the developments of Norway-Vietnam relations in 2020?

Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam Grete Lochen: 2020 is a challenging year in the mankind history. The pandemic has changed people’s lives completely and also international and domestic affairs.

In this unpredictable context, Vietnam’s success story in the fight against COVID-19 and your excellent completion of the role as the ASEAN Chair as well as taking a seat in the UN Security Council hit the headlines worldwide. I would like to congratulate the Government of Vietnam on these achievements.

In 2020, due to restrictions in international travels and closed borders, we had to postpone even cancel several events and visits including of the Norwegian Minister of Fisheries and Seafood, and the Minister of Foreign Affairs. A big International Conference on Sustainable Ocean Economy and Climate Adaptation co-hosted by Vietnam and Norway did not take place as planned last March, but hopefully will take place autumn 2021.

Norway is a strong supporter of the ASEAN and celebrated its 5 years’ anniversary as a sector dialogue partner with the ASEAN in 2020. We have over the years enjoyed an extensive exchange of political visits and meetings within the ASEAN framework as well as bilaterally with the ASEAN member states including Vietnam. Although, some activities did not happen per the initial plan last year, we were able to organize an international conference on Women Peace and Securitywith the ASEAN Department of MOFA: Strengthening Women’s Role in Building and Sustaining Peace -from Commitments to Results. It was very encouraging and clearly, Vietnam, ASEAN and Norway have common interest in promoting women’s participation in all peace and security processes.

In 2020, Norway was granted a permanent observer status of the ASEAN Inter-Parliamentary Assembly (AIPA) under Vietnam’s chairmanship of AIPA. This is is another milestone in the relations between Norway and ASEAN and of course between Norway and Vietnam. It really shows that we have common interests in broad institutional cooperation at different levels despite geographical distances between Norway and the ASEAN countries.

In the absence of physical exchanges of visits and meetings, Vietnam and Norway actively carried on through virtually phone calls, webinars and exchanges of information. The Speaker of the Norwegian Parliament attended and delivered remarks virtually in the 41thAIPA chaired by the National Assembly of Vietnam; our two Ministers of Foreign Affairs conducted telephone conversations on bilateral and multilateral cooperation, particularly in the United Nations Security Council since Norway was elected as a non-permanent member to the Security Council 2021-22. We will have one year together in the Council and great potentials to work together on common interests such as the Women, Peace and Security agenda, protection of civilians and climate change and security.

Reporter:  In 2021, Norway and Vietnam are celebrating the 50thanniversary of the two countries’ diplomatic ties. What can you tell about the meaning of this important milestone in the bilateral relations and cooperation between the two countries particularly in the areas of our strengths such as aquaculture, clean energy, oceans, environment, oil and gas etc...?

Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam Grete Lochen: In 1971, Norway together with other Nordic countries was among the first Western countries, which established diplomatic ties with Vietnam. 50 years of diplomatic relations have witnessed a good cooperation between Norway and Vietnam on a broad spectrum of areas. I am happy to see this relationship evolving throughout these years from a relationship based on development cooperation to equal partners and joint business interests. We have seen constructive political visits, with the most recent one being the visit by Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to Norway in 2019.

This year is an opportunity to not only look back on the quality of our cooperation but to look forward and enhance cooperation. Building on such a long history of relations, I believe Norway and Vietnam will continue working together, bilaterally, regionally and internationally through the ASEAN and the United Nations. The Covid-19 has shown us the importance of international solidarity and cooperation to solve global challenges such as pandemics, environment, climate change etc. A rule based international order is in the best interest of both Norway and Vietnam.

With regard to business cooperation, I see many opportunities to boost it and strengthen our business-to-business collaboration. Particularimportance will be accorded to cooperation in the fields of sustainable ocean economy, climate change, renewable energy including solar and offshore wind energy, LNG, marine aquaculture and circular economy.

Reporter:  Over the past 50 years, trade-investment has been regarded as one of the key pillars in Norway-Vietnam cooperation. However, this seems to be still modest and not yet commensurate to our potential. What would be the reasons for this in your opinion and how we can address them?

Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam Grete Lochen: In the pandemic context, I am happy to see a positive development in our trade relation with two-way trades increasing steadily over years but of course great potentials for further growth. I do hope that the free trade negotiations between EFTA countries (Norway, Switzerland, Iceland and Lichtenstein) and Vietnam soon will be finalized. It will definitely enhance trade and investment between our countries. Another noteworthy point is that, in addition to the investment and cooperation plans of individual Norwegian companies, the Government Pension Fund Global of Norway, one of the world’s largest funds has invested over USD 478 million in 43 Vietnamese companies. In addition thousands of Vietnamese seasonal farmers come to work in various Norwegian farms every summer, contributing to remittances to Vietnam as well as assisting Norwegian agriculture.

Norway is a small country with many small and medium sized businesses. They are in general careful in making any investment decisions. Norwegian businesses emphasize an approach based on sustainable development, environmental protection and implementation of Corporate Social Responsibility. All in all, I believe Norway’s and Norwegian companies’ experience could be of significant value for the sustainable development of Vietnam’s own industry in many sectors.

Since I arrived to Vietnam nearly 3 years ago, I have seen many positive developments and I am very optimistic about business cooperation between our two countries. In a strong competitive Vietnamese market we need to focus on our comparative advantages which mean the blue and green economy. Norway is very strong in the areas of renewable energy, LNG, fisheries/marine aquaculture and some aspects of the circular economy. I do see an increasing interest from Norwegian companies, especially from some of our big companies in the abovementioned areas to invest in Vietnam and work with local partners. They do have long term perspectives for their investments and want to contribute to the development of local human and production capacity as well.

Reporter:  Can you share with us the priorities and opportunities for cooperation between Norway and Vietnam in various international and regional forum particularly in the context that Norway started its seat on the UNSC from January this year?

Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam Grete Lochen: We are entering into an important year for both countries. Vietnam has successfully completed its first year in the UNSC. It is interesting and encouraging that Norway and Vietnam will work together on the UNSC in this year of our 50th jubilee.

The Norwegian Government will give priority in the Security Council to areas where Norway has experience and expertise. We will use the experience gained from many years of engagement in peace and reconciliation efforts to build bridges and to strengthen the Council’s conflict prevention and resolution efforts. The world needs more international cooperation and we are convinced that a well-functioning rules-based multilateral system, with the UN at its core, gives us the best chance of finding common solutions to our present and future global challenges.  Norway will cooperate closely with all members of the Security Council including Vietnam and will promote constructive cooperation. In addressing country situations on the Council’s agenda, Norway will focus in particular on four thematic areas: Peace diplomacy; Inclusion of women; Protection of civilians; and; Climate change and security.

In their phone talks last December, our Foreign Ministers have agreed to maintain and intensify suitable consultation mechanisms to share information and viewpoints on agenda items of the Security Council.. We look forward to upcoming activities not only in New York, but also here in Vietnam and regionally within the ASEAN framework in 2021.

Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam Grete Lochen  at an online conference in November, 2020

Reporter:  As Norway’s Ambassador to Vietnam, what is your personal plan as well as recommendations for 2021 in order to boost our bilateral ties?

Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam Grete Lochen: I would like to renew the commitments I made when I started my posting tenure in Vietnam todo my best to bring this relationship to new success and achievements. Such commitments become even stronger when we are celebrating a great milestone in our relationship. After nearly 3 years in Vietnam I am very much impressed and inspired by the strength of the Vietnamese people and your forward looking approach. Of course challenges and differences exist, but I’m quite optimistic that these can be solved through constructive dialogue. As an ambassador, I always stand ready to assist as much as I can to enhance our relations, including Norway-Vietnam business-to-business cooperation.

Building on the history of 50 years of diplomatic relations, with the good will from both countries, my dedicated team, and I, remain committed to play our part in achieving our goals for this year.  We look forward to working with our Vietnamese and international friends and partners, to make our world a better one, strengthen the firm foundations of multilateralism, solidarity, and the enduring principles of sustainable peace and development for all.  That is our resolution for 2021.

Reporter:  On the occasion of the Lunar New Year of Buffalo, would you like to send any messages to the readers of our Newspaper?

Norwegian Ambassador to Vietnam Grete Lochen: This is my third Tet in Vietnam. The New Year has come with uncertainties because the pandemic remains rampant all over the world. However, it does not stop us from hoping for a better year, a brighter future and an effective vaccine for all of us.

I wish the readers of the Communist Party of Vietnam Online Newspaper and Vietnamese people all the best for the Lunar New Year. May this Year of Buffalo bring you happiness, success and most importantly good health.

I look forward to this great year with interesting commemorative activities, which I can’t wait to share with you.

Happy New Year!

Reporter: Thank you, Ambassador!

Thu Lan - Tuyet Nhung