The 26th United Nations Climate Change Conference of the Parties (COP26) was held in Glasgow in the United Kingdom. As many as 30,000 delegates from across the globe including over 100 national leaders arrived for the event and many countries announced commitments towards the goals of the Paris Agreement and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Prior to the event, COP26 was being labeled as the “last best chance” to address the rapid and catastrophic impact of climate change, restore nature, and armor it with proactive initiatives so that future generations are able to enjoy and live happily the earth planet.

In his remarks at the COP26 Prime Minister Chinh conveyed that Vietnam is “making every effort to respond to climate change and foster economic development to grow and ensure an ever-better life for its people” He also endorsed “global solidarity” to respond to climate change as also announced that his country is ready to work to with the international community in the fight against climate change. Furthermore, Prime Minister Chinh emphasised that science and technology should be leveraged to transition to a “green, circular, sustainable, inclusive, and humanistic economy” as also ensure that no one is left behind.

COP16 was also an occasion for the State leaders to engage in person with their counterparts given that their past meetings have been through the virtual platforms due to the COVID-19 pandemic. On the sidelines of COP-26, Prime Minister Chinh met up with US President Biden and the two leaders appreciated the strengthened relations between their countries and the continued efforts by both sides to develop more effective and stable relations. President Biden praised Vietnam’s proactive participation and strong commitment at COP26, especially its commitment to “target net zero emissions, determination to respond to climate change and transform to a green and circular economy”. In this context, two leaders agreed to cooperate in terms of finance and technologies to solve climate change issues.

Vietnam Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh also had a meeting with Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom as part of a working visit. Both leaders discussed issues to bolster the 2010 Vietnam – UK strategic partnership. Last year in December, both sides signed free trade agreement that came into effect in May 2021. The bilateral trade in the first nine months of this year is nearly US$ 5 billion through it is down from over US$ 6.5 billion in 2019. Meanwhile, the UK is the 15th largest investor in Vietnam. Prime Minister Chinh’s other meetings included British businesses and corporations as also attendance at the forum on Vietnam’s business and investment environment to attract investors and international partners. It may be noted that the UK was conferred the status of Dialogue Partner at the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting.  

While returning from UK, Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh visited France on an official visit and had meeting with Prime Minister Jean Castex. It is useful to mention that France is “fourth-largest trading partner, second-largest investor, and a leading ODA donor for Vietnam in the EU” and currently there are 605 projects valued at US$ 3.6 billion USD in operation. The Vietnam-France strategic partnership has made great strides and both sides will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of their diplomatic relations and 10 years of their strategic partnership in 2023.

At the level of the EU, wherein France is an important Member State, the 2020 EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement (EVFTA), has created “great opportunities for economic and trade cooperation between Vietnam and France” and Vietnam’s trade with the EU has increased by more than 18% over the years since the agreement came into force. Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh will also like to “utilise the agreement’s advantages to bring many commodities of strength of Vietnam to the French market, such as textiles, footwear, agricultural products and seafood” and keep up with the development trend of the European and French markets.

The bilateral exchanges between Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and his British and French counterparts largely focused on COVID 19 vaccine, trade and investments, but issues concerning China’s assertiveness in the East Sea (South China Sea) and the Indo-Pacific came up during Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh’s meeting with Prime Minister Jean Castex.  Both leaders reaffirmed “full respect for the 1982 United Nations on Convention on the Laws of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the peaceful settlement of disputes, refraining from acts that use or threat to use force” and the critical “importance of maintaining safety and freedom of navigation and aviation in all seas and oceans, especially in the East Sea, on the basis of abiding by principles of international law”. It is worth noting that both the UK and France have announced their respective Indo-Pacific strategies and their navies are operating in these waters.

Views expressed by the author are personal and need not reflect or represent the views of Centre for Public Policy Research.

Dr Vijay Sakhuja
Dr Vijay Sakhuja
Dr Vijay Sakhuja is Honorary Distinguished Fellow with CPPR and associated with our Centre for Strategic Studies. Dr. Sakhuja, a former Indian Navy officer, is also former Director, National Maritime Foundation, New Delhi. He earned his MPhil and PhD from the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi. He specializes in issues of national security and public policy, particularly in the context of ocean affairs, geopolitics, Climate Change, Arctic, Blue Economy and 4th Industrial Revolution Technologies.

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