Giles Lever, UK Ambassador to Vietnam

Giles Lever

British Ambassador to Vietnam

Part of UK in Vietnam

24th January 2017 Hanoi, Vietnam

My ambitions and commitments for 2017

Happy new year to all of you! That’s something I expect to be saying for most of this month: the buzz of welcoming in a new calendar year will barely have worn off before it’s time to celebrate the lunar new year – the Year of the Rooster – in late January.

In the west, the new year is a time for making resolutions about what you want to do, or do better, in the next 12 months (sometimes we even keep them!) In the spirit of transparency, I thought I’d share my ambitions and commitments for 2017. Some are very much about what we want to achieve as the whole UKinVietnam team; others are more personal.

  1. Get more British companies into Vietnam. British investments here are growing – we ranked 5th in 2015 – but there is still huge untapped potential for British goods and services in a range of sectors from food and drink, to education, to financial services. Vietnam is exactly the sort of emerging economy we need to be trading more with in a post-Brexit world; as the Prime Minister said in her speech of 17 January, we need to rediscover our role as a great global trading nation. My team and I will be working hard to highlight the opportunities, and to help British companies succeed in the market.
  1. Support progress towards entry-into-force of the EU-Vietnam Free Trade Agreement. This might come as a surprise to some, given the result of the Brexit referendum. But the UK will continue to be a strong advocate for global free trade. And while we remain a member of the EU, that includes support for FTAs-in-progress with partners such as Vietnam. In parallel, of course, we want to avoid disruption in our trade relationship with Vietnam after Brexit happens. Coming to an understanding on that issue with the Vietnamese government will be a central theme for us in 2017.
  1. Strengthen our cooperation on the illegal wildlife trade. Vietnam’s successful hosting of the Hanoi Conference in November, with UK support, was a great example of our two countries working together on a global challenge. And Prince William’s walkabout in Hanoi’s Old Quarter was one of the stand-out images of the year. But there’s a lot more to do. Elephant and rhino numbers are still dropping fast. I hope we can make 2017 the year when falling demand for illegal wildlife products in Vietnam, and stronger action against the criminal networks involved, helps to change that trend.

    The Duke of Cambridge at Hanoi Conference on Illegal Wildlife Trade
  2. Get more Vietnamese students coming to the UK, especially from the south. Despite what many people think, British university education isn’t just top-quality, it’s competitive on price as well, and there is no limit on the numbers of foreign students coming to good universities. We’ll be trying to change (mis)perceptions about some of these issues in 2017…
  3. …as well as encouraging more British universities to look at forming local partnerships with Vietnamese counterparts.
  4. Even greater ambition and impact in our project work. I’m really proud of our success in 2016 in rolling out new technical assistance projects in areas such as intellectual property, commercial arbitration, anti-corruption, capital markets, low-carbon growth and youth participation in politics. We’ll be looking to do even more in 2017 – watch this space.
  5. Keep building our young bilateral Defence relationship. These are uncertain times. Defence diplomacy matters. Promoting a better mutual understanding between our armed forces, exchanging military experience and looking for opportunities to partner on areas of mutual interest, such as peacekeeping or military medicine, all help contribute to regional and international stability.
  6. Provide consular assistance to fewer British visitors to Vietnam – because fewer people need our help, having read our Travel Advice in advance and planned for a safe and trouble-free holiday. (But for those who really do need our help, to provide the most professional and supportive service possible.)
  7. Explore even more of this amazing country. Even though I’ve spent seven years of my professional life here, I still feel there’s so much of Vietnam left to see and learn about – whether that’s culture, scenery, or food and drink. Having ambassadors who really know and understand the country they’re accredited to is one of the main themes of the FCO’s new personnel strategy. And when it comes to Vietnam, it’s a challenge I’m happy to take on.

    Ambassadors to Vietnam at Son Doong
    Ambassadors to Vietnam at Son Doong
  8. Improve my Vietnamese accent! Even though I can make myself understood in media interviews, hearing my strange foreign accent when I watch the playback always makes me cringe. Must try harder.
  9. Keep on running. Hitting the trails in the hills just outside Hanoi at the weekends keeps me refreshed and energised for work, and provides valuable thinking time. This year, my main running aim will again be the 70km Vietnam Mountain Marathon in Sapa – if only I could turn last year’s 4th place into a medal place this year…
    Finishing 70km of Vietnam Mountain Marathon in Sapa

    I wish all of you health and happiness in 2017, and every success with your own new year’s resolutions!

2 comments on “My ambitions and commitments for 2017

  1. Dear Mr Lever,
    I was a close friend of Patricia Loseby in HK. I visited her in Sussex where she was well kept, and died a few days later. She had a book of photos given to her and her parents by Ho Chi Minh to celebrate their 1960 visit. I wondered if you had also seen the original? I would be pleased if I could see the copies of them.
    Yours sincerely,
    Charles Dickson

Comments are closed.

About Giles Lever

I’ve been ambassador to Vietnam since July 2014. It’s a great privilege to serve as ambassador anywhere, but I’m particularly delighted to be back working for British interests in a…

I’ve been ambassador to Vietnam since July 2014. It’s a great privilege to serve as ambassador anywhere, but I’m particularly delighted to be back working for British interests in a country and a region I know well.

My very first job in the FCO, in 1991, was in the Southeast Asia Department, and that was followed by a posting to Vietnam from 1993-97 – an exciting time, as the “doi moi” process of economic reform and opening up gathered pace.

East Asia has been a bit of a theme in my career, as I also worked at the British Embassy in Tokyo from 2002-2006 (preceded by two years learning Japanese). But I’ve also been fortunate enough to work on a lot of other interesting regions and issues, including on the Middle East and North Africa, international development, and arms control/security. Immediately before coming back to Hanoi, I was Deputy High Commissioner in Abuja, Nigeria.

Outside of work, when I have time, I like running, reading, exploring, and trying to stay in touch from afar with the fortunes of Bolton Wanderers FC. Many of my Vietnamese friends love Premier League football, and are invariably disappointed to hear that the team I support is not in the Premiership!

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