Prime Minister Trudeau delivers remarks to students at Ton Duc Thang University
As you know, I’m here for an official bilateral visit and will be heading to Danang tomorrow for the APEC Economic Leaders meeting. Yesterday in Hanoi, I had some really interesting meetings with officials including the General Secretary, the President, the Prime Minister, and the Chairwoman of the National Assembly.
But before that, I had an important discussion with civil society leaders where we talked about some of the challenges facing Vietnamese society including issues around freedom of expression. Now on this, as we know, Vietnam and Canada are very different countries and we do disagree on certain things. But even when we disagree, our dialogue must always be respectful, and I really believe that we can move the needle forward by challenging each other to be better and to do better. And that’s how we drive progress.
The key to having a constructive relationship lies in finding common ground. So with that in mind, what do we share? Well, for one, Canada and Vietnam understand that in the modern world, with an ever-changing and globally influenced economy, we need to work with other countries. And the obvious and most persuasive example of this is trade. On this front, Canada and Vietnam are already very strong partners. Last year we did over $5.5 billion worth of trade with one another, and that makes Vietnam our most important partner in the region.
Yesterday, we signed a Comprehensive Partnership Agreement that will allow us to work even more closely together on a number of issues, including trade and investment, development cooperation, and defence and security. And our people-to-people ties are especially strong. Canada is home to some 240,000 people of Vietnamese descent.
Canada and Vietnam did over $5.5 billion worth of trade with one another last year, and that now makes Vietnam our most important economic partner in the region. We have signed a Comprehensive Partnership Agreement that will allow us to work even more closely on a number of issues, including trade and investment, development cooperation, and defence and security. And our people‑to‑people ties are especially strong. Canada is home to some 240,000 people of Vietnamese descent.
But there is another area of common ground I’d like to delve into a bit more, and one that we see so clearly today: the value that our two countries place on education. Now I understand that there’s a pretty impressive cohort of Canadian students here at the University. I hear you. Students who have chosen to pursue a quality education while studying abroad. And likewise, Canadian colleges and universities are brimming with scholars from Vietnam. As bright young students yourselves, you understand the importance of experiencing other cultures as a way of expanding your world view. And of course, through education, you learn new ways of thinking and problem solving. But perhaps most importantly going to school teaches you about respecting diversity. Diversity of opinion, yes, but also diversity as it relates to our defining characteristics, like our background, our gender, our religion, our socioeconomic status.
In Canada, for example, we have a reputation as a pretty diverse and welcoming society. We’re not perfect, but there is a certain level of openness to Canadians that people mention everywhere I go. And I really think that that openness and that welcoming spirit comes from, among other things, our focus on education. By getting more kids in classrooms and by empowering our youth to learn, form opinions, and voice those opinions respectfully, we’ve fostered a society that doesn’t just allow for diversity and debate, we encourage it. So keep up with your studies. Sign up for exchanges. Take classes outside your faculty. And in doing so, I promise that you’ll learn a lot more than just the content of a course.
Now I know we want to get into the discussion, so I’ll close with this. Canada and Vietnam are partners. We have a relationship that is only getting stronger with time, and we must ensure that education remains a top priority going forward. You young people in this room, you may get told from time to time that you are the leaders of tomorrow, but I don’t want people to tell you that anymore. I don’t want you to think of yourselves as leaders of tomorrow because this world, your communities need you to be leaders today. What you do, the questions you ask, the actions you take in your school, in your community, at home, show that young people are already leaders, thinking about the big challenges the world faces and the opportunity you have to be part of solving those challenges. The more you realize that you can’t sit back and wait for other people to decide while you wait to grow old, but that your opinions, your input, your thoughtfulness, your energy and your solutions are needed by your neighbours, your community, your country and your world right now. Because you’re not just citizens of any one country. All of us are also citizens of the world because we are so interconnected. And those are some pretty awesome responsibilities, but I know that if you stick with it, I guarantee your education and your engagement will pay off in more ways than you can imagine, not just for you but for all of us.
So I am incredibly excited about what the future holds for you. I’m very excited about getting started in this discussion.
So thank you very much for your attention today. I look forward to our conversation.