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David Cameron becomes first British prime minister to visit Vietnam

David Cameron has become the first serving British prime minister to visit Vietnam after arriving in the Communist country on a mission to boost trade and tackle human trafficking.

The Prime Minister arrived in Hanoi for talks with the leaders of the country, which has one of the fastest-growing economies in the world.

The visit, 40 years after the end of the Vietnam war, marked a milestone in the relationship between the UK and the south-east Asian country, Mr Cameron said.

"I'm excited to be visiting Vietnam, the first serving British prime minister ever to do so," Mr Cameron said.

"This is a country that has transformed itself in recent years and which is still on the rise, with a vibrant, young population and an expanding middle class.

"And that means opportunity for Britain and British businesses, particularly in advanced engineering, infrastructure development, banking and financial services."

He said the visit was a chance to build a "better and stronger relationship" with the Vietnamese government, including on work to tackle climate change and human trafficking.

"Today is a milestone in our relationship," he said.

Mr Cameron signalled fresh action to tackle the problem of human trafficking from Vietnam to the UK, often at the hands of organised gangs who ruthlessly exploit child victims by forcing them in to servitude.

Vietnam is one of the main source countries for people trafficked to the UK, and anti-slavery commissioner Kevin Hyland will visit on a fact-finding mission later this year to look at what more can be done to work with the authorities there.

Extra assistance on offer includes funding for an additional shelter for survivors of trafficking, particularly women or children, help to prevent people falling into the grips of people smugglers in the first place and an information campaign in provinces of Vietnam where it is a particular concern.

Mr Hyland said the focus of his visit later this year would be on "improved efforts to prevent these crimes from ever occurring in the first place" with work in the rural areas of Vietnam where many victims originate, as well as efforts to tackle the gangs already operating in the UK.

"Vietnamese criminal gangs operating across the UK are ruthlessly exploiting Vietnamese children in multiple ways to maximise the profit that can be gained from them," he said.

"This includes being exploited in forced labour in cannabis factories and nail bars, as well as an increasingly diverse range of exploitative activities, as the gangs move in to other areas of crime."

In a sign of the new business links being forged between the UK and Vietnam, Rolls-Royce signed a £340 million deal to maintain Vietnam Airlines' fleet of Airbus A350 aircraft.

The carrier is the first in Asia to receive the A350 and the first of its 14 aircraft was launched earlier this month.

Mr Cameron, who inspected one of the aircraft at its hangar in Hanoi, said: "I'm excited to be here. This is a country with 90 million people, the economy has almost quadrupled over the last 20 years.

"There are big opportunities for British investment and British jobs.

"We are standing in front of an aeroplane whose wings are made in Wales, the engines are made in Derby, the landing gear is made in Bristol. These are great British exports and I want to see more of them."

Earlier, in Singapore, the Prime Minister agreed to increase co-operation on tackling piracy in vital shipping routes and joint action to improve cyber security.

At a joint press conference with his Singaporean counterpart Lee Hsien Loong the Prime Minister said: "We have agreed to provide further assistance to the Singaporean Navy as it works with partners in the region to tackle the threat from piracy and improve maritime security.

"With 15% of all UK shipping passing through the Malacca and Singapore Straits, it is in our national interest to work with Singapore on this."

Downing Street said the UK will deploy a military expert to the Singaporean navy's "information fusion centre" to help with their counter-piracy efforts.

The two countries have agreed to double to £2.4 million over three years the amount spent on joint research on cyber security.

Mr Cameron said: "It will provide for further collaboration between our two nations' emergency response teams and we will also develop the cyber professionals of the future through online competitions and learning programmes."


From Belfast Telegraph