Saturday, April 4, 2020

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Time to bolster ties between Australia and Vietnam

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung will pay an official visit to Australia tomorrow at the invitation of Tony Abbott.

Vietnam and Australia established diplomatic relations on February 26, 1973. In 2009, the two countries established a comprehensive partnership to strengthen their growing ties. Bilateral relations have become truly comprehensive, expanding beyond traditional areas to include defence and security, law-enforcement and science and technology co-operation.

As Foreign Minister Julie Bishop summed up on the occasion of 40 years of Australia-Vietnam relations, the two countries “have engaged constructively in defence, security, and law-enforcement, and we are building a strong trade and investment relationship underpinned by our complementary economies”.

Political ties have been strengthened through frequent exchanges across a wide range of issues. The two governments have supported each other at multilateral forums and have closely co-ordinated their fights against illegal drugs, money laundering, human trafficking, and smuggling.

Vietnam and Australia are now more connected economically. Vietnam is Australia’s fastest-growing trading partner among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Australian exports to Vietnam have grown by 16 per cent annually for the past decade. Two-way trade increased from US$32.3 million in 1990 to US$6 billion last year. Australian foreign direct investment to Vietnam reached US$1.65bn last year.

Australia is an important development partner for Vietnam. Australia helped finance the My Thuan bridge in Tien Giang province and is assisting in the construction of the Cao Lanh bridge in Dong Thap province. These projects significantly contribute to the local economy.

People-to-people contacts lie at the heart of bilateral relations. Australia is home to a community of 300,000 Vietnamese. An estimated 230,000 Australians visit Vietnam each year. Australia has overtaken its peers as the most popular destination for education. About 30,000 Vietnamese students filled Australian classrooms this year.

As a result of the commitment of both governments, Australia-Vietnam relations are on a better footing than ever. However, much needs to be done for both countries to cope with new transformations in the Indo-Pacific region.

Since the global financial crisis, the region has been faced with greater uncertainties associated with power politics and increasingly serious non-traditional security challenges such as natural disasters, environmental degradation, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and climate change. The recovery of the global economy remains fragile.

Against this backdrop, we need to further strengthen our partnership to weather adverse circumstances.

Vietnam and Australia have common interests in a peaceful, prosperous and stable Indo-Pacific region. We share a vision that all are better and safer under a rules-based order.

Vietnam and Australia are committed to regular dialogues and close co-ordination to deal with these new challenges.

The two nations will work together in all regional and international institutions, including the East Asia Summit, Asia-Pacific Economic Co-operation forum, ASEAN and the UN, to develop strong mechanisms that can properly manage interstate relations and effectively address non-traditional security threats.

In addition, there is also enormous scope for expanding linkages between our complementary economies. Australia is a good source of capital and know-how that can assist Vietnam restructure its economy and train its workforce. Vietnam, with a population of 90 million, is an emerging market and a production base for Australia and the region. Both countries can surely make one another more prosperous if this potential is unleashed.

Vietnam and Australia are committed to fostering the private sector, trade liberalisation, and trans-national entrepreneurship. We will continue to work together to put in place the Trans-Pacific Partnership and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership as the main vehicles for promoting cross-border trade and investment.

Vietnam will continue to use Australia’s development assistance to develop its human resources, improve market institutions, and develop infrastructure. This aid is important for Vietnam’s integration into the regional and global economy.

Finally, we will continue to deepen people-to-people ties through student, worker, and professional exchanges; university linkages; and tourism.

The time is now ripe to enhance our comprehensive partnership for the brighter future of both nations.

Luong Thanh Nghi is Vietnam’s ambassador to Australia

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