Bringing Vietnam – Australia ties to new development page hinh anh 1
Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh (R) and his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese. (Photo: VNA)

Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and his spouse are attending the ASEAN – Australia Special Summit commemorating the 50th anniversary of their dialogue relations, and pay an official visit to Australia from March 5 at the invitation of Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese.

The visit will help consolidate the friendship and promote multi-faceted cooperation between the two countries while bringing the bilateral relations to a new development page.

Strategic partnership on robust development

Since the bilateral diplomatic relations were set up in 1973, Vietnam and Australia have built a strong and enduring relationship with diverse and increasing interests. With the ties unceasingly growing stronger, Vietnam has been among the most important partners of Australia.

The Vietnam-Australia Comprehensive Partnership was announced in 2009 and then enhanced in 2015. Based on the grounds and to bolster their cooperation in a deeper and more practical manner, the two countries upgraded their ties to a Strategic Partnership in March 2018, and continue heading towards a new high in the bilateral relations.

Former Governor-General of Australia Peter Cosgrove said his country is proud to have Vietnam as a friend, while Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs Penny Wong affirmed that Australia wants to be a better partner of Vietnam.

According to Vietnamese Ambassador to Australia Nguyen Tat Thanh, it is worth appreciating that Australia proactively developed relations with Vietnam in the 1980s – the time when Vietnam was facing tough challenges.

Besides providing official development assistance (ODA) for Vietnam since 1973, Australia helped Vietnam develop essential infrastructure, including the 500kV North-South power transmission line, My Thuan and Cao Lanh bridges, and modern telecommunications and banking systems.

In recent years, the bilateral relations have expanded to various areas, from security, defence, trade, and investment to education, tourism, and innovation. The results have been recorded through strong commitments of high-level leaders from both countries as well as visits at all levels.

The exchange of high-level delegations and high-level contacts have been maintained, with notable ones being the phone talks between Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in 2022 and their meeting on the sidelines of the 41st ASEAN Summits in Cambodia, the official visit to Australia by Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son in 2022, and a state visit to Vietnam by Governor-General David Hurley in 2023.

Both countries have flexibly maintained their bilateral cooperation mechanisms, including such important ones as the annual meetings between prime ministers, foreign ministers, and defence ministers and the conference on economic partners and cooperation between localities.

Regarding multilateral cooperation, the two countries have well cooperated at regional and international forums like the United Nations (UN), the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Australia has supported Vietnam’s membership at the UN Human Rights Council during the 2023-2025 tenure and the UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of the Intangible Cultural Heritage for the 2022-2026 tenure. Besides, they have worked closely with each other as they are co-chairing the OECD Southeast Asia Regional Programme (SEARP).

Effective cooperation in economy, trade, others

Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Andrew Goledzinowski said that there are bright spots in the Vietnam-Australia relations, with trade being an outstanding example.

Trade cooperation has developed rapidly in recent years, he said, describing it as a demonstration for Vietnam’s prosperity as well as the complementary nature of the two economies.

Last year, two-way trade reached nearly 14 billion USD, with Vietnam’s export being 5.2 billion USD and import 8.5 billion USD, statistics from the General Department of Vietnam Customs showed.

According to the Asia-African Market Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Vietnam and Australia were the 10th largest trade partners of each other in 2023. Particularly, Australia is currently an important supplier for Vietnam’s industrial and energy sectors like coal (45.77% of Vietnam’s coal import) and ore and other minerals (44.78%).

As of January 2024, Australia was the 20th largest FDI investor in Vietnam with more than 2 billion USD in 630 projects.

Head of the Vietnamese trade office in Australia Nguyen Phu Hoa said bilateral trade was on a good recovery and positive growth in January, with total trade turnover surging 43.4% year-on-year to 1.25 billion USD in the month.

Australia has opened its door to Vietnamese lychee, mango, dragon fruit, longan, and frozen shrimp. Vietnam is working to get license to sell passion fruit, rambutan, star apple, fresh coconut, durian, and fresh shrimp to Australia.

In the meantime, Australia is proposing Vietnam to import its deer and kangaroo meat, honey, peach, and nectarine.

The two countries hold great trade prospects as they are members of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).
Additionally, Vietnam and Australia has announced and carried out an economic strategy to strengthen trade and investment during 2021-2025, bringing their burgeoning ties in commerce into sharp focus.

Regarding ODA, Australia has provided Vietnam with a stable fund. Over the past 50 years since the establishment of the bilateral ties, Australia's ODA to Vietnam has totaled 3 billion AUD (1.95 billion USD). In the fiscal year 2022-2023, its ODA for Vietnam increased 18% - the largest expansion since 2015.

Most of the funding is for innovation, support for development, and effective use of skilled workers, economic empowerment for women, COVID-19 response, and facilitation for and attraction of the private sector to engage in socio-economic development.

Furthermore, cooperation in security, defence, education-training, labour, and agriculture has been thriving. Notably, the two countries are working to promote collaboration in such new areas as digital transformation and energy transition.

Australia began to present scholarships to Vietnamese students from February 1975. Some 31,000 Vietnamese students and researchers are pursuing their study in the country.

The two countries have worked together in the fields of peacekeeping, border security, and law enforcement, among others to prevent cross-border crimes.

Vietnam and Australia, boasting strengths in agriculture, signed a cooperation agreement on agricultural labourers in 2022, under which an additional 1,000 Vietnamese labourers are expected to work in Australia annually.

Emeritus Professor Hal Hill of the Crawford School, College of Asia and the Pacific, Australian National University, said that Vietnam and Australia are enjoying close ties, elaborating the Vietnamese community in Australia is relatively large, while bilateral trade has been growing strongly over the recent past.

He noted that Australia views Vietnam as an economic “star” in Asia. From one of the world’s poorest countries in the 1980s, since the Doi moi (Renewal) policy was implemented, especially in this century, Vietnam has emerged as one of the fastest-growing economies in Asia. Besides, from a low-income nation, it has become a middle-income economy attractive to many international investors.

In the future, the Southeast Asian nation is likely to welcome more investors from around the world, he opined, expressing his optimism about the future of its economy though challenges are still ahead.

Hal Hill added that to him, Vietnam is one of highly impressive success stories.

Speaking highly of the development of Vietnam and its relations with Australia, Greg Earl, former member of the Australia - ASEAN Council and former Southeast Asia correspondent at The Australian Financial Review, perceived that the two countries’ relations form one of the most outstanding chapters of Australia’s foreign policy to the region in recent years.

Vietnam and Australia have found out more space for cooperation in both security and economic affairs, with their cooperation speed much higher than many people’s predictions. Vietnam has established itself as a stable and trustworthy diplomatic partner, he went on.

The Vietnamese community in Australia has also played a major role in promoting bilateral cooperation and enhancing the two countries’ cohesion, the expert said.

To maintain and further bolster the current sound relations, Earl suggested that the two countries step up bilateral connections as well as ASEAN - Australia frameworks to strengthen economic and security ties. They should also foster people-to-people exchanges in the fields of education and employment.

Basing on the areas both countries are interested in, they should form reciprocal economic links like the connections Australia has had with North Asian countries, according to the expert./VNS