The Vietnam-Australia bilateral ties have recently seen dynamic, substantial and effective development, especially after the establishment of the Vietnam-Australia comprehensive partnership in 2009 and the signing of the Declaration on the Vietnam-Australia Enhanced Comprehensive Partnership in March 2015. Australia sees Vietnam as a key partner in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), highly values the role of Vietnam in ASEAN, and suggests the two countries upgrade their ties to strategic partnership.

In economic, trade and investment areas, Australia is now the eighth largest partner of Vietnam. The average annual growth rate of the two-way trade turnover increases by 7%, reaching USD 6.5 billion in 2017 (increasing by 22.2% compared to 2016). The export value from Vietnam to Australia stands at USD 520 million each year, with more focus on aquatic products, of which frozen shrimp accounts for 25%. Australia has started importing lychee, mango, and dragon fruits from Vietnam. At present, Australia has 412 investment projects in Vietnam with the total capital of USD 1.8 billion, ranking the 20th among 126 countries and territories with investment in Vietnam. On the other way, Vietnam has 44 direct investment projects in Australia with the total investment value of USD 387.1 million.

Photo: SGGP

Education is the area that has seen strong cooperation. Australia is now granting various types of scholarships, including both long-term and short-term, for Vietnamese learners. On average, 100 Vietnamese candidates receive scholarships a year; sometimes 400 scholarships are granted each year. At present, about 30,000 students and research candidates are following their study in Australia. There are now 18 education cooperation programs signed between higher education establishments of Vietnam and Australia.

Vietnam and Australia have also boosted cooperation in science, technology, and innovation areas. The two sides announced their program of Vietnam-Australia Innovation Partnership (Aus4Innovation) in November 2017. Australia has been supporting Vietnam to establish the “Climate Innovation Center” in Hanoi with the aim to support start-up projects in climate change and environment preservation.

The overseas Vietnamese community in Australia is now 300,000 strong, ranking the fifth among foreign communities in Australia.

In terms of regional and global cooperation, Vietnam and Australia have coordinated well at regional and global forums such as ASEAN, East Asia Summit (EAS), APEC, and the UN. The two sides have reached an agreement by which Vietnam will support Australia to run for a place in the UN Human Rights Council for the 2018-2020 term and Australia will support Vietnam to run for a slot in the UN Security Council for the 2020-2021 term and the Universal Postal Union (UPU) in the 2017-2021 term.

The ASEAN-Australia Special Summit scheduled for March 17 and 18 in Australia is the first summit meeting of the two sides. Themed “Enhancing security and prosperity in the region”, the summit is an initiative of Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull, reaffirming the commitment of Australia in boosting the ASEAN-Australia strategic partnership in the new period.

ASEAN and Australia established their diplomatic ties in 1974 and Australia is the first country to establish official relations with ASEAN in all the three areas of politics, economics and specialized cooperation.

In terms of politics and security, Australia has actively taken part in ASEAN-initiated forums and mechanisms in the region such as EAS, ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM+), Expanded ASEAN Maritime Forum (EAMF). It also supports the central role of ASEAN as well as ASEAN-led forums in the forming regional structure.

As for economic cooperation, Australia is an important economic-trade partner of ASEAN, as Australia is the seventh largest trade partner of ASEAN while ASEAN is the third largest trade partner of Australia. As per statistics of the Australian Foreign Affairs and Trade Ministry, the two-way ASEAN-Australia trade turnover reached nearly USD 73 billion in 2017.

Australia prioritizes the cultural and social area, as it is one of the most active partners in the management of natural disasters with ASEAN. More than AUD 100 million has been spent by Australia for five years now on enhancing cooperation in education and linking the people of Australia with those of ASEAN via the Colombo Plan.

In September 2015, Australia set up the ASEAN-Australia Council to strengthen cooperation between Australia and ASEAN via enhancing trade, education, science, arts and cultural exchanges.

In terms of development cooperation, the Government of Australia funds the ASEAN-Australian Economic Cooperation Program (AAECP) with the aim to boost cooperation between the two sides in prioritized areas of cooperation in the region. Australia has also confirmed the support for ASEAN to narrow the gap in and develop communities, realize the Master-plan of ASEAN Connection (MPAC) 2025 and the Work Plan III of the Initiative of ASEAN Integration (IAI WP3), and reduce poverty in the Mekong region.

We believe that the official visit of PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc to Australia and his participation in the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit this time will serve as an important benchmark contributing to enhancing the position of Vietnam. The visit will once more reaffirm the consistent policy of Vietnam that always attaches special attention to developing its relations with Australia and highly values and contributes to the ASEAN-Australia strategic partnership.

Written by the PAN Editorial Board

Translated by Huu Duong