Elevated Australia-Vietnam friendship

July 22, 2021 | 12:06
Australia is currently one of Vietnam’s longest-standing strategic partners, with the two countries’ active participation in multifaceted free trade agreements, and an increasing number of Australian companies investing in Vietnam. Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment Dan Tehan discussed with VIR’s Celine Luu how this nation is increasing its strategic relations with Vietnam.

What has been achieved during your visit to Vietnam, and how can the economic relations between the two countries be strengthened?

Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment Dan Tehan
Australia’s Minister for Trade, Tourism, and Investment Dan Tehan

This is my first time in Vietnam and I have received a wonderful, warm welcome from everyone I’ve met, from President Nguyen Xuan Phuc and Deputy Prime Minister Pham Binh Minh, to Minister of Planning and Investment Nguyen Chi Dung, and Minister of Industry and Trade Nguyen Hong Dien, to name a few.

Everything that I’ve seen and heard is a real focus on ensuring that the pandemic does not adversely impact people’s health while maintaining positive economic growth. It is very much similar to the approach that we have taken in our country.

One of the first things to say is that both Vietnam and Australia have dealt with COVID-19 better than most countries in the world. When you look at the economic performance of both countries in dealing with the pandemic, the two countries have done outstanding jobs. Accordingly, health responses have also been very good.

The new Delta variant is causing serious problems, both here in Vietnam and in Australia. Our Prime Minister Scott Morrison wrote to the Vietnamese prime minister to offer 1.5 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines by the end of 2021 as a promise from our country to support Vietnam navigating the crisis.

These doses complement Australia’s $40 million package of support for Vietnam’s vaccine rollout, and I believe they will make an important contribution to Vietnam’s recovery from COVID-19. That is one of our commitments to enhance our strategic partnership and friendship between the two countries.

Vietnam and Australia are envisaged to enjoy flourishing economic ties thanks to multiple free trade agreements and the upcoming Australia-Vietnam Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy. How is the process coming along?

We’ve made a commitment and have agreed that we would look to finalise the Australia-Vietnam Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy by early October.

Initiatives discussed under the framework included formalising bilateral trade, energy, and mining cooperation talks, accelerating market access negotiations for agriculture trade, and digital economy and supply chain cooperation to support Vietnam’s Industry 4.0 agenda.

Australia’s trade relationship with Vietnam is one of our fastest-growing partnerships, expanding an average of 8.6 per cent a year for the last two decades. The forthcoming strategy will help exporters on both sides find new markets and customers, assisting our economic recovery from COVID-19.

I believe the bilateral relations would reach the level of strategic partnership after the deal, where Australia, as a long-standing partner of Vietnam, would seek to comprehensively improve relations.

In addition, Australia is currently a partner with Vietnam in three other free trade agreements, demonstrating a shared commitment to upholding a strong, transparent, and rules-based trading system that allows our businesses to work together and invest with certainty.

The two countries upgraded diplomatic relations to a strategic partnership in 2018 and will mark 50 years of diplomatic relations in February 2023.

Australia is currently one of Vietnam’s most important strategic partners. What is your insight about the current success of Australian companies investing here?

One of the most crucial strategies for Australian corporations in Vietnam and anywhere else is to invest in sustainability and value creation, not just for short-term returns. I am convinced Australian investors are also true believers in sustainable development, and they pursue and engage in long-term growth.

One of the great examples of that is RMIT, which we have invested in here over a long time in Vietnam. The Australian-headquartered university has educated many generations of the brightest students here in Vietnam. In terms of educational relationships, Vietnamese enrollment in Australian universities and colleges has witnessed a significant upward trajectory over the years.

Another example is ANZ, our multinational banking group which offers a wide range of financial services. ANZ has embarked on its strategic journey in Vietnam for over 20 years and successfully capitalised on significant opportunities in Vietnam’s vast potential in the banking landscape as a super-regional bank – a bank of global quality but with a regional focus.

Australian corporations are also making their inroads in the resources sector in Vietnam. We have an Australian company investing here to make to mine nickel and then capitalise on the downstream processing market, which hopefully will find its way into batteries that will go into your electronic vehicles.

Australia and Vietnam’s complimentary economies mean we are partners much more than competitors. Australia is a reliable supplier of the raw materials that Vietnam’s exporters require to develop domestic value chains and our education providers are helping train Vietnam’s future workforce. Australia’s logistics, engineering, finance, and design services are providing Vietnamese industries with the expertise it needs to get its products into markets around the globe.

By Celine Luu

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