Working side-by-side with Vietnam

February 05, 2022 | 10:00
I have had a long personal and professional association with Vietnam having first been here from 1993 to 1995 as a junior diplomat and then as Ambassador since July 2019. It has been a privilege for me to serve in Vietnam twice in my career and, as I start the final six months of my tenure as Ambassador, I am pleased that Australia’s partnership with Vietnam continues to grow.
Working side-by-side with Vietnam
Robyn Mudie - Australian Ambassador to Vietnam

The strength of our relationship is evident to even the most casual observer. In just the past two years, I have seen engagement deepen across areas including economic, strategic and security, knowledge and innovation, defence, and education. Based on our longstanding links, our wide network of relationships and the consistency of our engagement over the past decades, we have been able to deliver on our strategic partnership and maintain the positive trajectory of our bilateral relationship.

Throughout the pandemic, Australia has worked side-by-side with Vietnam, supporting the COVID-19 vaccine rollout and focusing on economic recovery. It has been wonderful to see the rapidly growing vaccine coverage in Vietnam, and I am proud of Australia’s contribution to these efforts. Australia has committed to share 7.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with Vietnam with almost 5.6 million doses delivered to date.

Along with this, through a AU$13.5 million ($9.8 million) partnership with UNICEF, we are supporting the purchase of cold chain equipment and refrigerated trucks, training of healthcare workers, communications campaigns, and implementation and monitoring of the vaccine rollout in cities and provinces across the country.

A highlight for me in 2021 was seeing over 1,900 refrigerators arrive in Vietnam, purchased by UNICEF with Australia’s support. These have now been distributed to communes in remote and mountainous areas to enable cold storage of COVID-19 vaccine doses, as well as vaccines for routine childhood immunisations. This contribution will strengthen Vietnam’s healthcare system, not just to respond to the pandemic, but well into the future.

This year, I look forward to seeing more achievements under the vaccine programme. Australia will continue to work together with Vietnam to ensure access to safe and effective vaccines, to help bolster our shared economic recovery and health security.

Working side-by-side with Vietnam
Ambassador Robyn Mudie and MPI Deputy Minister Tran Quoc Phuong

Crafting new goals

As we look to the economic needs of our two countries and focus on recovering from the pandemic, I can see enormous potential for Australia and Vietnam to take our trade and investment relationship even further.

It has been just over two years since our prime ministers agreed on a couple of new goals for Australia and Vietnam – doubling investment and becoming top 10 trade partners – to drive forward the bilateral economic relationship. I am proud that together we finalised and publicly released the Vietnam-Australia Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy (EEES) in December 2021. The EEES is the vehicle that will help us achieve those two goals, and is the strongest reflection yet of the confidence we have in our shared economic future.

Australia and Vietnam have highly complementary economies. Australia is a reliable supplier of the services and raw materials that Vietnam’s exporters require, and Australian consumers enjoy Vietnam’s high-quality products in their homes and workplaces. The EEES will unlock significant opportunities for businesses in both our countries.

It is unique and the first of its kind for Vietnam and Australia – being jointly drafted and reflective of our mutual interests. It is a very practical document that outlines a series of mutually beneficial initiatives to deepen trade and investment links in key sectors, including across agriculture, education, energy, services, and the digital economy.

Australia and Vietnam also continue to build on the foundation of economic and trade architecture. I am pleased that both are original parties to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership which, after many years of negotiation, came into effect in January. It is the world’s largest free trade agreement and will build on and complement the existing architecture, strengthen regional value chains, and enhance economic integration. We are both hard at work to fully operationalise the agreement and realise the significant opportunities for Australian and Vietnamese businesses.

Working side-by-side with Vietnam
Ambassador Robyn Mudie and Rana Flowers from UNICEF

Joint ambitions

Another key shared priority for our relationship is climate change and energy transition. Australia and Vietnam share a focus on developing practical, scalable solutions to reach net zero, while partnering with other countries to decarbonise and support the growth of our economies. At COP26, both Australia and Vietnam committed to moving towards net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 and our prime ministers released a joint statement on practical climate change action.

We know that the energy transition for both our countries will not be easy. For Vietnam in particular, it will require a dramatic transformation across the economy. As such, Vietnam is going to need substantial assistance to make the transition. Australia is committed to working in a practical way to support Vietnam to make this transition, including leveraging our existing development cooperation programme, identifying new technology-based solutions, and helping Vietnam mobilise the finance it needs to help it meet its ambitious targets.

I am excited about the potential to further enhance our economic relationship in 2022, increase opportunities for business, and support our recovery from the ongoing pandemic. Through the EEES, our joint commitment to free and open regional and global trade, and our practical cooperation to reach net zero emissions, Australia and Vietnam are on a shared path towards inclusive and sustainable economic growth.

Vietnam’s story of growth and development is an inspiration. It shows how a country can achieve remarkable results when it combines vision, resilience, determination, and creativity. These are the qualities I have always admired most about the Vietnamese people.

As Australian Ambassador, I have been very proud to play my part in strengthening and expanding the relationship between our countries. This unique and extraordinary country will always have a special place in my heart.

By Robyn Mudie

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