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May 17, 2023 / 10:18

Australia aims for more economic prosperity with Vietnam and Southeast Asia

Australia’s future growth and prosperity is intrinsically tied to our region.

Australia’s two-way trade with ASEAN surpassed A$150 billion (US$100 billion) in financial year 2021-22, which is more than 14% of Australia’s overall trade. This is greater than our two-way trade with Japan or the United States.

 Nicholas Moore, Australia’s Special Envoy for Southeast Asia.

Given more than 65% of Southeast Asia’s population of 670 million people is currently under the age of 35, this young demographic base provides for a large, productive population to drive growth to 2040 and beyond.

With a middle class that currently exceeds more than 190 million people, the region is also increasing its consumption of high-value products and services, such as healthcare, food and beverages, and education. Australia needs to harness our skills, capability and investment to make the most of these opportunities for our mutual prosperity.

Since my appointment by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese as Special Envoy for Southeast Asia in November 2022, I have been leading development of the Australian Government’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040.

 Vietnam's President Vo Van Thuong welcomes Australia's Governor-General David Hurley in Hanoi on April 4. Photo: Embassy of Australia in Hanoi

This week I am in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, to learn from businesses and other important stakeholders about practical ways we can deepen our two-way trade and investment with Vietnam as well as our broader region.

The scale and pace of Vietnam’s economic transformation is remarkable. It is one of the fastest-growing economies in our region and is a modern, investment destination of choice.

Vietnam is also technologically-savvy and home to a growing number of start-ups. VNG – Vietnam’s first tech unicorn – shows the strong contribution Vietnam can make to the digital economy, as well its enormous talent base and entrepreneurial spirit.

VNG’s founder – Le Hong Minh – was an investment banker who studied at Melbourne’s Monash University. This year Nikkei Asia named his company as one of the 10 Asian companies to watch in 2023. Our people-to-people connections run deep, as there are many more Australian alumni across top Vietnamese companies.

As Vietnam expands its role in supply chains, export-oriented manufacturing and technological know-how, it can also leverage Australia’s strengths in agritech, education and skills, and renewable energy and resources. 

There have been strong investment contributions from Australian firms in Vietnam, such as through Telstra, LinFox, Bluescope Steel and SunRice, and from Vietnamese companies such as TH Group in Australia. There are significant opportunities to build further on these.

I know that’s why Australia and Vietnam already plan become top ten trading partners and double two-way investment though the Australia-Vietnam Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy.

 Vietnam's Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh (R) receives Australia's Minister of Trade and Tourism Don Farrell on April 17. Photo: VGP

Australia is a reliable supplier of the services and raw materials to Vietnamese producers, and Australian consumers enjoy Vietnam’s high-quality products. For example, Australian cotton, wheat and barley support Vietnam’s garments, bread, noodles, and a thriving brewing industry.

Education continues to be a significant component of our relations. More than 80,000 Vietnamese students have studied in Australia and RMIT University was the first, foreign university in Vietnam.

Australia’s universities consistently rank among the world’s best and are a vast resource of research and innovation. These are a good example of how Australia is working with Vietnam, and the region broadly, to ensure we have skills and expertise to face the future together.

I am confident there is much more we can do together with Vietnam and the region.

We need to address trade and investment barriers, as well as create and fulfill opportunities. With diversification being the key pillar to Australia’s trade and investment strategy – like Vietnam – we have a shared interest in expanding our partnerships on both a bilateral and regional level.

This is why Australia is invested in the region. Because we know that together, we can build strong, long-term, two-way investment relationships, for our shared interests and economic security. And this is what the Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040 seeks to capitalise on.

Nicholas Moore, Australia’s Special Envoy for Southeast Asia