Nov 07, 2020 / 10:24

Vietnam, Australia advance relations with three-pillar strategic action plan

The action plan lays the foundation for the upgrade to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

Vietnam and Australia have inked an action plan for the 2020-2023 period aiming to advance their relations to a desired comprehensive strategic partnership.

 Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and Australian Minister of Foreign and Trade Marise Payne at a video meeting on November 5. Photo: MOFA

The Plan of action, the third of its kind in the bilateral relations, would focus on three priority areas: enhancing economic engagement; deepening strategic, defense and security cooperation; and building knowledge and innovation partnerships.

The tightened cooperation was reached at an annual meeting between Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and Australian Minister of Foreign and Trade Marise Payne on November 5.

The two top diplomats discussed issues to further strengthen the partnership, including Covid-19 response and a post-pandemic recovery.

Ms. Marise Payne congratulated Vietnam on its successful management of the pandemic and reiterated Australia’s commitment to work together and with other ASEAN partners to provide access to safe and effective vaccines to the region.

Three-pillar Action Plan

The Plan of Action for the Strategic Partnership for the period of 2020-2023 was agreed by the two sides during Australia’s Prime Minister Scott Morrison’s official visit to Vietnam in August 2019.

Economic engagement

In August 2019, Vietnam and Australia's prime ministers agreed to develop an Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy with the aim of becoming top ten trade partners and doubling bilateral investment.

The strategy will solidify a shared commitment to trade liberalization and economic connectivity, and help both countries take advantage of emerging market opportunities and will include post Covid-19 economic recovery recommendations.

In 2019, two-way trade was valued at US$15.5 billion.

Vietnam was Australia’s 14th largest trading partner in 2019 and Australia was estimated to be Vietnam’s 14th largest trading partner in 2018, according to Australia’s Department of Foreign and Trade (DFAT).

Vietnam’s strong economic growth driven by export-oriented manufacturing and foreign direct investment and expanding middle-class have increased demand for imported goods, creating significant opportunities for Australian exporters of energy, dairy, meat, consumer goods, wheat and grains, machinery, and professional services.

The same trends have increased Vietnam’s demand for education and training services. The need for training in areas such as English language, business and management, and information technology remains high, especially in the major urban centers.

Australian companies are generally well-received in Vietnam. Australian education, agriculture and food exports all have a strong reputation in Vietnam. More broadly, Australia is regarded as a modern, technologically advanced, and friendly country located within Vietnam's immediate sphere of interest.

 Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh and Australian Minister of Foreign and Trade Marise Payne show respective signed Plan of Action documents. on November 5. Photo: MOFA

Strategic, defense and security cooperation

The two countries’ defense and security links continue to grow.

Formal defense relations between Australia and Vietnam were established in February 1998, with the opening of a Defense Attaché Office at the Australian Embassy in Hanoi in 1999. Vietnam’s first Defense Attaché to Australia commenced in September 2000.

In October 2010, Australia and Vietnam signed a bilateral MoU on defense cooperation at the inaugural ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting Plus held in Hanoi. The two countries also signed the Joint Vision Statement on Further Defense Cooperation in 2018 to bolster their defense ties.

Australia’s Defense Cooperation Program worth US$3.1 million in 2019-2020 focuses on peacekeeping, including cooperation on Women Peace and Security and support for Vietnam’s deployment to the UN Mission to South Sudan; training and education, including English language training; counter-terrorism cooperation; maritime security, including annual ship visits; and military medicine. Australia also cooperates closely with Vietnam in the ASEAN Regional Forum and ASEAN Defense Ministers’ Meeting-Plus.

Australia has a longstanding relationship with Vietnam on immigration, border security and law enforcement cooperation. Australia and Vietnam have enhanced coordination on operations across all transnational crime types, including child exploitation, money laundering and narcotics.

The Australian Federal Police has had a presence in Vietnam for over 20 years and maintains Law Enforcement Offices in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

Australia, in partnership with Vietnam’s Ministry of Public Security and RMIT University, deliver the Asia Region Law Enforcement Management Program and the Border Control and Management Program to strengthen regional cooperation among relevant agencies.

Knowledge and innovation partnerships

Australia is a leading education destination for Vietnamese students, with 26,050 Vietnamese students in Australia in 2019. Vietnam is Australia's fifth largest source of foreign students.

Australia collaborates on many education and training initiatives with Vietnam, including in quality assurance, qualification recognition and vocational education; facilitating institution-to-institution partnerships; and supporting vibrant Australian alumni associations.

The two countries first signed an MoU in 1994, which was renewed in October 2013. Under the MoU, there is a Joint Working Group on Education and Training.

To further strengthen collaboration in knowledge and innovation, Australia and Vietnam have agreed to establish a Vietnam-Australia center in Hanoi, drawing on Australian expertise to support Vietnam’s future leadership.

Through the Aus4Innovation Program, Australia and Vietnam are together exploring emerging areas of technology and digital transformation, trialing new models for partnerships between public and private sector institutions