Vietnam & Australia establish Strategic Partnership

PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc (L) and PM Malcolm Turnbull signed a joint statement on the establishment of the Vietnam-Australia Strategic Partnership on March 15 (Photo: VNA)
PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc (L) and PM Malcolm Turnbull signed a joint statement on the establishment of the Vietnam-Australia Strategic Partnership on March 15 (Photo: VNA)

Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull signed a joint statement on the establishment of the Vietnam-Australia Strategic Partnership following talks in Canberra on March 15, the Vietnam News Agency reports.

Prime Minister Phuc is in Australia for an official visit and to attend the ASEAN-Australia Summit between March 14 and 18 at the invitation of Prime Minister Turnbull.

The Australian Prime Minister expressed his pleasure at hosting his Vietnamese counterpart following their previous meeting at the APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting in Da Nang last November and at a time when the two are celebrating the 45th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

He said he has been impressed by the Vietnamese Government’s efforts in socioeconomic development and international integration and especially the country’s successful holding of the APEC Year 2017.

Prime Minister Phuc congratulated Australia on its important achievements in recent years, especially economically, noting his belief that the country will continue to grow in a sustainable and prosperous manner with greater role and profile in the region and the world.

Both sides expressed their delight at the strong and substantial progress of the partnership over the last 45 years, with strengthened political trust and the sharing of strategic interests, which have paved the way for them to lift bilateral ties to a strategic partnership.

They agreed to increase the exchange of high-level delegations at the State, government and parliamentary levels as well as people-to-people contacts.

In order to implement the bilateral strategic partnership dynamically and practically, the two sides agreed to set up contact mechanisms at the level of foreign, defense and economic ministers while maintaining existing bilateral cooperation mechanisms, such as the diplomatic and defense strategic dialogues, consular consultations, and dialogues on agriculture, education and science and technology.

They will continue to implement the Vietnam-Australia Plan of Action in the 2016-2019 period and create optimal conditions for localities in both countries to promote partnerships.

The two Prime Ministers lauded the effective and practical affiliation in defense and security, which showed strategic-level political trust, through activities in capacity building, English training, joint drills, information sharing, and cooperation between military forces, especially naval forces, as well as visits by Australian Royal Navy’s vessels to Vietnam.

Prime Minister Turnbull affirmed that Australia would expand its training assistance and support Vietnam in UN peacekeeping operations, initially by providing equipment and logistics services to the Vietnamese mission in South Sudan.

Both sides also agreed to enhance cooperation in coping with common security challenges, including terrorism, transnational crime, human trafficking, and illegal migration, thus ensuring security in each country and contributing to peace and stability in the region.

The two Prime Ministers expressed pleasure at the growth of two-way trade in recent years, which reached nearly $6.5 billion in 2017, up 7 per cent against 2016. Australia is now Vietnam’s eighth-largest trading partner while Vietnam is Australia’s 15th largest.

Both sides agreed to create maximum conditions for the intensive and comprehensive development of bilateral economic ties, increasing economic interests in bilateral relations on the basis of the complementary nature of the two economies.

Prime Minister Turnbull affirmed that Australia always welcomes and supports the import of qualified Vietnamese tropical fruit and fresh agricultural products and encourages close cooperation between the two countries’ authorized offices, associations and businesses in increasing product quality and accelerating import procedures, first of all for fresh Vietnamese shrimp and dragon fruit and later for other fruit such as longan, rambutan and star apple.

Both host and guest stressed the need to expand investment in each other’s fields of strength. Prime Minister Phuc asked Australia to encourage its businesses to invest in Vietnam in energy, infrastructure, telecommunications, the knowledge-based economy, and science and technology.

He spoke highly of Australia’s official development assistance (ODA) to Vietnam, notably the Cao Lanh Bridge project, which will be opened this year to mark the 45th anniversary of diplomatic ties.

He asked that Australia continue providing ODA, focusing on infrastructure, agriculture, rural development, climate change, high-quality human resources development, and e-government.

The two sides emphasized closer connectivity between the two peoples through education cooperation, cultural exchanges, and tourism development, which serve as a firm foundation for the bilateral Strategic Partnership at present and in the future.

They underlined the importance of education collaboration, with Australia pledging to increase the number of scholarships and to support Vietnam in official training and vocational training. They also agreed to boost links between their universities and training establishments.

The two expressed their delight at the increasing number of Vietnamese students in Australia. There are now some 30,000 Vietnamese students in the country, who have contributed to improving the quality of human resources and Vietnam’s socioeconomic development, together with 60,000 alumni.

The Australian leader said he has been impressed by bilateral tourism growth, with nearly 500,000 Australians visiting Vietnam in 2017. He appreciated Vietnam’s special policies on visas for Australian citizens.

The two agreed to encourage the opening of more direct air routes between the two countries’ major cities and to participate in the Vietnam-Australia Work and Holiday program.

Australia pledged to maintain its assistance to Vietnam in high-tech and organic agriculture, in the spirit of the Agricultural Partnership, and to support the implementation of the Vietnam-Australia Renovation Partnership Program.

Prime Minister Phuc took the occasion to ask the Australian Government to continue creating favorable conditions for the Vietnamese community.

The two leaders also exchanged views on regional and international issues. Prime Minister Phuc appreciated Australia’s support for Vietnam to successfully host the APEC Year 2017 and congratulated Australia on hosting the ASEAN-Australia Summit.

Prime Minister Turnbull reaffirmed that Australia supports the central role and unity of ASEAN. He hailed Prime Minister Phuc’s official visit and the upgrading of bilateral ties to a Strategic Partnership immediately ahead of the ASEAN-Australia Summit as a positive and significant contribution to the Summit and ASEAN-Australia relations.

The two sides agreed to continue their close and effective coordination at regional and international forums, including ASEAN, the East Asia Summit (EAS), and APEC.

Prime Minister Turnbull appreciated Vietnam’s role in pushing the recent signing of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in Chile.

He urged the two sides to closely coordinate with each other in the ratification and implementation of the pact, expressing his belief that the agreement would benefit its member countries while keeping the door open for the US and other countries to join at a later date.

Host and guest also reached consensus on the significance of ensuring peace, stability, security, and safety, and freedom of navigation and overflight in the East Sea, and settling disputes on the basis of international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). They also showed their support for the early conclusion of a legally-binding Code of Conduct in the East Sea (COC).

Prime Minister Phuc took the occasion to invite his Australian counterpart to soon pay a visit to Vietnam at an appropriate time.

After the talks, the two Prime Ministers witnessed the signing of four important documents, including an agreement between the Ministry of Education and Training and the Australian Department of Education and Training on educational cooperation between the two governments for the 2018-2023 period. The three others comprised a memorandum of understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs and the Australian Department of Education and Training on vocational education, an MoU between the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) on enhancing collaboration in science and technology, and an MoU between the Ministry of Science and Technology and the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research in the spheres of agriculture, forestry and fisheries.

The two Prime Ministers then met with the press on the outcomes of their talks.

Prime Minister Phuc stressed that the establishment of the strategic partnership has created an historic milestone in bilateral ties, helping deepen the two countries’ cooperation both bilaterally and multilaterally.

Prime Minister Turnbull affirmed that Vietnam and Australia will stand side-by-side in development within the framework of the Strategic Partnership as well as cooperative mechanisms in ASEAN and the CPTPP, for the sake of the two countries’ people and for security and prosperity in the region.

On the same day, the reprentatives of the two countries’ defense ministries signed a document recognizing the intention to enhance defense cooperation.