The political and national defence-security relations between Vietnam and Australia have seen marked qualitative improvements over the past five years, a diplomat has said.
The two sides have shared viewpoints and stance on many issues, both bilateral and multilateral, Vietnamese Ambassador to Australia Nguyen Tat Thanh noted in an interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) on the occasion of the 5th anniversary of the bilateral strategic partnership (March 15, 2018).
They have maintained meetings and delegation exchanges, even amid the COVID-19 pandemic, held online or on the sidelines of international conferences, according to the ambassador.
In 2022 alone, the two sides coordinated in organising visits to Australia by National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue and chief of the Party Central Committee’s Commission for Internal Affairs Phan Dinh Trac, and the visit to Vietnam by Deputy Prime Minister and Defence Minister Richard Marles, he added.
Multilaterally, Australia has supported Vietnam’s membership at the United Nations Human Rights Council for 2023-2025, and the UNESCO’s Intergovernmental Committee for the Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage for the 2022-2026 term.
The countries are the co-chairs of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)-run Southeast Asia Regional Programme (SEARP) for 2022-2025.
Thanh said the bilateral cooperation in national defence and security has been promoted through strategic dialogues, highlighting Australia’s English-language training courses for Vietnamese military personnel and the country’s help in transporting servicemen and medical equipment of Vietnam’s field hospital to South Sudan for UN peacekeeping operations, among other activities.
The two countries have also cooperated fruitfully in crime combat, immigration management and illegal migration prevention, he continued.
Bilateral trade has posted spectacular growth, he said, adding that it increased 20% annually in the 2018-2022 period, reaching a record 15.7 billion USD last year, making Australia the seventh biggest trade partner of Vietnam, and Vietnam the 10th largest trade partner of Australia for the first time.
Australia has maintained its annual development assistance to Vietnam at more than 80 million AUD (53.49 million USD), even 92.8 million AUD in the 2022-2023 fiscal year.
It has paid attention to the work and holiday visa programme and is about to materialise the bilateral memorandum of understanding under the Australian Agriculture Visa Programme.
Most noteworthy, Australia helped Vietnam with 26.4 million doses of COVID-19 vaccines, ranking second among vaccine donors of the Southeast Asian nation.
The ambassador also highlighted partnerships in education and science-technology with a range of programmes, contributing to easing poverty, improving people’s living standards and women’s capacity, and bringing added values, especially in emerging, essential technologies.
Vietnam believes that the bilateral relations will experience more intensive and substantive developments, the ambassador said, expressing his hope that the newly-established social organisations like the Australia-Vietnam Policy Institute and the Vietnam-Sydney centre will play a role in raising understanding between peoples, businesses and scholars of the two countries.
Regarding the action programme implementing the strategic partnership for 2020-2023, Thanh said it has been rolled out well in all the three pillars of economic engagement, strategic and defence – security cooperation, and knowledge and innovation partnerships over the past two years.
The only shortcoming lies with the fact that the two countries have yet to bring into full play opportunities and fully implement commitments in the Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy (EEES) released on December 21, 2021, he said, suggesting the two sides organise the exchange of delegations of businesses and localities in a larger scale, and put in place the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) agreement after its upgrade, and new-generation free trade agreements.
According to the diplomat, the fruitful economic ties have created a foundation for the political relations to growth further, and the good political cooperation will contribute to expanding and deepening the bilateral trade and investment links.
Vietnam wishes that Australia will step up its support and cooperation to help the Southeast Asian nation gain successes in digital transformation and green transition, towards the knowledge-based economy and sustainable development, the ambassador stressed.
Therefore, Vietnam has suggested substantive and effective cooperation with the country in clean energy, green economy, digital transformation, high-quality agriculture and climate change response, he said, noting that the two sides have ample room to boost collaboration in these fields.
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