The two-day visit to Vietnam starting on June 3 by Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese indicates that Australia attaches great importance to and desires to further boost ties with the nation.
This marks PM Albanese’s first visit to the country in his capacity as Australian PM. In doing so, he is the third Australian PM to make an official visit to the nation since both sides moved to establish diplomatic relations in February, 1973.
This comes after Paul Keating became the first Australian PM to officially visit the nation in April, 1994, with the second official visit to Vietnam being made by PM Scott Morrison in August, 2019.
In the announcement regarding the trip, PM Albanese affirmed that Vietnam is becoming an increasingly important economic and strategic partner for Australia in Southeast Asia, with the official visit celebrating the 50th anniversary of diplomatic ties between the two countries. It also serves as a platform to agree on new areas of co-operation in economics, trade, and other fields in a bid to make the two countries’ relations stronger in the future.
In a recent interview granted to a VOV correspondent in Australia, Professor Gordon Flake, chief executive officer of the Perth USAsia Centre at the University of Western Australia, stated that PM Albanese’s visit is not only to attend activities marking 50 years of joint ties, but more importantly the trip indicates that the relationship between the two countries will continue to grow in the future. According to Prof. Flake, both sides are becoming increasingly important partners of each other in terms of strategic and economic aspects.
Talking to the VOV correspondent in Australia, Layton Pike, co-founder of the Australia-Vietnam Policy Institute (AVPI), highlighted the importance of PM Albanese’s Vietnam visit, which he believes serves to create an opportunity for the two countries’ leaders to enhance connectivity and compare notes on important issues relating to bilateral relations.
Pike emphasised that this is not the first meeting between PM Albanese and Vietnamese leaders since taking power a year ago. However, the trip is one of the clear manifestations that the Vietnamese side is at the heart of Australia’s policy towards Southeast Asia.
Close-knit ties are not only reflected between leaders, as Australia and Vietnam are increasingly closer and co-operating more effectively across a variety of fields from security-defence, science-technology, economics, human resource development, education, and tourism. Most notably, trading ties have come on leaps and bounds, with last year’s two-way trade turnover reaching US$15.7 billion, thereby achieving the goal of making both sides become one of the 10 leading trading partners of each other.
In terms of investment, Australia is currently one of the 20 largest foreign investors in the Vietnamese market, although the actual value remains modest with the total investment in Vietnam accounting for only about 0.5% of the total foreign investment capital and less than 0.1% of total Australian direct investment abroad.
In this context, the Vietnamese side believes that there is ample room for the two countries to intensify investment activities moving forward.
Pike said his nation is making every effort in this regard. Over the past year, the Australian Government has formed a network of Vietnamese and Australian business champions to bring together executives and business leaders in Australia.
Over the past 12 months, the network has held a host of discussions aimed at increasing understanding about challenges and opportunities that Australian investors are facing in the Vietnamese market. As a result, the network has given a recommendation report on a range of measures that the two countries need to promote their investment in the time to come. One of the challenges raised is to help Australian businesses gain a better understanding of Vietnam, with the visit being made by PM Albanese being one of the efforts to improve this.
In order to further promote understanding of the country among researchers and the public, last year saw Australia establish the first policy institute focusing on its relationship with Vietnam, known as the Australia Vietnam Policy Institute which Pike co-founded. After more than one year, the network of the institute has grown across Australia and now boasts 25 accredited partners. The AVPI has also quickly become a leading research site, not only on strategic ties, but also economic relations with Vietnam.
The fact that the two sides have enhanced connectivity and shared insights has really become the foundation for them as they seek to further propel joint ties moving forward. Pike said he believes that, as well as Prime Minister Albanese’s visit to Vietnam, his institute would contribute to deepening the relationship between the two countries.
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