Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he would focus on strengthening economic, security and people to people co-operation between Australia and Việt Nam during his visit to Việt Nam from August 22-24 during an interview with the Vietnam News Agency (VNA) and the Voice of Vietnam (VOV) ahead of his visit.

Australia and Việt Nam have just elevated the bilateral relationship to strategic partnership which serves as a firm foundation for a deeper and wider co-operation between the two countries. Could you please tell us how significant your upcoming visit to Việt Nam would be in this context?

Australia’s relationship with Việt Nam has never been stronger. I am looking forward to meeting again with Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc to discuss ways to drive forward the strategic partnership which we established in 2018. Việt Nam matters greatly to Australia. We are committed to this vital relationship and we want to fulfil its potential. My focus during the visit will be strengthening economic, security and people to people co-operation between our two countries. We share a similar outlook on our region and the world. As countries, we both want open trade and freedom of the high seas. As people, we are pragmatic and straightforward. Over the past few years, trade between us has deepened and strengthened.

Australia and Việt Nam face uncertain times and global economic headwinds. My government is strongly committed to deepening Australia’s relations with Southeast Asia and with ASEAN, and our engagement with friends and partners, like Việt Nam, is more important than ever to maintaining the security and prosperity of our two peoples.

Are the key issues and areas that you would like to exchange views with leaders of Việt Nam during the visit and how would they contribute to fostering the Australia-Việt Nam Strategic Partnership and to bringing the best benefits to the peoples of the two countries?

I am looking forward to working with Prime Minister Phúc to identify ways in which we can deepen and broaden the trade and investment relationship between our two countries. We are building a true economic partnership. Our two-way trade hit a record A$14.5 billion in 2018 – a doubling since 2012, growing by 11 per cent annually over the past five years. Only our trade with India is growing at a faster rate. Our investment relationship is also expanding, reaching A$3.2 billion in 2018. We are partners in APEC, the Trans-Pacific Partnership and the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA. We are working together to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership this year.

Việt Nam’s strong economic fundamentals – political stability, a network of free trade agreements, competitive labour costs and a favourable geography – position it well for future growth. The Government’s commitment to ongoing economic reform and embrace of trade liberalisation is to be commended.

Australian commodities, like coal, iron ore and cotton are helping fuel Việt Nam’s economic development and globally significant manufacturing industry. Australian education is training the next generation of Vietnamese workers with the skills for the digital and data age. Australian exports of beef, wheat, wine and horticultural products are increasingly served in restaurants and enjoyed around family dining tables across Việt Nam.

In 2020, Việt Nam will assume the ASEAN Chair and become a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Could you share with us your views on how this would help enhance bilateral co-operation between Australia and Việt Nam in sustaining peace, stability and prosperity in the region?

Both Australia and Việt Nam want to see an Indo-Pacific region that is secure strategically, stable economically and sovereign politically. We have a shared neighbourhood. For over two decades, Australia and Việt Nam have worked together on this vision. Our bilateral co-operation stretches from maritime security (ships visits, exercises and training with a recent highlight being the visit of Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019), to counter terrorism (special forces exchanges and exercises), aviation safety and military medicine (training and visits).

ASEAN – a grouping of independent, sovereign states committed to promoting stability and prosperity – sits at the centre of Australia’s vision for Southeast Asia. My government is committed to further strengthening Australia’s ties with ASEAN, including during Việt Nam’s Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2020, to build an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region where trade, capital and ideas flow freely, and the rights of all states are respected. We look forward to working with Việt Nam on its agenda for ASEAN next year.

Australia also looks forward to working with Việt Nam during its term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 2020. We have developed an increasingly strong defence relationship over the past 21 years. One practical highlight of our growing defence relationship is our provision of airlift to Việt Nam to help deploy 63 personnel and their equipment to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on October 1, 2018. We have provided English language and peacekeeping training support to Vietnamese peacekeepers since 2011, and more recently we have provided Việt Nam with a range of equipment and vehicles to support its deployments. The very practical success of our United Nations peacekeeping co-operation was reflected in the Joint Vision Statement on Further Defence Cooperation signed by our defence ministers in November 2018.

The Australian Defence Force looks forward to continuing to strengthen engagement with Việt Nam and assisting the Vietnamese People’s Army to prepare for future UN deployments in response to common security challenges. — VNS