|Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Robyn Mudie. Photo courtesy of the Ambassador|
As the Tết (Lunar New Year) Festival – the biggest and longest festival of the Vietnamese people – is approaching, Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Robyn Mudie shared with the Vietnam News Agency’s reporter about her feeling about Tết and the outcomes of cooperation between the two countries in the recent past as well as prospects of the relationship in the near future.
After two years working in Việt Nam, how do you feel about the country and people here? What plans do you have for the 2022 Lunar New Year?
Ambassador Robyn Mudie: I’ve been the Ambassador here since July 2019, but this is my second time in Hà Nội and at the Embassy - I was also here in the mid-90s as a junior diplomat.
Việt Nam has changed a lot over that time, but one of the things that has remained consistent is the country’s determination and commitment to progress, including the drive to be a proactive member of the international community. This determination is also reflected in the Vietnamese people, whose warmth and resilience, even in the face of adversity, is heartening and welcoming.
I was also delighted to be able to return to discover more of this fascinating country. It has so many layers of beauty and culture to uncover. I haven’t travelled as much as I would have liked due to the COVID-19 restrictions but even exploring Hanoi again has been wonderful.
Overall, it’s been a pleasure to be back here.
As for Tết - I love Tết! It’s a beautiful time of year in Hà Nội and there’s something very special, and uniquely Vietnamese, about the Tết atmosphere.
This year, I am looking forward to once again decorating our house with kumquat trees and peach blossoms, sampling banh chung, and exploring the old streets and temples in the old quarter. I will also try to visit the flower markets to see the beautiful blossom trees and to talk to the flower sellers. It’s a good opportunity to practice my Vietnamese language and to find out more about the culture and the Tet celebrations.
It’s my last Tết in Việt Nam, as I finish my posting in the summer, so I want to make the most of every moment.
How do you evaluate the Australia-Việt Nam cooperation in 2021, especially in the context of COVID-19 pandemic?
The Strategic Partnership between Australia and Việt Nam is one of strength and depth, from our people-to-people links, to our trade and investment ties, and to our shared interests in a secure and prosperous Indo Pacific. Despite the global health challenge of COVID-19, the bilateral relationship has continued on a positive trajectory.
As a close friend and partner, Australia stands with Việt Nam in its fight against COVID-19 as it continues to protect its people and boost economic recovery. Access to safe and effective vaccines is critical to these efforts and to ending the pandemic. I am extremely proud that Australia is working in partnership with the Government of Việt Nam to help support Vietnam’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout.
The Australian Government has committed to share 7.8 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with Vietnam. We have already delivered 3.7 million doses from Australia’s own supply, with the remainder due to arrive in the coming months.
Australia also recognises that vaccinations require more than just doses. Planning, administration, equipment, distribution, and training to get vaccine doses in arms as quickly as possible through national rollouts are critical to the success of vaccination programmes. That is why we have committed 60 million AUD for a comprehensive package of support for Việt Nam’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout, which includes support for doses as well as for vaccine fridges, communications support and training for health care workers.
More broadly, Australia is supporting Việt Nam’s response to COVID-19 through our Partnerships for Recovery development policy. Our total development cooperation funding to Việt Nam is forecast to be 78.9 million AUD in 2021-22 and our efforts are focused on three key objectives that are important for all countries as we emerge from the pandemic: health security, stability and economic recovery.
The Vietnam-Australia Strategic Partnership has been developing well both in depth and breadth in various fields, especially trade and investment promotion. What do you expect from the relationship in the near future?
Australia and Việt Nam have highly complementary economies. Australia is a reliable supplier of the services and raw materials that Việt Nam’s exporters require, and Australian consumers enjoy Việt Nam’s high-quality products in their homes and workplaces. There is enormous potential to take the relationship even further as we emerge from COVID-19.
In the strongest reflection yet of the confidence in our shared economic future, on 21 December the governments of Australia and Việt Nam publicly released the Việt Nam-Australia Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy (EEES) to unlock significant opportunities for businesses across the two countries. The EEES is unique, the first of its kind for Vietnam and Australia and reflective of both countries’ mutual interests.
To support Australian and Việt Nam businesses, the EEES outlines a series of mutually beneficial, practical initiatives to deepen trade and investment links in key sectors including across agriculture, education, energy, services and the digital economy. It also highlights the importance of strengthening the rules-based global trading system as the basis for open international trade and working together to address economic challenges and coercive economic practices.
Recognising that business and industry will be critical in taking the economic relationship to the next level, an early outcome of the EEES is the appointment of Business Champions – industry leaders to accelerate business engagement, trade and investment between Vietnam and Australia. There are also other early initiatives including 28 projects awarded under the Australia-Vietnam Enhanced Economic Engagement Grant (AVEG) Pilot Program, which support practical implementation of the strategy.
Increased engagement and cooperation are vital for our and the region’s economic recovery. The EEES will help guide our two countries on an inclusive and sustainable growth path and foster even deeper ties between Australia and Việt Nam.