Relations between Việt Nam and Australia going from strength to strength

February 24, 2023 - 19:05
As Việt Nam and Australia mark 50 years of bilateral relations, Việt Nam News reporter Ollie Arci speaks to Australian Ambassador Andrew Goledzinowski about plans to celebrate the milestone and what the future hold for the partnership between the two countries.
Australia’s Ambassador to Việt Nam, Andrew Goledzinowski at an event in Hà Nội ơn Friday. VNS Photo Ollie Arci

As Việt Nam and Australia mark 50 years of bilateral relations, Việt Nam News reporter Ollie Arci speaks to Australian Ambassador Andrew Goledzinowski about plans to celebrate the milestone and what the future hold for the partnership between the two countries.

How do you evaluate the relationship between the two countries over the last few years?

It's a very exciting time to be Australia's ambassador in Việt Nam on the anniversary of our 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations. I think I can say very confidently that at no time in history has our relationship been stronger or better than it is today.

It's built on a very strong feeling of mutual trust and on practical cooperation across so many fields over so many years. And for that, I really have to thank successive Australian ambassadors and Vietnamese leaders for enabling these strong areas of cooperation to develop. And I'm thinking of defence cooperation, education, trade, and the important people-to-people links that we enjoy.

How do you assess the results of the two country’s people-to-people diplomacy over the past 50 years?

When I was in Melbourne in December with the Chairman of the National Assembly Vương Đình Huệ, I realised that in Melbourne, Vietnamese is the second language after English.

There is a huge number of Vietnamese Australians and increasingly these young people are coming back to Việt Nam to start businesses, to establish working relationships. So these people-to-people links are important. In addition to that, we estimate we have between 80,000 and 100,000 alumni here of Vietnamese students who have studied in Australia and returned to Việt Nam. They are now building their careers in business, in government and elsewhere. That is an important element of the people-to-people links as well. Now that both countries are open, we've both done quite well in managing COVID, tourism will increase as well.

All of this says that there's going to be a very bright future for the two countries in terms of those people-to-people connections.

During the visit to Australia by National Assembly Chairman Vương Đình Huệ, the leaders of the two sides agreed to support the two countries in upgrading their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership at a suitable time. What is the likelihood of this happening this year especially given the 50th anniversary?

I'm very optimistic. The fact that a leader as senior as Vương Đình Huệ announced the intention when he was in Australia in December, I think is a very positive sign. As you probably know, until recently, there were only three countries that had that level of relationship with Việt Nam.

Those were China, Russia, and India. And then in December, Korea was included in that list.

If we can be the next country, we'll be very happy. And I think this year we have so many high-level visits in both directions. There should be ample opportunity for that announcement.

And once we do have that higher level of relations, that will open the way to increasing cooperation in new areas. And the new areas that we are thinking about are climate change, energy transition, and some of the more high-tech areas of cooperation that I know Việt Nam and Australia are both very interested in.

What plans does the Australian Government have to cooperate with Việt Nam to further promote gender equality?

That's an important part of what we do. In our system, our development cooperation programmes have to have at least 80 per cent of all the programs with an impact on women. And in this country, I think it's even higher.

This year our total development cooperation investment with Việt Nam will reach A$3 billion and it's still growing. And a big focus of that is on the empowerment of women.

What we know in Australia, and this is what international research also underlines is, unless you give women the opportunity to fully develop in commerce and in government, a country cannot fully realise its potential.

We recently established within the Hồ Chí Minh National Academy of Politics, a centre called the Việt Nam Australia Center. And that grew out of our work with the Hồ Chí Minh Political Academy around women's leadership.

The Vietnamese side really values this area of the work we're doing, and I think that's going to continue to grow.

What are the potential opportunities for cultural cooperation and exchange between our two countries? And how could Việt Nam promote further cultural exchange with Australia?

Culture and the arts speak to us in a way which is different from the way politicians do.

I've just come from HCM City where this morning the chairman of the people's Committee of HCM City put on a fantastic concert for Australia to celebrate the 50th anniversary.

Last night the Consulate General in HCM City also put on a concert, which included performances by prominent Vietnamese artists and Australian artists.

I was particularly pleased that we had two very famous Australian indigenous artists because in Australia we're very proud of the fact that we have the oldest living culture in the world, at 65,000 years.

That is an important element of what we can share with Việt Nam.

Does Australia have any plans to promote innovation and education partnerships?

Innovation is a very important part of what we are doing.

We have a program called Aus4Innovation and we are about to extend that for another four or five years and increase the investment.

Việt Nam has prospered very well with an economic model, which has depended on employment-intensive manufacturing, and that's worked well. But for Việt Nam to progress to the next level of development, it needs to go up the value curve and move into high-tech, Industry 4.0, AI, quantum computing.

And the application of all these things in agriculture, in business, in finance, that's where Australia will start to play an even bigger role in Việt Nam than in the past.

You know, Australia started the whole IT process here in Việt Nam. The first satellite communications, the first undersea cables, the first ATMs were all brought by Australia.

Then I think we became less involved. Well now we're coming back, and I think we are going to see a lot more cooperation in the innovation space between our countries.

Does Australia, as a leader in clean technology and a trusted partner, have any plans to help Việt Nam achieve economic development but also ensure the net zero goal by 2050?

Việt Nam and Australia have different economies, but we are dealing with the same challenge with fossil fuels. We're both very dependent. We can work with Việt Nam for both our benefits.

Australia already is investing in wind farms onshore and offshore, and our energy regulator is ready to start talks with the Vietnamese energy regulator about how we can compare our systems for ensuring that we are maximising the benefit of renewable energy.

What is your message on this important anniversary, and what other activities do you have coming up this year to celebrate the occasion?

The message tonight really is about friendship. And it's about thanking the people who have worked so hard over the 50 years to create this relationship. And it's about looking forward to the things we can achieve together in the future. This year there'll be many more things coming up.

There'll be a number of important activities, some showcasing our indigenous cultures, some showcasing our food and wine, and we will have a number of very high-level visitors as well.

Việt Nam is, I think, Australia's favourite country at the moment. Everybody wants to come here and we are going to take advantage of that. VNS