Australian foreign minister's visit to Việt Nam expected to further friendship, trust

August 21, 2023 - 16:34
The two countries' top diplomats are to chair the 5th Việt Nam-Australia Foreign Ministers' Meeting, a mechanism that started in 2018 and five such meetings have since then been held.
Vietnamese Minister of Foreign Affairs Bùi Thanh Sơn (right) held talks with his Australian counterpart Penny Wong on the sidelines of ASEAN Foreign Ministers' Meeting held in Jakarta in July 2023. — VNA/VNS Photo

HÀ NỘI — Australian Minister for Foreign Affairs, Penny Wong, is visiting Việt Nam during August 21-24 at the invitation of Vietnamese counterpart Bùi Thanh Sơn.

The two countries' top diplomats will chair the 5th Việt Nam-Australia Foreign Ministers' Meeting, a mechanism that started in 2018.

The visit is part of the activities commemorating 50th anniversary of Việt Nam-Australia diplomatic relations (1973-2023), takes place after the visits of Australian Governor David Hurley in April and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in June this year, underscoring the deep friendship and strategic trust between two sides.

This is the second time Wong has visited Việt Nam in her capacity as foreign minister and the trip is expected to "further deepen Australia’s cooperation with a key ASEAN partner," according to the media release.

"Australia and Việt Nam share a Strategic Partnership, a commitment to ASEAN centrality and an interest in maintaining a region which is peaceful, stable and prosperous, where sovereignty is respected," she noted.

During the visit, the Australian foreign minister is scheduled to have talks with her Vietnamese counterpart, Prime Minister Phạm Minh Chính and other senior leaders to discuss issues of shared interests, especially economic and security ties.

She will also for the first time visit HCM City, Việt Nam's economic powerhouse and the hub of Australia’s business relationship with Việt Nam.

In an interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency, Nguyễn Hồng Hải, Senior Lecturer from VinUniversity, also an adjunct senior lecturer of policy and politics at the Faculty of Creative Industries, Education and Social Justice under Queensland University of Technology’s School of Justice, said this is her fourth meeting with counterpart Sơn since she became foreign minister in May last year.

The visit comes as the two countries are celebrating the 50th anniversary of the bilateral diplomatic relations and five years of strategic partnership this year, he added.

Last year, two-way trade turnover between Việt Nam and Australia reached a new record of US$15.7 billion, up 26.91 per cent year-on-year. Việt Nam has become Australia's 10th biggest trade partner for the first time, and Australia is currently Việt Nam's seventh largest trade partner.

According to the expert, more Vietnamese and Australian visitors are visiting in both directions. Statistics from the Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism of Việt Nam showed that before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Việt Nam welcomed 300,000 Australian visitors and 125,000 Vietnamese tourists went to Australia.

In the first quarter of this year alone, nearly 82,000 Australian visitors arrived in Việt Nam, an increase of 14.4 per cent compared to the figure in 2019, whereas the number of Vietnamese visitors to Australia made up 10 per cent of the outbound visitors, according to the Australian Bureau of Statistics.

To promote trade and investment to a level that matches up with potential and the strategic partnership, the two countries have signed agreements and founded several mechanisms.

Both Việt Nam and Australia are members of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and the Comprehensive Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). However, what has been done thus far is insufficient to accelerate a breakthrough in trade, business, investment, and tourism growth from both sides.

More favourable conditions and simplified customs procedures are required to promote more liberalised flows of trade and to remove barriers that hinder the traveling of the citizens, Hải said.

During talks in her first visit to Việt Nam last year, leading officials of the two ministries agreed to step up cooperation in the fields of tourism, education and labour in the post-pandemic era. Currently, the two countries are finding ways to make a speedy recovery for the tourism industry which was severely affected by the pandemic while minimising the impact of the conflicts in Ukraine on trade.

According to Hải, it was necessary for Việt Nam and Australia to strengthen security cooperation and border control with advanced identification technologies and hold constructive and candid dialogues as trusted strategic partners to address each other’s concerns.

He suggested that if the two sides adopt a visa exemption policy for each other’s citizens, it will be a real breakthrough, contributing to further strengthening the cooperation relationship in the future. — VNS