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Việt Nam, Australia to set up strategic partnership in PM’s visit

Update: March, 14/2018 - 11:00
Nguyễn Xuân Phúc. — VNA/VNS Photo Thống Nhất
Viet Nam News

AUCKLAND — Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc and Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will sign the Joint Statement on establishing the Việt Nam – Australia Strategic Partnership during the former’s visit to Australia, creating the political and legal framework for the two countries’ relations to develop in the coming time.

The information was revealed by Prime Minister Nguyễn Xuân Phúc in an interview he granted to the Fairfax Media on the occasion of his official visit to Australia and his participation in the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit from March 14-18. He has freshly wrapped up his official visit to New Zealand.

The following is the full text of the interview:

In 2015, both Việt Nam and Australia have mentioned the establishment of a Strategic Partnership. Could your Excellency Prime Minister specify the time when this event takes place? And what does this partnership mean for the two countries? Would Your Excellency Prime Minister share with us measures to promote diplomatic and defence relations between the two countries?

This is the determination shared by both Việt Nam and Australia. During my official visit to Australia this time, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull and I will sign the Joint Statement on establishing the Việt Nam – Australia Strategic Partnership, creating the political and legal framework for the two countries’ relations to develop in the coming time.

The upgrading of the bilateral relations to Strategic Partnership is momentous, opening up a new chapter in our bilateral relations, elevating the relations to new heights as well as adding depth and substance to the bilateral co-operation for the benefits of our two peoples, and for peace, stability, co-operation and development in the region and the world. Especially, this event takes place when the two countries are celebrating 45 years of diplomatic relations and 20 years of defence relations.

In order to bring the bilateral relations to the strategic level, the two countries should continue to strengthen and expand co-operation in all areas. Regarding the political-diplomatic and defence-security co-operation pillars, the two countries will focus on the following:

First, continue to strengthen political trust and mutual understanding through visits and contacts through all channels and at all levels, especially the high-level. In this spirit, Việt Nam welcomes the Australian Governor-General’s visit to Việt Nam in May 2018 and considers this visit an important foreign affairs event of 2018. At the same time, we will continue to review and promote the effective implementation of the existing bilateral co-operation mechanisms, and on this basis, consider their upgrading or establishing new mechanisms for mutual consultation on strategic bilateral, regional and international issues.

Second, co-ordinate closely at regional and international forums, especially ASEAN, APEC, ASEM, the United Nations, among others; and work together to effectively implement the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP); and at the same time strengthen co-operation on issues related to regional security and issues of mutual concern such as poverty reduction, disaster preparedness, diseases, climate change response, and realisation of the Sustainable Development Goals.

Third, on defence and security, the two sides should actively implement the concluded agreements as well as effectively maintain the co-operation mechanisms; expand co-operation in areas of search and rescue, counter-terrorism, anti-human trafficking, cyber security and water security; at the same time, actively consult with and support each other in regional co-operation mechanisms on national defense and security such as ADMM, ADMM+, ARF, among others. Việt Nam highly appreciates Australia’s support and hopes that Australia continues the exchange of experience, information sharing, and supporting Việt Nam in English language training, and training of peacekeeping forces, and war legacy remedies.

Among ASEAN countries, Việt Nam is becoming Australia’s fastest-growing export market. Would Your Excellency Prime Minister share your views on the opportunities for Australian businesses?

The economic, trade and investment relations between Việt Nam and Australia have seen great strides. Australia has become Việt Nam’s seventh largest trading partner with a turnover of nearly US$6.5 billion in 2017. However, there remains vast room for the bilateral co-operation as well as immense opportunities for Australian businesses to invest in Việt Nam.

First, Việt Nam is a vibrantly growing economy with high growth rates in the region. In 2017, Việt Nam’s economy expanded by 6.8 per cent, which is the highest rate in the last 10 years. Its geo-strategic location in the region, the political stability and market size of nearly 100 million consumers has made Việt Nam an attractive destination for foreign investors.

Second, with the determination to accelerate economic reform and transform the growth model, the business and investment environment in Việt Nam has significantly improved. Such economic indicators as the ease of doing business, and competitiveness earned 14 and 5 notches, respectively, thus creating an attractive, transparent and level playground for foreign enterprises.

Third, as an economy with high degree of openness, Việt Nam has been integrating deeply and comprehensively into the international arena. The country is currently implementing and negotiating 16 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs), including many new-generation FTAs, opening up new opportunities for cooperation between Việt Nam and its partners, including Australia. The two countries jointly implemented the ASEAN – Australia – New Zealand FTA (AANZFTA) and signed the CPTPP agreement, which would facilitate the flows of trade and investment between the two countries.

In this context, the establishment of the Việt Nam-Australia Strategic Partnership will bring about new opportunities for businesses of both countries. With the advantage of capital, advanced technology and managerial experience, Australian businesses can take advantage of this opportunity to expand their business and investment in Việt Nam in areas where Australia’s strength match with Việt Nam’s demands such as high technology, manufacturing and processing industries, environment-friendly energy, among others.

Việt Nam is among the economies that would significantly benefit from TPP, but some of them would come from potential economic reforms implemented to satisfy the high standards of the initial agreement. However, the US has withdrawn from TPP, a fact that, generally speaking, has caused the new Agreement to have lower standards than that of TPP. Mr Prime Minister, can you tell us whether Việt Nam will continue to implement economic reform measures or not?

Economic reforms are both Việt Nam’s inherent needs and policy, with or without TPP.

Despite the absence of the US, CPTPP remains a comprehensive and progressive agreement of substance and quality, serving as a “model” of regional economic cooperation and integration amidst the rise of protectionism in places all over the world. We see our participation in FTAs, including CPTPP, as the additional driving force for reforms. Therefore, in the upcoming times, we will bolster economic restructuring, perfect legal frameworks and policies, create a level playing-field as well as a favourable business environment as part of our efforts to fully and strictly meet our commitments to trade facilitation and liberalisation, and market access.

Mr Prime Minister, on the occasion of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit, can you give us an assessment on the potential for developing the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Partnership in the time to come?

After the upgrade to Strategic Partnership in 2014, ASEAN-Australia relations have been strengthened across various areas, from politics-security, economics-trade-investment to culture-social affairs and development cooperation. However, there remains ground for further improvement and the bulk of ASEAN-Australia co-operation potential is not yet harnessed, particularly in the following areas:

Firstly, ASEAN and Australia need to further affirm their strong commitment to maintaining regional economic integration. Accordingly, the two sides need to effectively implement the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), the first comprehensive framework with a high degree of liberalisation ever signed by ASEAN with its partners and from a broader perspective, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), once completed.

Secondly, in the age of the Industrial Revolution 4.0, with innovation-based economic development playing a vital role, the two sides need to step up cooperation in areas such as supporting start-ups, connecting medium, small and micro-sized enterprises, and diversifying global and regional value chains.

Thirdly, the two sides share their views on strategic issues, so as to promote cooperation, build trust and together bring about an open, transparent, inclusive regional architecture, which includes ASEAN-led cooperation forums. Among these, the ASEAN-Australia framework is important to promote efforts in this direction.

Fourthly, cooperation to respond to non-traditional challenges such as terrorism, radicalism, natural disasters, epidemics, and climate change is of mutual interest to ASEAN and Australia. Both sides need to step up cooperation in these areas in order to bring about a peaceful and safe life to their people.

I am convinced that on the foundation of the fruitful co-operation developed over four decades, we can continue to broaden and deepen the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Partnership in the upcoming times”. — VNS

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