Reflections on the Australia-Việt Nam bilateral relationship

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Australian Ambassador to Việt Nam, Robyn Mudie, writes this piece to Việt Nam News on Australian Day.

Australia Day is the official national day of Australia. Celebrated annually on the 26th of January, it is a day to reflect on what it means to be Australian, to celebrate contemporary Australia and to acknowledge our history. It is an opportunity to ‘Reflect, Respect, and Celebrate’ with all Australians.

Despite the challenges of the past two years, we still take time this Australia Day to reflect upon our achievements and to highlight the strength and vitality of our growing bilateral relationship with Việt Nam.

The COVID-19 pandemic has served as a powerful reminder that our region is deeply interconnected and that our health, prosperity and resilience is a shared responsibility.

The health, humanitarian and economic consequences caused by COVID-19 have been devastating, and that’s why Australia has been working in close partnership with Việt Nam to address the impacts of the pandemic.

Ambassador Robyn Mudie and Vice Minister of Planning and Investment Trần Quốc Phương at the official launch of the Australia – Vietnam Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy on December 21, 2021. Courtesy Photo of the embassy

Access to vaccines is fundamental to our region’s response to COVID-19. To this end, Australia is investing A$623 million through our Regional Vaccine Access and Health Security Initiative [A$523 million] and supporting the Quad Vaccine Partnership [A$100 million].

We have committed to sharing 60 million COVID-19 vaccine doses with the Indo-Pacific region. Of this, we’re delivering 7.8 million doses to Việt Nam.

We are also working in partnership with UNICEF in Việt Nam to support cold chain upgrades, training for healthcare workers, communications, and planning and implementation of the vaccine rollout in remote provinces. In 2021, this included the delivery of 1,910 refrigerators, 5 million syringes and 50,000 safety boxes.

As partners, Australia and Việt Nam have also been working together to create a prosperous and resilient future for our nations through major investments in economic, development and security measures.

Very early in the pandemic, we pivoted our development assistance program to respond to COVID. Our investments in Việt Nam in skills, gender, innovation, economic reform and infrastructure are geared towards creating sustainable, inclusive growth, which meets Việt Nam’s short, medium and long-term needs, particularly its vision for net-zero emissions by 2050 and to become a high-income country by 2045.

Việt Nam’s ambitions require all its citizens to have the potential to contribute to their full capacity. To that end, Australia continues to support women’s access to finance and trade opportunities, to work with Việt Nam to ensure its laws and policies are inclusive and to support gender equality at home and in the workplace.

We continue to work with Việt Nam sharing Australia’s experience and expertise on elevating women in leadership, with both countries committed to increasing women’s participation in politics and public administration.

We are deepening our longstanding bilateral relationships with Mekong countries, supporting economic integration and development in the sub-region through the A$232 million Mekong-Australia Partnership.

As part of this partnership, Australia is supporting Việt Nam to respond to climate change through the use of lower emissions farming technologies and water management. We have also accelerated our trade and investment engagement with Việt Nam. Last year we finalised the bilateral Australia-Việt Nam Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy. This ambitious and unique strategy will unlock significant opportunities for businesses across our two countries, supporting our mutual goal to become top ten trading partners and double two-way investment.

Notably, this month, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership came into force. This is the world’s largest free trade agreement and will unlock a multitude of economic opportunities for both our countries.

Ambassador Robyn Mudie (left) and UNICEF’s representative in Việt Nam, Ms Rana Flowers at the vaccine store at the National Institute of Hygiene and Epidemiology. Courtesy Photo of the embassy

Finally, through Australia’s A$141 million Partnerships for Infrastructure programme, we are developing a pipeline of activities to support Vietnam’s energy transition. This includes support for the development of the offshore wind sector, for Việt Nam’s transition to a competitive energy market, and for the rollout of charging infrastructure for electric vehicles.

Australia’s vision for the future of our region has ASEAN at its centre. In pursuit of this, I am proud that ASEAN agreed to establish a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) with Australia at the first annual ASEAN-Australia Summit in October last year.

Partnerships are our greatest strategic asset, and the ASEAN-Australia CSP complements our strong bilateral ties across the region, including our long-standing bilateral relationship with Việt Nam.

We all want a region that embraces engagement and cooperation over coercion, that upholds the rights and sovereignty of countries, regardless of size or power. All countries – big and small – should be empowered to engage and prosper in an open, inclusive and rules-based environment.

We know that supporting our close partners in Southeast Asia is one of the best investments Australia can make in a stronger, more prosperous, and more secure future for our region.

As we celebrate Australia Day this year, I am pleased that the Strategic Partnership between Australia and Việt Nam has further strengthened over the past year, as I am sure it will continue to do in the year ahead. VNS

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