PM Morrison to focus on economic, security, people to people cooperation during Vietnam visit

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison will focus on strengthening economic, security and people to people cooperation between Australia and Vietnam during his forthcoming visit to Vietnam from August 22-24.

Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (L) meets his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Japan in June 2019. (Photo: VGP)
Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (L) meets his Australian counterpart Scott Morrison on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Japan in June 2019. (Photo: VGP)

Morrison affirmed this in an interview granted to the Vietnam News Agency and The Voice of Vietnam ahead of his visit.

The following is the full text of the interview.

1: Australia and Vietnam have just elevated the bilateral relationship to strategic partnership which serves as a firm foundation for a deeper and wider cooperation between the two countries. Could you please tell us how significant your upcoming visit to Vietnam would be in this context?

Morrison: Australia’s relationship with Vietnam has never been stronger. I am looking forward to meeting again with Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc to discuss ways to drive forward the strategic partnership which we established in 2018. Vietnam matters greatly to Australia. We are committed to this vital relationship and we want to fulfil its potential. My focus during the visit will be strengthening economic, security and people to people cooperation between our two countries. We share a similar outlook on our region and the world. As countries, we both want open trade and freedom of the high seas. As people, we are pragmatic and straight forward. Over the past few years, trade between us has deepened and strengthened.

Australia and Vietnam face uncertain times and global economic headwinds. My Government is strongly committed to deepening Australia’s relations with Southeast Asia and with ASEAN, and our engagement with friends and partners, like Vietnam, is more important than ever to maintaining the security and prosperity of our two peoples.

2. What are the key issues and areas of your focus that you would like to exchange views with leaders of Vietnam during the visit and how important would they contribute to fostering the Australia-Vietnam Strategic Partnership and to bringing the best benefits to the peoples of the two countries?

Morrison: I am looking forward to working with Prime Minister Phuc to identify ways in which we can deepen and broaden the trade and investment relationship between our two countries. We are building a true economic partnership. Our two-way trade hit a record AUD14.5 billion in 2018 – a doubling since 2012, growing by 11% annually over the past five years. Only our trade with India is growing at a faster rate. Our investment relationship is also expanding, reaching AUD3.2 billion in 2018. We are partners in APEC, the Trade Pacific Partnership and the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA. We are working together to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership this year.

Vietnam’s strong economic fundamentals – political stability, a network of free trade agreements, competitive labour costs and a favourable geography – position it well for future growth. The government’s commitment to ongoing economic reform and embrace of trade liberalisation is to be commended.

Australian commodities, like coal, iron ore and cotton are helping to fuel Vietnam’s economic development and globally significant manufacturing industry. Australian education is training the next generation of Vietnamese workers with the skills for the digital and data age. Australian exports of beef, wheat, wine and horticultural products are increasingly served in restaurants and enjoyed around family dining tables across Vietnam.

3. In 2020, Vietnam will assume the ASEAN Chair and a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council. Could you please share with us your views on how this would help enhance the bilateral cooperation between Australia and Vietnam in sustaining peace, stability and prosperity in the region?

Morrison: Both Australia and Vietnam want to see an Indo-Pacific region that is secure strategically, stable economically and sovereign politically. We have a shared neighbourhood. For over two decades, Australia and Vietnam have worked together on this vision. Our bilateral cooperation stretches from maritime security (ships visits, exercises and training with a recent highlight being the visit of Indo-Pacific Endeavour 2019), to counter terrorism (Special Forces exchanges and exercises), aviation safety, and military medicine (training and visits). ASEAN – a grouping of independent, sovereign states committed to promoting stability and prosperity – sits at the centre of Australia’s vision for Southeast Asia. My Government is committed to further strengthening Australia’s ties with ASEAN, including during Vietnam’s Chairmanship of ASEAN in 2020, to build an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific region where trade, capital and ideas flow freely, and the rights of all states are respected. We look forward to working with Vietnam on its agenda for ASEAN next year.

Australia also looks forward to working with Vietnam during its term as a non-permanent member of the United Nations Security Council in 2020. We have developed an increasingly strong defence relationship over the past 21 years. One practical highlight of our growing defence relationship is our provision of airlift to Vietnam to help deploy 63 personnel and their equipment to the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) on 1 October 2018. We have provided English language and peacekeeping training support to Vietnamese peacekeepers since 2011, and more recently we have provided Vietnam with a range of equipment and vehicles to support its deployments. The very practical success of our United Nations peacekeeping cooperation was reflected in the Joint Vision Statement on Further Defence Cooperation signed by our Defence Ministers in November 2018. The Australian Defence Force looks forward to continuing to strengthen engagement with Vietnam and assisting the Vietnamese People’s Army to prepare for future UN deployments in response to common security challenges.