Monday, March 16, 2015

Australia and Vietnam to Enhance Their Comprehensive Partnership

Background Briefing:
Australia and Vietnam to
Enhance Their Comprehensive
Carlyle A. Thayer
March 16, 2015
Vietnam’s Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung will make a two-day official visit to
Australia at the invitation of Prime Minister Tony Abbott from March 17-18.
This visit is particularly important because the current Australia-Vietnam Plan of
Action (2010-13) to implement the 2009 comprehensive partnership lapsed over a
year ago. In September 2013 Australia changed government. And the following year
Australia hosted the G20 Summit that crowded out the diplomatic calendar.
Prime Minister Dung’s visit will provide renewed energy to bilateral relations. The
two sides will enhance their Comprehensive Partnership and move to raise relations
to a Strategic Partnership in the future. The enhanced comprehensive partnership
will serve as the foundation for a second Plan of Action that will develop new areas
of cooperation and refocused priorities for the coming years.
Since 2009 relations between Australia and Vietnam have developed
comprehensively in both breadth and depth. Cooperation between two nations
takes place in five main areas: bilaterally; regionally and internationally; economic
growth, trade and industry development; development assistance; and defence, law
enforcement and security ties.
To take one example, two-way trade between Australia and Vietnam rose from US
$32 million in 1990 to US $6 billion in 2014. Australian direct investment in Vietnam
rose to US $1.65 billion last year. Overall, Vietnam is Australia’s fastest growing
trade partner among all ASEAN countries.
Australia will send its Minister for Trade and Investment to Vietnam later this year to
boost cooperation in these areas.
Australia and Vietnam share a growing convergence of interests due to changes in
the security environment in the Indo-Pacific region caused by changes in the
distribution of power among the major powers and the increased salience of nontraditional
security issues. Australia and Vietnam share common interests in regional
stability, regional security and continued economic growth.
In the future, Australia and Vietnam will work more closely together in multilateral
institutions to address international and regional security concerns. This includes
cooperation in the United Nations, East Asia Summit (EAS), Asia Pacific Economic
Cooperation (APEC), the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and ASEANThayer
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centered bodies such as the ASEAN Regional Forum, ASEAN Defence Ministers’
Meeting Plus and the Enlarged ASEAN Maritime Forum.
Importantly, Australia and Vietnam will cooperate to make the EAS a leader-led
forum and work to strengthen its mandate to deal with strategic and security issues
in East Asia.
Australia and Vietnam will work together to implement the ASEAN-Australia-New
Zealand Free Trade Agreement and to complete the Trans-Pacific Partnership
Agreement and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
Both Australia and Vietnam share a convergence on interests in promoting more
open global trade and investment through the World Trade Organisation, APEC, Asia-
Europe Meeting and the Cairns Group of agricultural traders. Both are in agreement
to support a heightened role for the private sector.
Two of the mainstays of bilateral cooperation are exchanges of high-level visits by
party, government and parliamentary officials and wide-ranging people-to-people
exchanges. Australia is home to 300,000 Vietnamese. In 2015, an estimated 30,000
students from Vietnam were enrolled in Australian training institutes, schools,
colleges and universities.
During the course of Prime Minister Dung visit the two sides are expected to sign an
agreement on the work holiday maker scheme.
Australia and Vietnam share a convergence of views on territorial disputes in the
East Sea. Both sides hold that such disputes should be settled peacefully without
resort to force through dialogue self-restraint by the parties concerned, on the basis
of international law including the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.
Australia and Vietnam have developed extensive linkages in promoting cooperation
among defence, security and law enforcement officials.
Vietnam and Australia conduct four major defence dialogues each year, including a
meeting between defence ministers. Since defence relations were established in
1999 over 1,200 Vietnamese have been recipients of Australian defence cooperation
education and training. Both parties cooperate in aviation and maritime security,
peacekeeping, counter-terrorism, Special Forces, and war legacy issues.
Two Memorandum of Understanding are expected to be signed during Prime
Minister Dung’s visit, one on peacekeeping cooperation and the other on war legacy
Australian and Vietnamese law enforcement official cooperate closely to combat
transnational crime such as human trafficking, narcotics smuggling, money
laundering and cyber crime. A supplementary agreement to combat trafficking in
persons is expected to be signed during Prime Minister Dung’s visit.
Under the Australia Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership bilateral relations have
deepened and widened considerably. Australia and Vietnam increasingly share a
convergence views on political, diplomatic, economic, development, and security
and defence issues.
Prime Minister’s Dung visit to Australia provides a renewed impetus for the two
countries to advance bilateral relations to an Enhanced Comprehensive Partnership
nd to adopt a second Plan of Action to implement this agreement in coming year.
The Australian-Vietnam Enhanced Comprehensive Partnership demonstrates the
wisdom of Vietnam’s long-standing policy of “multilateralizing and diversifying” its
external relations and proactively seeking international integration. The Enhanced
Comprehensive Partnership also underscores Australia’s role as a middle power that
constructively contributes not only to Vietnam’s economic development and security
but also to Southeast Asia’s security and economic growth as well.
Suggested citation: Carlyle A. Thayer, “Australia and Vietnam to Enhance Their
Comprehensive Partnership,” Thayer Consultancy Background Brief, March 16, 2015.
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