Historic Vietnam-Australia strategic partnership ignites hope for Vietnamese Down Under

By Viet Anh   March 16, 2018 | 01:52 am PT
Historic Vietnam-Australia strategic partnership ignites hope for Vietnamese Down Under
Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull shake hands as they meet in Canberra. Photo by AFP
Imported Vietnamese agricultural products and a strong stance on the East Sea are high on their agenda.

The Vietnamese community in the land Down Under is upbeat following a deal struck by Vietnam and Australia on Thursday to upgrade their relationship to a strategic partnership during PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s official four-day visit to the country.

The pact opens up new avenues for heightened bilateral cooperation in the fields of politics, economic development, education and defense, as well as regional and international cooperation.

New agricultural and seafood products are a particular highlight for the community, now that the two countries will promote market access and trade facilitation. Australia currently imports most of its tropical fruits like rambutans, durians, jackfruits and guavas from Thailand.

“I really hope Vietnam can export more products to Australia, especially agricultural ones, as the two countries turn a new page in their relationship,” said Nguyen Luc, a Vietnamese national living in Sydney.

He added that fruit from Vietnam is in no way inferior to fruit from other countries, but if Vietnamese businesses want to penetrate the hard-to-please Australian market, they need to have superb quality control and high standards.

Tran Thi Quynh Lan, a Vietnamese citizen living in Melbourne, said seafood and dried food such as shrimp, fish, rice paper and pork jerky would also be welcomed.

“It would be a huge favor if there were also cheaper direct flights from here to Vietnam for me and my family,” she laughed.

Food is not the only concern for Vietnamese expats in Australia. China’s belligerent attitude regarding the South China Sea (known in Vietnam as the East Sea) is also of particular interest to them ever since China first moved its Hai Yang Shi You 981 oil platform into Vietnam’s waters, sparking intense protests. As the new strategic partnership paves the way for more trade between Vietnam and Australia, many Vietnamese hope Australian PM Malcolm Turnbull will voice stronger support for peace and stability in the South China Sea, particularly the freedom of navigation and overflight.

Tran Ba Phuc, president of the Vietnam Business Association of Australia (VBAA), said he hoped that issues regarding the South China Sea would be highlighted at the upcoming ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney on March 17-18, which will be attended by both Vietnam and Australia’s PMs.

“Should Australia deepen ties with ASEAN, both sides can come up with new accords to preserve peace and stability at sea, since trade and economic development cannot prosper without respect to maritime laws,” he said.

Vietnam and Australia upgraded their ties to strategic partnership during Vietnamese PM Nguyen Xuan Phuc’s official visit to Australia on Thurday. At a joint press conference, the two leaders said the strategic partnership would bring great benefits to both countries and contribute to peace, stability, cooperation and development in the region as well as the world. They also witnessed the signing of agreements and memorandums of understanding on cooperation in education, science and technology, agriculture and vocational training.

In 2017, Australia was Vietnam's eighth largest trade partner, while Vietnam was Australia's 14th largest, according to Vietnam's General Department of Customs. Bilateral trade increased 22.7 percent from the previous year to $6.45 billion in 2017. Vietnam's main exports to Australia include machinery and parts, electronic equipment, footwear, textiles and seafood, while it imports mostly common metals, coal, wheat and cotton from Australia.

During the visit, the prime ministers agreed on the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. Both sides stressed that maritime disputes must be settled in accordance with international laws and called for a full implementation of the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, as well as an early conclusion to a legally binding Code of Conduct in the South China Sea.

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