Vietnam, Australia upgrade ties to strategic partnership

By Nhu Tam   March 15, 2018 | 07:35 pm PT
Vietnam, Australia upgrade ties to strategic partnership
Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc (L) and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull at the signing of the establishment of Vietnam-Australia Strategic Partnership in Canberra on March 15, 2018. Photo by VGP/Quang Hieu.
The strategic partnership aims to 'realize a vision of a secure, open and prosperous region.'

Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc and his Australian counterpart Malcolm Turnbull signed a joint statement on the establishment of the Vietnam-Australia Strategic Partnership following talks in Canberra on Thursday during Phuc's four-day official visit to Australia.

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.

"As new strategic partners, Australia and Vietnam have agreed to work together to realize a vision of a secure, open and prosperous region," Turnbull said at the signing.

During the talks, the prime ministers exchanged views on regional and international issues, and agreed on the importance of maintaining peace, stability, security, safety and freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea, which Vietnam calls the East Sea.

Both sides also 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.

To enhance relations, the two countries have established a new ministerial level economic dialogue to boost trade and investment, and annual meetings between their foreign and defense ministers are also planned.

Both sides also agreed to work closely at international and regional forums such as ASEAN, the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC).

Turnbull urged the countries to closely coordinate on the ratification and implementation of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). The Australian prime minister also expressed his belief that the trade pact would benefit its member countries while keeping the door open for the U.S. and other countries to join in the future.

In addition to establishing the strategic partnership, the two prime ministers witnessed the signing of agreements and memorandums of understanding on cooperation in education, science and technology, agriculture and vocational training.

Prime Minister Phuc's four-day official visit to Australia, which started on Wednesday, will also see him attend the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney.

Vietnam and Australia first established diplomatic relations in 1973. The two countries then elevated bilateral relations to a comprehensive partnership in 2009, before signing a Declaration on Enhancing the Vietnam-Australia Comprehensive Partnership in 2015.

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.

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