Australia and Vietnam have expanded cooperation across multiple domains for the past years, The Hanoi Times has talked with Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Robyn Mudie to see how strong the relations are.
In recent years, we have witnessed Vietnam taking an increasingly active role in regional and global multilateral institutions, including through its hosting of APEC in 2018, chairing of ASEAN in 2020, and current term as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council (UNSC) for 2020-2021. In all of these examples, we see that Vietnam is seeking to play a larger role in shaping rules and norms to uphold the global rules-based order. Australia is a strong supporter of Vietnam’s growing engagement in these bodies, and cooperation within multilateral forums is increasingly becoming a cornerstone of our partnership.
Within the ASEAN-led regional architecture, Australia has developed a close working relationship with Vietnam across various mechanisms, including the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus, and ASEAN Regional Forum. Like Vietnam, Australia views these bodies as critical forums for strategic dialogue, building habits of cooperation, and strengthening our collective capacity to deal with regional security challenges. An excellent example of this cooperation was Australia and Vietnam’s co-chairing, together with the EU, of the ASEAN Regional Forum’s working group on Maritime Security from 2018-2021, where we developed and implemented an ambitious multi-year program of activities to help promote a stable, rules-based maritime order.
We have also been delighted to see Vietnam playing a very prominent and active role during its current term on the UNSC. As the only ASEAN member currently serving on the UNSC, Vietnam has played a critical bridging role between ASEAN and the UN in addressing important international and regional issues. I was also pleased to have the honor to attend the UN High-Level International Conference on Women, Peace and Security (WPS), hosted by Vietnam in December last year. This conference played an important role in taking forward the global WPS agenda and was widely recognized and praised by the international community. It further demonstrated Vietnam’s increasingly active multilateral foreign policy agenda.
Australia and Vietnam share a growing Defence relationship, formally established in 1998 and with a Defence Attaché to Vietnam appointed in 1999. Vietnam is a close partner and regional neighbor to Australia with an increasingly shared strategic outlook. We are both committed to fostering a peaceful, secure and resilient region with ASEAN at its core.
English language training is the foundation of our relationship, with classes currently being delivered in Hanoi and Nha Trang. More than 2600 Vietnam People’s Army (VPA) soldiers and officers have received Australian Defence Force (ADF) English language training in Vietnam over the last 20 years, with Australia now offering around 320 positions annually. More than 500 VPA personnel have also travelled to Australia for advanced training, including 170 officers who have gained masters degrees.
Australia continues to work with Vietnam to build its maritime security capability by offering positions on Royal Australian Navy training courses, through maritime security and Law of the Sea exchanges, and by conducting training activities with the Vietnam People’s Navy during annual ship visits.
We engage practically with the VPA through an annual combat shooting skills exchange and with Special Forces through an annual counter-terrorism skills exchange, including tactical-level skills training and exchanges on operational tactics, techniques, and procedures.
Since 2000, Australia and Vietnam have also collaborated to enhance the VPA’s ability to combat and control malaria. A key focus of this collaboration has been delivered by the ADF’s Malaria and Infectious Disease Institute to support Vietnam in evaluating new anti-malarial drugs and monitoring the spread of resistant malaria infections. In May this year, Australia was pleased to sign a new Research Collaboration Agreement into drug resistant malaria with Vietnam.
Australia has been proud to support Vietnam’s contributions to United Nations Peacekeeping Missions, and in March this year I was delighted to attend a farewell ceremony for the soldiers and officers of the 3rd Rotation of Vietnam’s Level 2 UN Field Hospital before they travelled to South Sudan on board an Australian C-17A Globemaster aircraft. In 2015, Australia and Vietnam signed an Implementing Arrangement on Peacekeeping Cooperation to promote professional development in peace operations training and education. Under this, Australia supports Vietnam’s Level 2 Field Hospital deployed in the UN Mission in South Sudan by providing specialist peacekeeping training and equipment. We have also been pleased to provide a strategic airlift for all three rotations. Australia also provides in-country English language training to peacekeeping personnel prior to deployment, and our ADF Peace Operations Training Centre works closely with Vietnam’s Department of Peacekeeping Operations to share lessons and experience.
The signing of the Vietnam-Australia Strategic Partnership in 2018 was a significant milestone in our relationship, further demonstrating that Australia and Vietnam are strong partners with growing shared strategic, economic and political interests. The Strategic Partnership provides the structural basis for advancing the bilateral relationship and focuses on three priority areas: enhancing economic engagement; deepening strategic, defence and security cooperation; and building knowledge and innovation partnerships. The Plan of Action provides the operational guidance to implement the commitments of the Strategic Partnership.
To highlight just a few of these, a key focus under the economic engagement pillar is the conclusion of the Australia-Vietnam Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy, which aims to make Australia and Vietnam top ten trade partners and double bilateral investment. The Strategy will identify opportunities for, and current barriers to, further growth in trade and investment, and will include practical cooperation that each country will undertake to expand our trade and investment relationship.
Under the strategic defence and security pillar, Australia and Vietnam have committed to a range of actions to help preserve and promote our shared interests in a rules-based order and adherence to international law and norms. We will continue to exchange views and ideas, and enhance defence and security cooperation, through various dialogue mechanisms, as well as increase the scope and complexity of bilateral defence activities. We will also deepen cooperation in ASEAN-led mechanisms and other forums to promote outcomes which enhance the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.
Finally, through the knowledge and innovation partnerships pillar, Australia and Vietnam will deepen knowledge and innovation collaboration to ensure both countries can seize the opportunities available from advanced technology and innovation, and digital opportunities of the future. We will promote people-to-people and institutional links including between our public services, businesses and research and academic institutions, promote collaboration and joint projects, and jointly convene research and scientific conferences, seminars and workshops on topics of mutual interest.
Australia is an island nation, and a major trading nation. We derive our security, and our prosperity, from and through the sea. Australia is committed to enhancing maritime security through our work with partners across the region, including Vietnam. We are doing this through our investments in maritime security capacity building, working with partners to counter illegal fishing, supporting law of the sea training and strengthening cooperation among maritime agencies.
Recognizing the challenges facing the maritime domain, in November 2020 at the ASEAN-Australia Summit, Prime Minister Morrison, announced Australia would invest AUD42 million for regional maritime states to develop their marine resources sustainably.
The recent visit of the Indo-Pacific Endeavour (IPE) 21 Task Group, Australia’s flagship regional engagement activity, to Cam Ranh Bay provided clear demonstration of our work with Vietnam and our shared commitment to a secure, prosperous and inclusive Indo-Pacific region. The visit of the Task Group offered a unique opportunity for Australia and Vietnam to deepen our practical naval cooperation and exchange lessons learned on maritime security cooperation. As part of the series of event held in conjunction with the visit of the IPE Task Group, I was delighted to participate in a maritime security workshop co-chaired by Vietnam and Australia. The workshop covered a range of contemporary maritime security issues including cooperation and dispute resolution frameworks, grey zone tactics, and maritime law enforcement and the use of force, and provided an opportunity for maritime security policy makers and maritime operators to advance a common understanding of international law, including UNCLOS.
We all want this pandemic to be over as quickly as possible and access to safe and effective vaccines is the key to making that happen. That is why I am proud that Australia is working in partnership with the Government of Vietnam to support the national Covid-19 vaccine rollout.
I was particularly pleased recently to announce Australia’s new commitment of vaccine support to Vietnam. Australia will now share 5.2 million Covid-19 vaccine doses with Vietnam. This includes approximately 3.7 million doses Australia will assist Vietnam to purchase through a procurement agreement with UNICEF and in partnership with Vietnam’s Ministry of Health. We have also shared 1.5 million AstraZeneca doses from Australia’s domestic supply, with the most recent batch of 800,000 doses arriving in Vietnam on October 28.
Australia’s support is also for more than just vaccine doses. Earlier this month, I announced that Australia has increased its package of support for Vietnam’s Covid-19 vaccine rollout to AUD60 million. As well as supporting the procurement of vaccines under this commitment, we are working in partnership with UNICEF to bolster Vietnam’s national vaccine rollout. For example, we are supporting cold chain upgrades; the purchase of 5 million syringes; training for healthcare workers; communications campaigns; and planning and implementation of the vaccine rollout in remote provinces in Vietnam.
We are also sharing technical expertise from flagship Australian institutions, such as the Therapeutic Goods Administration and the National Center for Immunization Research and Surveillance. This assistance will help Vietnam now, and into the future. Finally, we are supporting global mechanisms to deliver vaccines to our region, including to Vietnam. Australia has committed AUD130 million to the COVAX Advance Market Commitment (AMC) to support equitable global access to safe and effective Covid-19 vaccines.
In addition, we recently delivered over 600,000 N95 respirator and surgical masks and over 40,000 isolation gowns, which we have shared from Australia’s National Medical Stockpile. These will assist Vietnam’s broader Covid-19 response. Collectively, our vaccine doses and broader support for vaccine delivery are helping Vietnam’s efforts to contain the pandemic. I am proud that Australia is supporting this important work. It is only by working together that we can combat the many impacts of Covid-19 and find a path towards recovery.
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