Ambassador Andrew Goledzinowski: Vietnam-Australia ties is stronger than ever

WVR - On the occasion of the reception for the 50th anniversary of Vietnam-Australia diplomatic relations (26/2/1973-26/2/2023), Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Andrew Goledzinowski had highlighted the strength of the relationship during his interview with the press.
Đại sứ Australia tại Việt Nam Andrew Goledzinowski. (Ảnh: Việt Nguyễn)
Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Andrew Goledzinowski stressed the development of Vietnam-Australia relations over the past years. (Photo: Việt Nguyễn)

This year marks 50th anniversary of Vietnam and Australia diplomatic relations. How do you evaluate the relationship between the two countries over the years?

Thank you for the question. It is a very exciting time to be Australia's ambassador in Vietnam here on the anniversary of our 50th resumption of diplomatic relations. I can say very confidently that at no time in history has our relationship been stronger or better than it is today. It's built on a very strong feeling of mutual trust and on practical cooperation across so many fields over so many years.

For that, I really have to thank successive Australian ambassadors and Vietnamese leaders for enabling these strong areas of cooperation to develop. I am thinking of our defense cooperation, education, trade and the important people to people, things that we enjoy.

How do you assess the results of the two countries' people-to-people diplomacy over the past 50 years?

Well, you know, it is very interesting. When I was in Melbourne in December with the Chairman of the National Assembly Vuong Dinh Hue, I realized that in Melbourne, Vietnamese is the second language after English. There is a huge number of Vietnamese Australians and increasingly, these young people are coming back to Vietnam to start businesses, to establish working relationships, so these people-to-people links are important.

In addition to that, we estimate that we have between 80-100,000 alumni of Vietnamese students who have studied in Australia and returned to Vietnam. They are now building their careers in business, in government and elsewhere. That is an important element of the people-to-people links as well.

Now both countries are open, as we have both done quite well in managing COVID-19, tourism will increase as well. For all of this, I think that there is going to be a very bright future for the two countries in terms of those people-to-people connections.

During the visit to Australia by National Assembly Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue, the leaders of the two sides agreed to support the two countries' consideration of upgrading the relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership at a suitable time, upon completion of the relevant formalities. What is the likelihood of this happening this year, especially given the 50th anniversary?

I am very optimistic. The fact that a leader as senior as Chairman Vuong Dinh Hue announced the intention when he was in Australia in December is a very positive sign. Until recently, there were only three countries that had that level of relationship with Vietnam. Those were China, Russia and India. In December, Korea was included in that list.

If Australia can be the next country, we will be very happy. I think this year we have so many high-level visits in both directions, there should be ample opportunity for that announcement.

Once we do have that higher level of relationship, that will open the way to increasing cooperation in new areas. New areas that we are thinking about are climate change, energy transition and some of the more high-tech areas of cooperation that I know Vietnam and Australia are both very interested in.

What plans does the Australian Government have to cooperate with Vietnam to further promote gender equality?

Well, that is an important part of what we do in our system. Our development cooperation programs have to have at least 80% of all the programs with impact on women. In this country, I think it's even higher.

This year, our total development cooperation investment with Vietnam will reach $3 billion and it's still growing. A big focus of that is on the empowerment of women. What we know in Australia, and this is what international research also underlines, is unless you give women the opportunity to fully develop in commerce and in government, a country cannot fully increase its potential.

I will give you an example of where we have been doing practical cooperation and how it has been working out so far. We recently established within the Ho Chi Minh National Academy of Politics a Centre called the Vietnam-Australia Centre. That grew out of our work with the Ho Chi Minh Political Academy around women's leadership. The Vietnamese side really values this area of the work we are doing. I think that is going to continue to grow in the future.

Bộ trưởng Ngoại giao Bùi Thanh Sơn dự lễ Kỷ niệm 50 năm thiết lập quan hệ ngoại giao Việt Nam-Australia
Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Andrew Goledzinowski and Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son in the reception for the 50th anniversary of Australia-Vietnam relations on February 24th. (Photo: Tuan Anh)

What are the potential opportunities for cultural cooperation and exchange between our two countries? How could Vietnam promote further cultural exchange with Australia?

That is very important too. I think culture and arts speak to us in a way which is different from the way politicians speak.

Actually, I have just come back from HCMC where this morning, the chairman of the People's Committee of HCMC put on a fantastic concert for Australia to celebrate the 50th anniversary. Last night the Consulate General in Ho Chi Minh City also put on a concert which included performances by Vietnamese artists and Australian artists.

I was particularly pleased that we had two very famous Australian indigenous artists, because in Australia we are very proud of the fact that we have the oldest living culture in the world - 65,000 years, and that is an important element of what we can share with Vietnam.

Does Australia have any plans to promote the innovation partnership or education projects for Vietnam to quickly restore the achievements that both countries had accomplished before the COVID-19 pandemic?

Well, innovation is a very important part of what we are doing. We have a program called Aus4Innovation and we are about to extend that for another four or five years and increase the investment.

Vietnam has prospered very well with an economic model which has depended on employment intensive manufacturing and that has worked well. But for the country to progress to the next level of development, it needs to go up the value curve and move into high-tech industry 4.0, artificial intelligence (AI), quantum computing and the application of all these things in agriculture, business, finance.

That is where Australia will start to be playing an even bigger role in Vietnam than in the past. You know, Australia started the whole IT process here in Vietnam. The first satellite communications, the first undersea cables, the first ATMs were all brought by Australia. And then, I think, we became less involved. Well, now we are coming back and I think we are going to see a lot more cooperation in the innovation space between our countries.

Does Australia, as a leader in clean technology and a trusted partner, have any plans to help Vietnam, not only achieving economic development, but also ensurrng net zero goal by 2050?

That is a very good question. Vietnam and Australia had different economies, but we are both dealing with the same challenge that we are both very dependent on fossil fuesl. We can work with Vietnam for both our benefits. Australia is already investing in wind farms, onshore and offshore. Our energy regulator is also ready to start talks with the Vietnamese energy regulator on how we can improve our systems for ensuring that we are maximizing the benefit of renewable energy.

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