The Vietnam-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership: Building mutual trust and forging a new narrative

WVR - The establishment of the Vietnam-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership during Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh's recent official visit to Australia is a natural and logical result and development after 50 years of building and growing the relationship. It is an effort to deepen and expand strategic trust, working together to contribute to building a new vision for the region.
The Vietnam-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership:  Building mutual trust and forging a new narrative
Vietnam-Australia officially elevate their relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership on March 7, 2024. (Photo: Tuan Anh)

50 years of maturing relations

Since establishing diplomatic relations in 1973 and upgrading to a Strategic Partnership in 2018, the Australia-Vietnam relationship has seen strong, comprehensive development on a strategic level across all fields.

In recent years, Vietnam has emerged as a dynamic economy in Asia with a rapidly growing market and competitive workforce. Consequently, bilateral trade reached $13.8 billion USD in 2023, making Australia Vietnam's 10th largest trade partner while Vietnam is Australia's 7th largest. Investment ties have also flourished though much potential remains, with nearly 600 Australian projects in Vietnam totaling over $2 billion USD in investment capital and $600 million USD in Vietnamese investment into Australia. Australia also remains one of Vietnam's largest bilateral grant aid partners, with annual ODA reaching $92.8 million AUD in 2022-2023.

People-to-people exchanges also play an essential role in strengthening the friendship between Vietnam and Australia. The Vietnamese community in Australia now numbers around 350,000, making highly positive contributions to local socio-economic development and serving as an important bridge to enhance mutual cultural understanding and economic cooperation between the two countries. In recent years, Australia has become one of the most popular destinations for Vietnamese students with over 32,000 studying and conducting research there. The two countries also share expertise and effectively cooperate in international and regional forums, especially on matters regarding cooperation in ASEAN and the Mekong subregion.

Generally speaking, as stated in the March 7 Joint Statement, the friendship and cooperation between the two countries have developed steadily and comprehensively based on strategic trust and mutual understanding, reinforced through the complementarity of the two economies, shared interests and deep connections between the two peoples.

Deepening ties and expanding trust

The Joint Statement on establishing the Vietnam-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership framework is a natural and logical outcome after 50 years of continuous relationship building, in line with the common needs, interests and aspirations of both countries. This partnership framework is among the highest priorities in both countries' foreign policies. Vietnam has the opportunity to take relations with Australia, a trusted partner of great importance, to a deeper and more substantive level in service of development goals, maintaining a peaceful and stable environment, and enhancing the country's prestige and position in the spirit of the 13th National Party Congress.

For Australia, it is an opportunity to further strengthen relations with Vietnam, one of its leading partners in the region, thereby bolstering ties with ASEAN and regional countries, and seizing new cooperation opportunities to elevate Australia's position and role in the region. As with any relationship, the upgrade helps the two countries enhance political trust and mutual understanding while generating positive momentum that could facilitate the mobilization of resources for mutually beneficial cooperation priorities, especially in sustainable development, science and technology, for the benefit of the two peoples and for peace, stability and development in the region and beyond.

The six priority areas in the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership framework reflect both qualitative and quantitative development compared to the five priority areas of the 2018 Strategic Partnership framework. Most notable is the spirit of cooperation for rapid, sustainable development, economic integration, science and technology cooperation, innovation, digital transformation, and green transition. This can be considered one of the top priorities and a strategically significant driver of the bilateral relationship. In defense and security, the two sides will expand defense industry cooperation, maritime security, and intelligence sharing. These cooperative elements are included in Vietnam's CSP frameworks with many different partners, and are continuations from the 2018 Strategic Partnership framework with Australia. They are now further intensified only in service of peace, stability, regional security, as transnational crime, cybercrime, terrorism, illegal migration, maritime security continues to be major challenges for the international community. These cooperative efforts therefore cannot be interpreted as Vietnam taking sides or aligning with one country to the detriment of another third party's interests.

The establishment of the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership framework with Australia, one of the world's leading powers and a top partner of Vietnam, along with China, Russia, India, South Korea, the US and Japan, once again affirms the correctness of Vietnam's foreign policy, predicated on principles of independence, self-reliance, peace, cooperation, development, diversification, multilateralization, alongside the "Four No's" defense policy. This result, together with proactive efforts to promote deeper ties with neighboring countries, as well as key partners and traditional friends, have consolidated Vietnam's favorable foreign relations, contributing to maintaining a peaceful and stable environment for development, promoting the realization of development goals through 2030 and vision to 2045 set out by the 13th National Party Congress, and enhancing Vietnam's position and prestige in the international arena.

The Vietnam-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership:  Building mutual trust and forging a new narrative
PM Pham Minh Chinh meets with Australian Governor-General David Hurley in Canberra: Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh and Spouse had a meeting with Australian Governor-General David Hurley and Spouse on March 7, 2024. (Photo: Tuan Anh)

Looking at the broader regional and international context with its complex, multidimensional and unpredictable changes and upheavals leading to a decline in strategic trust between countries and in multilateralism, regional and global governance institutions, and international law, efforts to enhance strategic trust between Vietnam and Australia as well as with other partners are not only of bilateral significance but may also serve as a success story that could create a ripple effect, contributing to the restoration and strengthening of strategic trust in international relations, for peace, stability, cooperation and sustainable development.

Building a common vision for the region

Viewing the Indo - Asia - Pacific region simply as an "arena" for major powers or a geopolitical space for power competition would not be conducive to the common desire for comprehensive security and sustainable, inclusive, resilient and people-centered development. Without peace and stability there can be no basis or resources for sustainable development.

The principles of sharing a common vision for the region in the March 7 Joint Statement are the same universal principles of international relations and international law reflected in the United Nations Charter, the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and the Melbourne Declaration commemorating the 50th anniversary of ASEAN-Australia relations. This is the common aspiration, the "new story" that countries want to tell in order to convey the message of a peaceful, stable, resilient and prosperous region that respects international law, actively engages in dialogue and trust-building, de-escalates tensions, and takes positive steps to maintain an environment for conflict prevention.

By promoting a new vision, viewing the Indo - Asia - Pacific region as a common home of diverse countries, coexisting peacefully in a spirit of mutual understanding and respect for international law, Vietnam and Australia, together with partners, can sow the seeds for a sustainable and equitable future, where every country, big or small, has a voice and the right to develop and thrive.

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