Australia and Vietnam will celebrate 40 years of diplomatic relations in 2013.
The two countries established friendly ties in February 1973 and have been forging a closer relationship ever since.
In 2009, the then-general secretary of the Communist Party of Vietnam, Nong Duc Manh, visited Australia to launch a Comprehensive Partnership between the two countries.
Australia and Vietnam have outlined five areas to focus on: expanding political ties and public policy exchanges, promoting economic growth and trade development, ongoing development assistance and technical cooperation, building defence and security ties, supporting people-to-people links, and advancing the global and regional agenda.
Phillip Stonehouse, the deputy head of mission at the Australian Embassy in Hanoi, believes education and trade links between Australia and Vietnam are particularly important.
He says Australia is the “destination of choice” for Vietnamese students.
“They choose Australia over the United States, Canada, and Britain. We’ve got around 20,000 Vietnamese studying in Australia, so I think in fact this is a success story,” says Mr Stonehouse.
“Unfortunately at the moment we don’t have a lot of Australians studying in Vietnam, for reasons such as language, but I think as Vietnam’s universities become more known in Australia and as the English language capability of Vietnamese teaching increases, Australians will look at Vietnam as a good place to get, not necessarily an undergraduate degree, but a post-graduate degree.”
Discussing trade, Mr Stonehouse says many Australian businesses have already set up in Vietnam because of the low labour costs.
“It is a skilled and educated workforce, and the Vietnamese Government is really keen to encourage foreign investment in foreign companies to set up, particularly Australian companies because we have a very friendly relationship with Vietnam.”
Another partnership between Australia and Vietnam is the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) – one of Australia’s most ambitious trade deals yet.
AANZFTA is a multi-country free trade area that includes Australia, New Zealand, Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam.
The free trade negotiations cover sectors including goods, services, investment, and intellectual property, and as at 2010 the GDP of AANZFTA was worth US$3.2 trillion.
AANZFTA is the most comprehensive trade agreement ASEAN has ever negotiated, and is the first time Australia and New Zealand have negotiated free trade with third countries.
In a March 2012 meeting with Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr, Vietnam’s President Truong Tan Sang named “food safety and hygiene, natural resources, and energy exploitation” as key focus areas for AANZFTA.
He said the two countries should continue to develop their Comprehensive Partnership and help establish Vietnam as a “reliable and responsible international partner.”
Carr in turn thanked Vietnam for its support at regional and international forums, and praised both countries for their cooperation in public-private partnership, infrastructure construction, coping with climate change, and education and training.
Vietnam’s gross domestic product (GDP) has almost doubled between 2007 and 2012 and as the country continues to develop, so do the relations between Australia and Vietnam.
Australia was Vietnam’s seventh highest export destination in 2011, and its 12th highest import sources.
Many Vietnamese continue to migrate to Australia and the Vietnamese are the sixth largest ethnic group in Australia.