On August 17, the spokesperson of the Vietnamese Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced at a regular press conference that Australian Foreign Minister Huang Yingxian will start a three-day official visit to Vietnam on August 21. – Co-host the 5th Australia-Vietnam Foreign Ministers Meeting (AVFMM) with Vietnamese Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son. Since the two countries established a strategic partnership in 2018, AVFMM has been held alternately in the two countries every year. The fourth meeting was held in Canberra last year.
In a media statement released on the eve of her visit, Senator Hoong said she would also meet Prime Minister Pham Minh Trung and other senior leaders and take part in a number of events aimed at cementing the strategic partnership between Canberra and Hanoi. Mr. Huang will be visiting Ho Chi Minh City for the first time. Although not mentioned in the statement, Joshua Wong is also expected to reach an agreement with his Vietnamese hosts on when the two countries will upgrade their current strategic partnership to a comprehensive strategic partnership, the highest level in Vietnam’s diplomatic ties. Vietnamese Ambassador to Australia Nguyen Thanh said the upgrade will be officially announced after the two sides complete various internal procedures, which means that the basic content of the partnership between the two sides has been agreed.
The two sides have repeatedly stated that trade, investment, people-to-people and cultural exchanges, and tourism will remain important pillars and priority areas of the comprehensive strategic partnership between the two countries.
In 2022, the two-way trade volume between the two countries will reach approximately US$16 billion, and Australia will become Vietnam’s seventh largest trading partner. Meanwhile, Vietnam is Australia’s tenth largest trading partner.
More Vietnamese and Australian tourists are pouring in from both directions. In 2019, before the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, 125,000 Vietnamese tourists came to Australia and more than 300,000 Australians visited Vietnam. In the first quarter of 2023 alone, nearly 82,000 Australian tourists arrived in Vietnam, an increase of 14.4% over the same period in 2019, while the number of Vietnamese tourists to Australia accounted for 10% of Vietnam’s outbound tourists. Many Australians choose Vietnam as their favorite destination because of the low cost compared to other countries, while others immigrate with their families to live and do business in Vietnam. Vietnamese visit Australia because of some connection to the country, such as kinship or returning to a place where they once studied. There are more than 300,000 Vietnamese-Australians and about 80,000 Vietnamese men and women studying in Australia.
In order to raise trade and investment to a level commensurate with the strategic partnership, the two countries have signed a series of agreements and established some 20 bilateral mechanisms. These include, for example, the Australia-Vietnam Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy (AVEES, 2021); the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the Vietnam Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Vietnam Memorandum of Understanding to establish a ministerial-level trade dialogue mechanism, the first meeting of which is planned for this year.
In addition, both Vietnam and Australia are members of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and the Comprehensive and Progressive Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement. However, the work done so far has not been enough to accelerate a breakthrough in the growth of trade, commerce, investment and tourism between the two sides. More favorable terms and simplified customs procedures are needed to facilitate trade and the freer flow of goods, and to remove barriers that prevent citizens from traveling.
Recently, the Vietnamese government has undertaken bold administrative reforms, promulgating policies that allow foreign citizens to enter the country more easily and for a longer period of time. For example, as of August 15, tourists from all countries and regions can now apply for an e-Visa with a multiple-entry stay of up to 90 days. Meanwhile, citizens from 13 countries are now eligible for visa-free stays of up to 45 days, while citizens of 12 other countries are eligible for visa-free stays of up to 90 days. It is worth noting that of the 25 countries to which the policy applies, 9 are ASEAN members and 13 are strategic or comprehensive strategic partners.
On the other hand, as of July, Australian passport holders can travel visa-free to 144 countries and territories, including the five founding members of ASEAN, with the exception of Vietnam. Currently, only Australians and Vietnamese (not including Vietnamese-Australian dual citizens) holding APEC cards can enter the country visa-free in both directions.
During talks during their first visit to Hanoi last year, Hoang and his Vietnamese counterpart agreed to promote cooperation in the fields of tourism, education and labor in the post-COVID-19 era. The two countries are looking for ways to quickly revive tourism and minimize the impact of the war in Ukraine on trade. Therefore, there is every reason to believe that the time is ripe to establish Vietnam and Australia visa-free travel for citizens of both countries.
Given the high level of political and strategic mutual trust between the two countries, the complementary nature of their economies, the determined expansion of trade and investment, and Australia’s need for labor in areas such as construction and agriculture, it is difficult to understand why this plan was not implemented sooner. and hotel industry.
Both sides may have concerns about the safety and social stability of illegal immigrants or “terrorists.” However, steps can be taken to address these issues. The best approach is not to use the visa application process as a filter to block the entry of factors that also negatively affect the public. On the contrary, as trustworthy strategic partners, in addition to constructive and candid dialogue, strengthening border security cooperation and control through the most advanced identification technology will properly address the potential concerns of both sides.