Speech - Australian Chamber of Commerce Viet Nam

23 Aug 2019
Hanoi, Viet Nam
Prime Minister
Check against delivery, E&OE

PRIME MINISTER: Thank you to tonight’s co-hosts: Phil Dowler and the Board of the Australian Chamber of Commerce in Viet Nam.

You are tireless in your promotion of Australia’s business interests in this dynamic economy. 

And Dr Vu Tien Loc, President of the Viet Nam Chamber of Commerce and Industry (VCCI).

The VCCI works closely with Australia to help develop Viet Nam’s private sector and reduce business regulations.

Two great organisations, both working to make the partnership between Australia and Viet Nam even stronger.  Thank you both for hosting dinner this evening. 

It is wonderful to be here in this city of one thousand years.

 Hanoi speaks of the ebbs and flows of history.

Of powers that have come and gone – and of an enduring people and culture that has provided a constancy to national life.

We have in Australia, over 300,000 people of Viet Namese descent.

Through their diligence, enterprising spirit, and their love of family and community they have enriched our national life.

There is between our peoples a direct and deep understanding beyond Governments and political systems of how to work together.

That in many ways is at the heart of our relationship.

It is the foundation for the trust we are building that will bind us together for a bright future. 

Here we are, two different societies; two different political systems; two nations who were once in terrible conflict; but who now work together on so many fronts.

As our countries have changed, we have worked to understand each other better and build a lasting relationship.

That is why I am here.

The relationship we have, the relationship we are building. 

A relationship that speaks strongly to the future of our region. Partners for a stable, peaceful, prosperous and independent Indo-Pacific region. A region of sovereign interdependent states, resistant to coercion but open to engagement on the basis of shared interests.

The change we see in the connections between our countries is underpinned by the changes that have been occurring in Australia for many years.

Our Governor in South Australia, Hieu Van Le was born in Viet Nam. He is a deeply loved figure in South Australia.

He has said this: “Only four to five decades ago Australia was the most monocultural country in the world. Today, Australia is the most culturally diverse country in the world”.

What Australia has discovered is that these organic people to people linkages create so much opportunity.

As it is tended, this is a relationship that can only grow.

My message to you today is this: Viet Nam matters to Australia.

And I know that our partnership matters to Viet Nam.

I am here because of how far the relationship has come, and because I see the potential.

My government sees the potential.

Our challenge is to realise that potential. We need ambition and action to turn potential into reality.

This is a great time to be doing business in Viet Nam.

Our commitment to each other, and our shared vision for security and prosperity, has never been stronger.

It was a historic moment when His Excellency Prime Minister Phuc visited Australia last year and we formally elevated our relationship to the level of a Strategic Partnership.

It’s yet another sign of our deepening cooperation. 

It makes sense for us to work together.

We share a vision for an open, inclusive and prosperous Indo-Pacific neighbourhood.

An Indo-Pacific where we respect each other’s sovereignty and independence, because if we allow the sovereignty or independence of any of our neighbours to suffer coercion, then we are all diminished. 

And we share a deep interest in the stability and prosperity of our region.

My Government is about expanding opportunity for all of us through building closer connections, right across the board.

The ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney last year exemplified that. 

As Australia and the ASEAN nations declared in Sydney, we are partners with a vital stake in a dynamic region that’s undergoing major changes.

It’s more important than ever before that we remain open and connected and maintain a regional focus with a global perspective.

We know that in Southeast Asia we need security and peace to maintain our prosperity.

I’m sure many of you have noticed the developing mutual trust between our countries, particularly in areas like economic development, defence, immigration and law enforcement.

We are working together in a very practical way, building closer connections. 

Australia’s support for Viet Nam’s development and growth, which has helped build these strong foundations, has evolved into a genuine economic partnership which is strong and vibrant.

Many of you here tonight represent Australian companies and institutions that embody that partnership – some with long histories here too.

We’ve got ANZ which has been helping Australian companies trade with and invest in Viet Nam since it opened here back in 1993 – one of the first foreign banks to do so.

Allens has been here for more than 20 years and they’re one of the largest and most successful foreign law firms in Viet Nam. 

RMIT started here back in 2001 with just 40 students.

Today that number is more than 6000.

It’s great to see RMIT and our vocational education providers helping produce job-ready graduates for Viet Nam’s growing workforce.

And I thank Vice Chancellor Bean for his strong support of tonight’s event.

SunRice has been sourcing rice from Viet Nam for more than a decade, operates a rice mill in the Mekong Delta and has invested in research to develop higher value rice varieties — which means better returns for Viet Namese farmers.  

Australian companies are also behind some very large and exciting projects here too.

Linfox is expanding – they’ve opened a huge new warehouse in Bac Ninh – worth more than US$20 million – to service northern Viet Nam.

The world’s largest aluminium hull shipbuilder, Austal, is building high speed catamaran passenger ferries here for export around the world.

Hundreds of local workers at their shipyard in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province are involved in that.

BlueScope Steel is also in that province and they’re investing heavily in local community development there.

You all exemplify Australia’s reputation for quality goods and services in Viet Nam.

So while we may not be Viet Nam’s biggest economic partner, we can be its highest quality economic partner – and that’s thanks to the work that you’re doing.

It’s also thanks to the Viet Namese Government’s efforts to make it easier to do business here, and the Australian business community tells me these efforts are paying dividends.

Viet Nam understands, as Australia does, that the foundation of so much that a country can do starts with a strong economy.

Viet Nam is on a remarkable trajectory of growth - 7.1 per cent last year, and the IMF expects Viet Nam to continue strong growth of 6.5 per cent in 2019.

The short and medium-term growth prospects are positive too.

This is no accident. It’s not a matter of good fortune.

It’s because of hard work and commitment.

It’s because of 30 years of economic reform.

In a time when dark clouds are on the horizon in terms of global trade, it is so good to see countries like Viet Nam supporting and embracing trade liberalisation.

We share a commitment to open trade and investment, and together stand to benefit from the TPP-11.

I want to acknowledge the vital role of Viet Nam to the TPP-11.

When the US withdrew from the TPP, most thought the deal would simply fall over.

It is a great testament to Viet Nam’s commitment to trade liberalisation that it stuck with the TPP even without the US - its biggest trading partner.

Together we created the world’s most consequential trade agreement in two decades. 

Viet Nam and Australia also share an ambition to conclude the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership this year.

We’re at a sweet spot in our partnership. Viet Nam is rapidly industrialising and developing, and Australia is willing and able to support that growth.

Our two economies are complementary ― I believe we can and will prosper together.

Our exports to Viet Nam are at record levels.

In the first six months of 2019, Australian merchandise exports to Viet Nam increased by 37 per cent compared with the same six months last year.

That’s an impressive jump.

Viet Namese exports to Australia are also growing.

Overall, two-way trade set a new record of $14.6 billion in 2018.

In the years ahead, I’d like to see Australian investment in Viet Nam grow further, and I hope to make some progress on that during my visit this week.

One area of big opportunity is energy.

When Viet Nam starts importing LNG in 2020, Australian gas producers like Woodside, whose CEO, Peter Coleman, is here tonight, have aspirations to be part of that and are working towards making that happen.

And I know Macquarie Group, whose Executive Chairman David Roseman is also here, is interested in investing in Viet Nam’s renewable energy sector, and in particular, partnering with Viet Nam to develop offshore wind projects.

The capacity for Australia and Viet Nam to work even more closely together is enormous.

Our partnership is full of potential.

It’s full of opportunities.

And the people in this room today are the ones who turn those opportunities into reality.

Thank you for your efforts in being part of a thriving, successful economic partnership.

And I’m looking forward to many prosperous years to come.