Australian Foreign Minister Senator Bob Carr has granted an interview to the Vietnam News Agency on the occasion of the 40th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations with Vietnam.

The minister noted that Australia has built a wide-ranging partnership with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam (called the Democratic Republic of Vietnam in 1973) over the past 40 years. From humble beginnings, two-way trade relations now exceed 6 billion USD a year including wheat, resources, telecommunications and household goods.

The Vietnamese community in Australia is more than 200,000 strong, helping deliver a greater understanding of Vietnam’s history and culture in an Australian context. Vietnam is also a popular tourist destination for Australians travelling overseas.

He underlined a fact that Australia is a leading study destination for Vietnamese students with 20,000 students studying in Australia and a further 16,000 studying Australian programmes at universities and colleges in Vietnam.

“The 40th anniversary is an important milestone in diplomatic relations between Australia and the Socialist Republic of Vietnam”, the minister said, adding that to mark this special year, Australia’s Embassy in Hanoi and consulate in Ho Chi Minh City will celebrate with an exciting programme of cultural and education events.

He affirmed that Vietnam is an important regional friend and partner and he welcomes the opportunity to celebrate this anniversary.

Minister Carr went on to say that the Australia-Vietnam Comprehensive Partnership in 2009 marked a significant development in the bilateral relationship. It aimed to strengthen cooperation in political exchanges, development assistance, defence and security. It also promoted economic growth and highlighted the importance of working together to tackle regional and global challenges.

“The Comprehensive Partnership continues to deliver great rewards,” the minister said, citing as an example the Australia Awards programme which provides scholarships encouraging leadership, knowledge and technical skills. “The programme strengthens public institutions and promotes links between Australia and Vietnam. Australia is now the largest scholarship provider to Vietnam - we are set to meet the target of 1,380 Australia Awards Scholarships for post graduate training by 2015 under the Australia-Vietnam Joint Aid Program Strategy 2010-2015,” he said.

According to Carr, the two countries are reaping the benefits of the foresight their governments showed 40 years ago in forging diplomatic ties.

He said, “We cooperate with the Socialist Republic of Vietnam on education, development assistance, trade, border security, defence and countering transnational crime.

“We have an established history of bilateral human rights cooperation, which we value, including nine rounds of the Australia-Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue since 2002.”

The foreign minister noted that, however, there is much the two countries can do to further develop the relationship. This is recognised in the Australia in the Asian Century White Paper released by the Australian Prime Minister in October 2012.

He said in this milestone year, Vietnam is the Australia International Cultural Council’s (AICC) focus country for 2013. This programme will showcase Australia’s creativity and diversity and creates a platform for future collaboration. This is in line with the White Paper’s objectives to build stronger cultural links with the region.

Australia and Vietnam are working together to create a better trade environment, Carr said, noting that both countries are parties to the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) and negotiating partners in the Trans-Pacific Partnership Free Trade Agreement (TPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

He affirmed that Australia will also continue to support Vietnam’s national development goals. “Following our funding of the My Thuan bridge - completed in 2000 - we have committed to our biggest aid project in Vietnam, with 160 million USD for design and construction of the Cao Lanh bridge. This bridge will link five million people to markets across the Mekong Delta. We will continue to support collaborative research in agriculture, forestry and fisheries for 20 years, helping improve food quality and incomes for millions of Vietnamese people,” Carr said.

He also said in law enforcement, Australia and Vietnam have a strong record of working together to improve their ability to respond to transnational challenges such as transnational crime, narcotics and people smuggling. This cooperation is exemplified by the Joint Transnational Crime Centre established in Ho Chi Minh City by the Vietnamese Police with support from the Australian Federal Police.

“These shared interests are reasons for celebration today,” the foreign minister said, adding that he looks forward to the next 40 years of strong and prosperous relations between the people and governments of Australia and Vietnam.-VNA