Top legislator holds talks with Australian House of Representatives Speaker hinh anh 1Chairwoman of the National Assembly Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan (R) welcomes Speaker of the House of Representatives of Australia Tony Smith in Hanoi on July 23 (Photo: VNA)

Hanoi (VNA) – Chairwoman of the National Assembly (NA) Nguyen Thi Kim Ngan and Speaker of the House of Representatives of Australia Tony Smith held talks in Hanoi on July 23, seeking ways to solidify the countries’ relations in a number of aspects.

Welcoming her guest’s official visit, Chairwoman Ngan said the trip is significant amid the 45th anniversary of the countries’ diplomatic ties and the increasing trust in their political relations. In particular, the elevation of bilateral relations to a strategic partnership last March has created a new important framework for enhancing all-round cooperation in a more substantial manner.

She noted Vietnam has always treasured its ties with Australia, which plays a growing role in the region and the world, and is one of its key partners. 

She expressed her delight that Australia is currently one of the leading trade and investment partners of her country. Bilateral trade has risen by over 7 percent each year, approximating 6.5 billion USD in 2017 and 3.62 billion USD in the first half of 2018. Australia has 416 investment projects worth a total of 1.8 billion USD in Vietnam at present, ranking 20th among the 126 countries and territories investing in the Southeast Asian nation.

Valuing Australia’s facilitation for Vietnamese agricultural products, Chairwoman Ngan said Vietnam will support Australian firms in increasing their investments, especially in high-demand fields such as energy, infrastructure, telecommunications, finance and banking, mining, manufacturing, high-tech agriculture, education, and tourism.

At the talks, the two leaders noted with satisfaction that Australia’s official development assistance for Vietnam has resulted in some encouraging outcomes. Notably, Cao Lanh Bridge, inaugurated on May 27 during a visit by Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, is a symbol of the countries’ strategic partnership. It is also a demonstration of Australia’s effective support for socio-economic development in the Mekong Delta region of Vietnam.

The host asked Australia to continue assisting Vietnam in infrastructure, agriculture and rural development, poverty reduction, climate change combat, and human resource development.

Regarding defence and security, the two sides said bilateral cooperation in this area is becoming more and more substantive, trustworthy, and stable, especially in terms of coordination in participating in the United Nations peacekeeping mission, fighting terrorism and trans-national crimes, and training English.

Chairwoman Ngan called on Australia to further help Vietnam address the consequences of unexploded ordnances (UXO) and provide information about missing Vietnamese soldiers, as agreed in a memorandum of understanding inked in 2015.

She applauded Australia’s White Paper Foreign Policy, released in November 2017, that prioritises relations with Southeast Asia, including Vietnam. She also highly valued the country’s increasing role in and responsibility towards the region, particularly in disaster relief.

The NA leader affirmed that Vietnam will coordinate closely to help strengthen Australia’s relations with ASEAN and other regional countries.

She also lauded the two countries’ cooperation at regional and international forums, including the United Nations, the Asia-Pacific Economic Partnership (APEC), ASEAN, the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), and other ASEAN-led mechanisms.

To reinforce legislative ties, the Chairwoman asked the two parliaments to boost mutual visits to share legislative experience; supervise and support their respective Governments to realise the commitments in the Plan of Action for 2016-2019 and other agreements; create more favourable conditions for people-to-people exchange; and promote the role of parliamentary friendship groups and friendship associations in each country.

[Infographics: Vietnam-Australia Strategic Partnership]

There are now nearly 30,000 Vietnamese students in Australia while about 1,000 Australian students have come to Vietnam under the New Colombo Plan, Ngan said, asking Australia to continue helping her country develop high-quality human resources. She affirmed that Vietnam will keep close cooperation with Australia to carry out the New Colombo Plan.

She highlighted the growth in tourism cooperation when nearly 400,000 Australians visited Vietnam in 2017. The national flag carrier Vietnam Airlines has operated 18 direct flights a week to major cities in Australia. Meanwhile, the budget carrier Vietjet Air is also planning to open a direct route linking Brisbane to Ho Chi Minh City in 2019.

She also asked Australia to continue favourable conditions for Vietnamese citizens to join the Work and Holiday programme, and the nearly 300,000 Vietnamese expatriates to integrate into local society and contribute to bilateral relations.

For his part, Speaker Tony Smith said the recent visits between the two parliaments and Governments have shown the strong connections between Australia and Vietnam.

He shared the view that the countries should enhance coordination in ratifying and implementing the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP). He also placed Vietnam’s efforts to ratify the deal in 2018 under high value.

Discussing the cooperation areas mentioned by Chairwoman Ngan, he said they are important to people-to-people connections. He voiced his belief that the Australian and Vietnamese students, entrepreneurs, and labourers in each other’s countries are ambassadors helping to enhance bilateral relations in the future.

Tony Smith said his country has a successful agricultural community and it wants to learn about the agricultural experience of Vietnam. He noted that the New Colombo Plan, which sends Australian students to Vietnam, has been deemed a success and has received major domestic support.

At the talks, the two leaders said maintaining peace, stability, security, safety, and freedom of navigation and overflight over the East Sea is critical to all countries in the region. They also underlined the importance of resolving disputes by peaceful means on the basis of international law.

On this occasion, Chairwoman Ngan asked Speaker Tony Smith to convey her invitation to visit Vietnam to the President of the Australian Senate.

Later on July 23, the top legislator of Vietnam hosted a banquet in honour of Speaker Tony Smith and the delegation of the Australian House of Representatives. –VNA