Vietnam and Western Australia Trade Bolstered by High-Level Bilateral Support
Bilateral trade between Australia and Vietnam has increased by 227 percent in the past two full years, reaching US$921 million in 2014. This productive relationship is the result of deep links which have expanded since establishment of diplomatic relations between the two states in 1973.
These diplomatic relations are of course intertwined with trade. On June 18, 2015 the West Australia–Vietnam Business Council (WAVBC) made its debut in Perth. The WAVBC aim to provide information, support exchanges and promote business and investment between Vietnam and Australia. Its debut event featured Vietnamese Consul General of Vietnam in Perth Le Viet Duyen, who illustrated that such organizations are key the nations’ growing partnership. Mr. Le Viet Duyen also expressed his highest expectation that the council would duly promote effective communication between enterprises and thus help encourage trade activities between the two nations, which would bolster Vietnam’s international relations.
The Consul General illustrated this partnership by introducing Vietnamese lychees to those in attendance. Lychees are a recent addition to Australia’s plethora of Vietnamese imports – the first consignment of them arrived in Melbourne on June 12, 2015. The imports had been held up by Australia’s import risk assessment (IRA) procedures. Australian fruit imports to Vietnam also faced an administrative impediment this year when the Vietnamese government restricted supply in response to alleged fruit fly contamination.
The WAVBC has seen keen interest from local government, – the Western Australian Town of Norrogin recently signed up to it. The CEO of the Town of Norrogin has spoken out in favor of the “strong potential for Vietnamese businesses to invest [in Western Australia], or for local businesses to take an opportunity to create a business to export directly to Vietnam, and set up those chains now”.
Ongoing High-Level Dialogue
From March 16 to 18, 2015, the Prime Minister of Vietnam Nguyen Tan Dung made an official visit to Australia. He and Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott highlighted the strength and breadth of the beneficial relationship between the two nations and agreed to create new momentum in the relations through commitments from Vietnam and Australia to reach a prompt conclusion of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) negotiations. In addition, Australia is ready to support Vietnam’s efforts to host Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) in 2017.
During the visit, Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung met the Governor General of Australian Peter Cosgrove and the Governor of New South Wales David Hurley. He attended the Business Dialogue between Vietnam and Australia, met with a number of Australian business leaders and overseas Vietnamese representatives and Vietnamese students who live and study in the country. He delivered a speech at the Lowy Institute for International Policy – one of the top 30 global think tanks – in Sydney and met with Australian scholars at the institute.
Central to this relationship will continue to be the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA), which Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade calls “Australia’s most ambitious trade deal to date”, and is Australia’s first multi-country free trade agreement (FTA). The FTA was signed in 2009, and a protocol was signed last year to improve its implementation. It is delivering extensive tariff reduction and elimination commitments, covers regional rules of origin to provide Australian exporters clarity in the ASEAN region’s international supply chain, provides legal protections for Australians investing in ASEAN, and is a platform for ongoing high-level engagement between the governments involved.
At ground level, there are still a number of obstacles. Australia’s IRA procedures, while necessary, slow down import processes. When importing into Vietnam, Australian businesses must satisfy requirements that may at times act as a non-tariff barrier to trade. Local expertise is essential in having your imports clear Vietnam’s customs, and in establishing a trading company in the country.
In this strategic partnership, dialogue and relationships continue to drive progress and solidify trade links. High-level support from both sides build confidence, if it were needed, that this relationship is one to endure.
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