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Joint press statement by the Prime Ministers of Australia and Vietnam.



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PRIME MINISTER

JOINT PRESS STATEMENT BY THE PRIME MINISTERS OF AUSTRALIA AND VIETNAM

Prime Minister John Howard of Australia and Prime Minister Phan Van Khai of Vietnam today reaffirmed the strength and vitality of the bilateral relationship between Australia and Vietnam. Meeting at Parliament House, Canberra, Prime Minister Howard extended a very warm welcome to Prime Minister Khai on the occasion of his second visit to Australia as Head of Government of the Socialist Republic of Vietnam.

The Prime Ministers went on to discuss a broad range of bilateral and regional issues, canvassing the political, economic and security agendas. They agreed that since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1973, the friendship and cooperation between Vietnam and Australia have expanded in the fields of politics, economics, trade, education, culture, development, science and technology, security and defence. The continued consolidation and strengthening of friendship and multifaceted cooperation not only serve the interests of Vietnam and Australia, but also contribute greatly to the maintenance of regional peace and stability as well as to the promotion of cooperation in the Asia-Pacific region.

The Prime Ministers acknowledged the significant and growing cooperation between Australia and Vietnam on defence, security and law enforcement matters, which includes the strong partnership between the Australian Federal Police (AFP) and the General Police Department of Vietnam to combat transnational crime in the Asia region. The Prime Ministers expressed their condemnation of terrorism in any form or manifestation. They agreed to strengthen cooperation in countering terrorism, and to expand the sharing of information and experience on combating transnational crimes, such as arms and drug smuggling, human trafficking, money laundering, computer crime and other organised crimes. In this context, they welcomed the imminent conclusion of a Memorandum of Understanding on cooperation between the AFP and the Vietnam Police Department. This follows the official launch in March this year of the Asia Regional Law Enforcement Management Program (ARLEMP), a joint venture between the AFP, RMIT International University and the General Police Department of Vietnam. They noted with approval the entry into force of the bilateral Consular Agreement in 2004 and looked forward to the negotiation of further mutually beneficial agreements including initial discussions later in 2005 on a bilateral prisoner transfer arrangement.

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The Prime Ministers welcomed the increasing defence links between the two countries, marked by the recent first ever visit by an Australian Defence Minister to Vietnam, which reciprocated the first visit of Vietnam’s Defence Minister to Australia in 2004. They noted with appreciation the plans of the two Defence Ministries and respective armed services to expand exchanges in selected operational areas as well as in training and intelligence discussions.

Prime Minister Howard welcomed the growing number of Vietnamese students studying in Australia. Prime Minister Khai expressed his appreciation of the contribution being made by Australian universities and institutions in delivering high-level courses in partnership with national universities and institutions in Vietnam. He noted that an Australian university, RMIT, was the only foreign university currently authorised to operate a fully foreign-owned campus in Vietnam. The Prime Ministers noted positively the proposal of the University of Sydney to establish a Medical School in Hanoi.

The Prime Ministers welcomed the longstanding and positive economic and investment links between the two countries and the fact that two-way trade had reached a new high of A$3.7 billion in 2004. They agreed that these links could only strengthen as Vietnam continued its process of economic reform towards a market economy and achieved its aim of accession to the World Trade Organisation. Prime Minister Howard reaffirmed Australia’s strong support for Vietnam’s WTO bid, and the two leaders agreed that efforts should continue to bring it to a successful conclusion as soon as possible. They welcomed and attached a high priority to efforts to negotiate a free trade agreement between Australia, New Zealand and ASEAN countries.

Prime Minister Howard commented that a number of leading Australian companies were currently investing in Vietnam. The Prime Ministers noted the contribution made by ANZ Bank in Vietnam over many years and its recent success in securing, as part of the reform of the banking sector in Vietnam, part ownership of Vietnam’s largest joint stock bank, Sacombank. Prime Minister Khai expressed his appreciation and took note of the interest of Australia’s largest company, BHP Billiton, in exploring significant bauxite prospects in Vietnam.

The Prime Ministers noted the continuing effective development cooperation between Vietnam and Australia. They welcomed this ongoing contribution to Vietnam’s growth and development through major aid activities such as the successful My Thuan Bridge Project, continued support for enhancing skills through scholarships for Vietnamese to study in Australia, and an increasing emphasis on supporting Vietnam’s international economic integration and private sector development. Australia is also providing assistance to strengthen the capacity of Vietnam, and other East Asian countries, to respond to communicable diseases such as avian influenza.

The Prime Ministers noted the continued cooperation between Australia’s Department of Family and Community Services and Vietnam’s Commission for Population, Family and Children and Vietnam Social Security on social policy issues.

The Prime Ministers recorded mutual appreciation for the working relationship the two countries share in international and regional fora such as APEC, ASEAN and related meetings including the ARF. Prime Minister Howard noted that Vietnam and Australia would chair APEC in consecutive years - 2006 and 2007 - and Prime Minister Khai thanked

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Prime Minister Howard for his offer to provide assistance to Vietnam for its APEC year. Prime Minister Howard expressed appreciation for Vietnam’s support of Australian regional engagement, most recently through its role as coordinator of Australia’s dialogue partnership with ASEAN. Prime Minister Khai highly valued Australia’s contribution over many years to regional stability and development, including in its responses to the Boxing Day tsunami and subsequent events, and expressed Vietnam’s support for Australia to participate in the East Asia Summit.

Canberra 5 May 2005