Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc held talks in Hanoi on August 23 with Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is paying an official visit to Vietnam from August 22-24 at Prime Minister Phuc’s invitation.

This is Mr. Morrison’s first visit to Vietnam in his capacity as Prime Minister.

The two agreed to raise bilateral trade from nearly $7.8 billion in 2018 to $10 billion next year, according to a report from the Vietnam News Agency.

The two leaders shared a common view that although Australia’s investment in Vietnam is remarkable, with nearly 500 projects and combined investment capital exceeding $2 billion, the two countries still hold a lot of potential and strength in this regard.

The two sides, therefore, concurred to build an enhanced economic engagement strategy with the aim of each becoming a top ten trade partner of the other and doubling investment.

They also pledged to push ahead with the first ministerial-level Vietnam-Australia economic partnership meeting, to further boost bilateral relations in trade, investment, and development cooperation.

The sides will step up two-way connectivity, expand collaboration in energy security, and seize digital opportunities, including in the digital economy and e-government.

Prime Minister Phuc asked Australia to send a delegation of top businesses to Vietnam in 2020.

Prime Minister Morrison agreed to facilitate market access for Vietnamese aquatic and agricultural products, saying Australia is considering the import of Vietnamese live shrimp and fresh longan.

The leaders affirmed their support for the rules-based multilateral trading system and cooperation to promote regional economic integration through free trade agreements to which both countries are signatories, such as the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area and the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), as well as cooperation in multilateral economic frameworks, including the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum and the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).

They noted with pleasure the strong, dynamic, and effective development of the Vietnam-Australia relationship over the past time, saying the two countries hold substantial potential to strengthen their ties.

They spoke highly of the regular exchange of all-level delegations through all channels and consented to starting the annual meeting mechanism of high-ranking leaders, while maintaining the meeting mechanisms at the foreign affairs, national defense, and economic ministerial levels established within the strategic partnership.

The two sides noted the effective and result-oriented cooperation in national defense and security, especially Australia’s assistance to Vietnam in joining UN peacekeeping operations.

Prime Minister Phuc suggested the two sides expand partnerships in potential spheres like the defense industry, cyber security, and training connectivity.

Prime Minister Morrison agreed to enhance bilateral security cooperation, covering navigation and cyber security, and join hands in fighting cross-border crime, human trafficking, and terrorism.

The leaders shared the view that people-to-people exchange has developed strongly thanks to progress in cooperation in education, culture, tourism, labor, and sports.

Prime Minister Phuc welcomed Australia’s announcement that from September 2 this year it will increase the number of Work and Holiday Maker visa places for Vietnamese nationals from 200 to 1,500.

They committed to cooperating in coping with climate change, reducing plastic waste, and sustainably exploiting seafood.

Apart from bilateral ties, the host and guest also touched upon regional and international strategic and security issues.

Australia committed to extending strong support to Vietnam in assuming the role of ASEAN Chair in 2020 and as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council in 2020-2021.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Phuc said Vietnam backs Australia’s efforts to boost connectivity with ASEAN, expressing his hope that it will strengthen its cooperation with countries in the Mekong sub-region in areas such as connectivity, ICT, climate change adaptation, and water resource management.

Regarding the East Sea, the two expressed serious concerns about developments, including land reclamation and the militarization of disputed features.

They also expressed concern about disruptive activities in relation to long-standing oil and gas projects in the East Sea.

The two leaders emphasized the importance of freedom of navigation and overflight, compliance with international law, and maintaining a rules-based order.

They called on all parties to exercise self-restraint and avoid actions that may further complicate the situation.

They also reaffirmed the need for states to resolve disputes peacefully, without the threat or use of force, in accordance with international law, particularly the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Prime Ministers underscored the importance of the UNCLOS dispute settlement mechanisms and called upon parties to respect and implement the decisions rendered by these mechanisms.

They reiterated the importance of the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the East Sea (DOC).

They called for any Code of Conduct between ASEAN and China to be fully consistent with international law, in particular UNCLOS.

Prime Minister Phuc said he believes that Mr. Morrison’s first official visit to Vietnam in his capacity as Prime Minister of Australia will significantly contribute to consolidating the friendship and developing the strategic partnership between the two countries.

Prime Minister Morrison lauded major achievements Vietnam has recorded in national construction and development, which, he said, have helped to improve its role and position in the region and the world, especially within ASEAN and the UN.

Australia always attaches importance to enhancing relations with Vietnam - its key strategic partner in ASEAN and the region, he said.

Following the talks, the two witnessed the signing of five cooperation documents in the fields of e-government, finance, human trafficking, and aviation services.