Promote a thriving business and investment environment

Bilateral links between Australia and Vietnam have developed significantly since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1973. Despite differences in the likes of legal systems and culture, both nations still share the ambition to promote bilateral trade and investment.

Over the past five decades, Australia and Vietnam’s partnership has extended across political, security, economic, and people-to-people activities. Australians born in Vietnam represent the sixth-largest migrant community in Australia, and around 20,000 Vietnamese students enrol in education institutions in Australia each year.

Currently, consumers in Vietnam can now enjoy Western Australian rock lobster caught from the state’s pristine waters. Meanwhile, Vietnamese meat and seafood products are now on the shelves of Australian stores.

Australians are also enjoying Vietnamese mangos, lychees, and other delicious fruit, while Vietnamese consumers have access to fresh Australian cherries, peaches, and nectarines.

Furthermore, the two economies are highly complementary. Australia is a reliable supplier of the services and raw materials that Vietnam’s exporters require, and its consumers enjoy Vietnam’s high-quality products in their homes and workplaces.

But while many Australian businesses have a strong foothold in the Vietnamese market, in general, awareness of the market in Australia is still low.

To be successful, building cultural understanding and personal relationships is deemed crucial. Australian companies can take advantage of the large overseas Vietnamese community there to increase their linguistic and cultural understanding, and to better understand potential opportunities and risks. The increase in the number of Australian families living in Vietnam over the past decade should also be seen as a potentially valuable asset, insiders say, helping Australian businesses penetrate the Vietnamese market.

Even so, Australian businesses with a clear understanding of these challenges benefit from Vietnam’s economic opportunities. Ongoing reforms to state-owned enterprises and the development of market-oriented economic activities could bring greater competitiveness and open up more opportunities for Australian businesses in Vietnam.

Enhancing partnerships

Meanwhile, Vietnamese companies see Australia as an expensive but safe market to invest in. Australian Ambassador to Vietnam Andrew Goledzinowski notes that the investment relationship has some room to improve, but a growing cohort of Vietnamese companies have declared interest in Australia. Australian investors are finding similar opportunities here in Vietnam, with strong growth in sectors including education, agriculture, and innovation.

“In addition, we have been delighted to see more and more Vietnamese students returning to Australia. And Australia is now the second most popular destination for Vietnamese students to study abroad and we’re hoping some day soon we’ll be number one. We hope that these students will become future ambassadors for Australia-Vietnam relations,” he stressed.

In terms of human capital development, there are 350,000 Australians with Vietnamese heritage, accordsing to Goledzinowski. This important factor means that many foreign investment firms here benefit from the cultural and linguistic expertise of Australian Vietnamese people.

“Some of them are led by Australian Vietnamese who have come back to Vietnam to live and work and invest here,” he added. “That’s a huge feature of the relationship, along with the long history of economic integration.”

Over the past 50 years, the bilateral relationship has gone from strength to strength, driven through the two countries’ converging interests, and strong people-people ties. This history is one of the key ingredients of the relationship, with several Australian firms playing a pioneering role in Vietnam’s economic opening in the early 1990s.

“Back then, leading economists and others supported Vietnam in the reform and modernisation process. After that, Australia was heavily involved in a range of processes, including Vietnam’s accession to the World Trade Organization and its participation in multiple free trade agreements. All of those are features of our relationship over the past few decades,” stressed Ambassador Goledzinowski.

Australian firms also played a big role in the early days of Vietnam’s integration development. ANZ Bank was one of the first foreign banks in Vietnam, while Allens Linklaters was one of the first law firms from overseas to step foot here. RMIT was also the first foreign university in Vietnam.

In more recent times, a key feature has been the growth in trade relationships. Figures show that Australia has gone from being Vietnam’s 14th largest trading partner in 2020 to seventh-largest last year.

The result reflects Australia and Vietnam’s mature and diverse bilateral relationship, encompassing wide-ranging cooperation on political issues, trade and investment, education, defence and security, policing, immigration, and combating transnational crime, people smuggling, and human trafficking.

Closer institutional links

Launched by Prime Minister Morrison and Vietnam’s Prime Minister Chinh in November 2021, the Vietnam-Australia Enhanced Economic Engagement Strategy (EEES) was a remarkable achievement, according to Goledzinowski. The strategy solidified a commitment to trade liberalisation and economic connectivity, and helps businesses in both countries take advantage of emerging market opportunities.

Last October also witnessed the first step of the Business Champions Initiative, one of the key initiatives under the EEES. The governments of the two nations have selected six trailblazing businesspeople from both nations to support the delivery of the strategy and promote trade and investment opportunities to business communities.

The honorary positions, appointed for an initial one-year term, include Aurecon COO Louise Adams and Sunrice CEO Rob Gordon from Australia; and from Vietnam, TH Group CEO Hoang Cong Trang and Hoa Phat Group deputy general director Nguyen Thi Thao Nguyen, among others.

Deputy minister of Planning and Investment Tran Duy Dong said, “After a brief conversation with champions of the two nations, I admire the pioneers’ passionate and enthusiastic attitude, as well as the positive early results produced over the past year. I believe that they will take concrete steps to expand prospects for investment and exports-imports of the two countries.”

Ambassador Goledzinowski added, “We are confident that all of these efforts, complemented by regular high-level visits, will spur the trade and investment relationship. We hope for numerous business delegations on a range of topics of mutual interest.”

By supporting closer institutional links, encouraging cooperation between Australian and Vietnamese business associations and chambers, and producing research and guidance on the opportunities, traders and investors on both sides will find it easier to navigate the challenges of doing business in an unfamiliar environment, he added.

“This strategy is the strongest reflection yet of our confidence in our shared economic future, bringing us closer to becoming top 10 trade partners and doubling investment. Through the strategy, we can recover our economies and prosper together,” the ambassador concluded.

Vietnam Investment Review