(Bloomberg) -- Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese expects an upgrade in diplomatic relations between his country and Vietnam to a comprehensive strategic partnership soon, he said during his first visit to the Southeast Asian country.
“All connections and cooperation come together in our plan to elevate our relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership and prime minister and I discuss today that we do that as soon as possible,” Albanese said during a joint briefing with Prime Minister Pham Minh Chinh in Hanoi on Sunday after the announcement of four cooperation agreements.
Australia and Vietnam are targeting to boost bilateral trade to $20 billion, according to Chinh, who didn’t give a time frame. Last year, their trade was about $15.7 billion, according to Vietnam’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
The cooperation agreements include establishing ministerial-level trade talks and exchanging intelligence sharing on money laundering and terrorism financing. Albanese, who is scheduled to meet with other senior government officials and Communist Party Chief Nguyen Phu Trong later today, announced a A$105 million ($69.4 million) assistance package to support Vietnam’s transition away from coal.
Australia has signed comprehensive strategic partnership agreements with several other Southeast Asian nations in the past decade, including Indonesia, Singapore and the ASEAN grouping. Both Australia and Vietnam had previously expressed a hope to elevate their relationship to a similar level by 2023.
Vietnam is an important part of Australia’s ongoing policy of trade diversification, which ramped up in recent years following a decision by the Chinese government to place sanctions on a range of Australian agricultural products, such as wine and barley.
Vietnam has since become an important new destination for Australia’s barley, making up 13% of the country’s entire barley exports in the financial year ending June 2021.
Australia sees Vietnam at the center of its strategic relationship with Southeast Asia, a Vietnam government website posting cited Albanese saying in a meeting with Chinh.
(Updates with Vietnam government website posting in the last paragraph. An earlier version of this story corrected the second paragraph to say after the announcement of four cooperation agreements.)
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