He sat down there with China Defence Minister Wei Fenghe – the first in-person meeting at ministerial level between the two countries for nearly three years – but maintained that Australia would not waver from asserting its national interests “in the strongest possible terms”.
At the same time Wong is looking to reset Australian ties in south-east Asia, with her visits to Vietnam and Malaysia just three weeks after she joined Anthony Albanese in Indonesia in what was his first bilateral visit abroad as prime minister.
“The partnership between our countries is grounded in trust,” Wong said in Hanoi on Monday.
“And that trust is now more important than ever, as our region is being reshaped. It is being reshaped economically as well as strategically.”
Opening the new Vietnam Australia Centre, which will draw on Australian expertise to develop future leaders in the communist nation, she said the starting point of the Albanese government was “always to listen”.
“We want to understand your perspectives on the opportunities and challenges we face and how we can meet them together,” Wong said. “We understand the importance of concrete actions, not just words, to sustain and grow our shared prosperity, particularly at this challenging time.”
Vietnam is further establishing itself as a global manufacturing hub and trade with Australia is on the up. Over the first five months of this year, trade between the countries hit a record $9 billion, up 32 per cent on the same period in 2021, Vietnamese consul general Nguyen Dang Thang told a meeting of the Australia-Vietnam Business Council in Sydney last Thursday. He said two-way investment exceeded $3.5 billion, with 75 per cent of it Australian money in Vietnam.
Australia and Vietnam have for more than two decades cooperated on training of defence personnel and in 2018 signed a strategic partnership focusing on their security association as well as building economic relations.
Wong flies to Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday before heading to Kota Kinabalu, the city on the island of Borneo where she was born.
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