May 19, 2024

MELBOURNE, Australia (AP) — Australian and Vietnamese prime ministers on Thursday discussed ways of improving an already booming economic relationship, as part of Australia’s strategy to diversify trade away from China.

Vietnamese Pham Minh Chinh’s official state visit came after he attended a summit of Southeast Asian leaders this week co-chaired by his Australian counterpart Anthony Albanese and Laotian Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone.

The Vietnam bilateral relationship has proved a success in Australia’s hedge against Chinese economic moves. Australia says China’s official and unofficial trade barriers have cost Australian exporters up to 20 billion Australian dollars ($13 billion) a year since 2020, though those steps have been relaxed gradually since Albanese’s government came to power in 2022.

Albanese said trade between Australia and Vietnam had increased 75% in two years to $25.7 billion in 2022, the most recent year for which data was available. Vietnam had become Australia’s 12th-largest trading partner.

“Prime Minister Chinh and I discussed our shared determination to grow our trade and investment links to support both our countries’ economic prosperity,” Albanese told reporters.

The leaders agreed to elevate the bilateral relationship to a comprehensive strategic partnership which Chinh said was the highest level of cooperation Vietnam enjoyed with any country.

The improved relationship was the result of increasing political trust and diplomatic cooperation, Chinh said.

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