Press conference, Hanoi, Vietnam

  • Transcript, E&OE
Subjects: Visit to Vietnam; climate change funding in Mekong River Delta

Penny Wong, Foreign Minister: Hello, everybody. Thank you very much for being here. So, I might just say some things in opening and then you may have a few questions. To first say, this is my second time in Hanoi as Foreign Minister. Although I've been here previously before on personal visits. I enjoy this city very much. It's a wonderful city. But it is my second visit to Vietnam as the Foreign Minister of Australia.

This time it's celebrating the 50 years of diplomatic relations between our countries. And this is a badge which was struck to celebrate that. I've had a great opportunity today to speak to Foreign Minister Son and I'll be speaking to your Prime Minister shortly. And I had the opportunity today to speak at the Vietnam Australia Centre.

We have a partnership that's grounded in friendship and strategic trust. We are working together to look to elevate our ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership. And that's because we're very aligned in terms of the sort of region we want. We want a region that is peaceful, stable and prosperous and we want a region in which sovereignty is respected. And we both share a commitment to ASEAN centrality.

Vietnam is very important to Australia. It's important to Australia as a part of ASEAN. It's also important to our economic engagement. And we recognise the importance of Vietnam's thriving economy. We want to work with you. We want to continue to expand our trade and investment and we want to work together on the big challenges of our time, which include climate change. And today I announced additional funding for 94.5 million Australian dollars for climate change adaptation in the Mekong Delta, which I'm sure you know better than I, is a region which is very vulnerable to climate change and which we have to work together to make more resilient as climate change progresses. This is on top of the announcement that Prime Minister Albanese made just a couple of months ago, when he was here, on clean energy transition and partnership, as we work together.

As I said, I've had the honour of meeting again with Foreign Minister Son for the fifth Australia Vietnam Foreign Minister's meeting. And I look forward to further discussions, both later today but also tomorrow, where I go to Ho Chi Minh City, my first visit to that economic hub of your country as Foreign Minister. Although, like many Australians, I've also visited there previously on holiday. I'm happy to take your questions.

Journalist: Okay. Our pleasure to be here today. We are journalists from other newsroom in Vietnam and we have selected four questions for you. And when you answer, please look at me.

Foreign Minister: Look at you? Okay, I'll look at you.

Journalist: Thank you.

Foreign Minister: What was your name?

Journalist: My name is Quinn.

Foreign Minister: Quinn?

Journalist: Yeah.

Foreign Minister: Hello, Quinn.

Journalist: Like queen in English.

Foreign Minister: Like Queen.

Journalist: Well, in your last trip to our country in June 2022, you taste kind of chicken noodles. This visit to Vietnam, what dish would you like to explore?

Foreign Minister: Your famous Bun Cha. I like pork too, so I'm looking forward to that. I haven't had it here in Hanoi and this is one of your specialties, isn't it? Yes. I also, last time I was here for holiday I had, is it Cha Ca La Vong? Very good too. Your food is excellent and Australia has, I think, really benefited from the sharing of cuisine and culture. And I hope just to tell you also I'm having a big Australian barbecue tonight. We're having 1,000 people - this is what the embassy tell me - to taste Australian food so we can reciprocate that.

Journalist: We hope we can have a chance to attend but I think it [inaudible] around a lot of people to attend.

Foreign Minister: I'll see what I can do.

Journalist: Yeah. So, what has impressed you the most about our culture and people? When you have many times come to Vietnam.

Foreign Minister: Oh so much. You are a culture with a great history and you bring that sense of history and what you have learnt to the challenges of the present. You are strategic thinkers and you think very strategically about the challenges your country faces and how to best progress them and you are a very welcoming people. I walked around the lake today and people who didn't know me would say hello and smile and wave and that feels, that friendship between our peoples is important, on top of the economic ties and the ties at strategic levels, leadership levels, the friendship between our people is important.

Journalist: What are your priorities during this visit to Vietnam during the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations?

Foreign Minister: Well, we're very focused on the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership and all that that means and doing the work for that, because we want that to be meaningful. We want thus to continue our practical cooperation. Obviously climate change and education, these are all important areas. I'm also looking forward to going to Ho Chi Minh City because that is an economic hub. We have a lot of Australian businesses, a lot of engagement between Australia and Ho Chi Minh City so I look forward to that.

Journalist: So, will your visits support closer cooperation in priority area including example, in climate change and digital transformation?

Foreign Minister: Look, I think the announcements for the 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations reflect those priorities. We announced a package which is focused on economic growth and energy transition and today, as I've discussed with you, I announced funding for climate change adaptation in the Mekong Delta. We both share a commitment to net zero and we both want to continue to develop economically. So, working together to ensure we harness the opportunities, drive that transition to clean energy, that is an important part of what we are doing as well as obviously our work together, in the region.

Journalist: You have mentioned education cooperation, what about this?

Foreign Minister: Well, I have a personal commitment to this. My father was a Colombo Plan scholar from Malaysia to Australia in the 1960s and went back to Malaysia after he studied in Adelaide. And that cooperation, that education, meant he had a relationship with Australia for the rest of his life. That mattered. And we know that one of the things when I meet with my counterparts, they want access to education, they want us to also do more work, training and with your leaders and your officials, capacity building, which is what we are doing at the Vietnam Australia Centre. So, we're not a superpower, we're a large country, but smaller population than you. And so what we want to bring to our relationship is the things we can offer. And we can offer education and human – and capacity building of your people and of your officials. And we're very happy to do that.

Journalist: During Prime Minister Albanese's visit to Vietnam in June, the Prime Minister said that Australia identified Vietnam as a key partner in Australia's relationship with ASEAN. So, what is Australia doing to support it?

Foreign Minister: Well, that's a good question. We should start with why ASEAN matters. And you probably don't need me to explain that to you, but I might just touch upon that. ASEAN is the centre of the region which we live in. And if you think you know what your geography is, for our geography is we look up to the region and there is ASEAN. So, for Australia, we see ASEAN centrality as central to our security. And we see the importance of ASEAN as the centre of a region that is peaceful, stable and prosperous.

We also recognise the economic potential, economic strength and economic potential of ASEAN. It will be the fourth largest economy, it has in excess of 600 million people. It is going to be at the centre of the most dynamic region in the world, and you're part of that. So, we want to work with you on that. We have a Southeast Asian economic strategy which we will be announcing in the near future. We've heard the request or the call from countries of the region, including Vietnam, to respond to greater economic engagement.

Journalist: Thank you for your time.

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