Australian Commonwealth Coat of Arms

Media release

30 June 2008

Foreign Minister to Visit Vietnam and Thailand

I will be visiting Vietnam and Thailand from 1-4 July to advance two important bilateral relationships in South-East Asia.

My visit to Vietnam will include the first bilateral meetings in Vietnam by a member of this Australian Government and will mark the 35th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations by the Whitlam Government.  It will also be an opportunity to discuss ways in which our already substantial relationship can be advanced.

Vietnam is playing an increasingly important international role, highlighted by its non-permanent membership of the UN Security Council in 2008-09. This visit is an opportunity to deepen our engagement with Vietnam on regional and global issues of concern.

Total two-way trade between our two countries has more than doubled over the last five years to over $6 billion in 2007.  Vietnam’s accession to the WTO last year and ongoing economic reforms open up possibilities for further growth in the trade and investment relationship.

I look forward to discussions on the highly successful aid partnership between our two countries and how Australia can continue to support Vietnam’s development and poverty reduction goals.  Vietnam ranks as Australia’s fifth largest development cooperation partner.

My visit to Thailand is the first bilateral visit by an Australian Minister since Thailand’s military coup in September 2006, and the subsequent election in December 2007.

The visit provides a welcome opportunity to restore high-level contact with a country that has a history of close and friendly cooperation with Australia. 

It will also be an opportunity to underline Australia’s support for democracy in Thailand.

In my meetings with the Thai Government I will promote measures to increase bilateral cooperation in areas such as counter-terrorism, combating people trafficking, education, tourism, climate change and energy and food security. 

Under the Thailand-Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA), total two-way trade has risen from $10 billion in 2005 to over $14 billion in 2007.  Australia and Thailand can build on this success through further on trade and investment liberalisation mandated under TAFTA.

As Thailand will assume the chairmanship of ASEAN in late July, I look forward to discussions on regional architecture and security issues. While in Bangkok I also look forward to meeting the ASEAN Secretary General, Dr Surin Pitsuwan.

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