An official visit to Australia by Vietnam's Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung, beginning October 13, is aimed at boosting economic and trade relations between the two countries. Australian companies have direct investment projects worth more than US$1 billion in the country Australia once invaded alongside US forces.
Australian troops were withdrawn from Vietnam following the election of the Labor federal government in 1972 on the back of a mass anti-war movement. Thirty-five years ago Australia became one of the first of the former aggressor governments to open diplomatic relations with Vietnam.
Australia is among Vietnam's 10 largest trade partners. According to the Australian government, in 2007, two-way goods trade between Australia and Vietnam totalled A$6 billion. Australia's merchandise exports to Vietnam in 2007 were $1.4 billion.
Vietnam's merchandise exports to Australia totalled $4.5 billion, 81% of which was oil. Other significant exports to Australia are fish and crustaceans ($134 million), machinery and transport equipment ($136 million), furniture ($90 million) and fruit and nuts ($64 million).
There are now also more than 10,000 Vietnamese students and trainees in Australia and Australia's development assistance grew to US$100 million in 2008-2009.
The My Thuan Bridge, completed in March 2000, was Australia's largest-ever development assistance infrastructure project. It has made a significant contribution to the economic development of Vietnam's Mekong Delta region, the "rice bowl of Vietnam", by eliminating lengthy delays in crossing the Mekong River by ferry.
This has meant that farmers and other small businesses can now get their produce to market more quickly, and people in the Mekong Delta have easier access to medical and education facilities.
According to the Vietnam News Agency, in a recent meeting with the Australian ambassador to Vietnam Allaster Edward Cox, Vietnamese President Nguyen Minh Triet suggested that the Australian government finance the construction of another bridge in the Cuu Long (Mekong) Delta province of Dong Thap.