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Australia's Relationship with ASEAN

by Duangkamol Buranasomphop


Australias Relationship

As its first Dialogue Partner, Australia has a longstanding and deep relationship with ASEAN, covering cooperation in a range of areas including security, culture, trade, education and development. In 2007, Australia and ASEAN signed the Joint Declaration on the ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Partnership. The Plan of Action to implement the Comprehensive Partnership provides a framework for engagement from 2008-2013, covering political and security, economic, socio-cultural and development cooperation.

On 30 October 2010 in Hanoi, Vietnam, the Prime Minister co-chaired the ASEAN-Australia Summit with her Vietnamese counterpart. This Leaders-level Summit was a landmark meeting in ASEAN-Australia relations, providing an opportunity for Leaders to reflect on significant achievements since Australia became ASEAN's first Dialogue Partner in 1974. The Summit was also an opportunity for the Prime Minister to announce new Australian funding and support to ASEAN in three important areas:

  • Australia is investing A$132 million in infrastructure connectivity related initiatives in the Greater Mekong Subregion, in cooperation with the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank
  • Australia will contribute A$10 million over four years to the Tripartite Action to Protect Migrants within and from the Greater Mekong Subregion from Labour Exploitation (TRIANGLE) initiative in cooperation with the International Labour Organisation
  • Supported by Australian funding, the Australian Human Rights Commission will build linkages with the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission.

The Leaders of Australia and ASEAN member states have previously met at the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Commemorative Summit in 2004 in Vientiane, Lao PDR, and at the ASEAN-Australia meeting in 1977 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Links to the Statements for these meetings are attached below.

ASEAN and Australia also hold regular ministerial and senior officials' meetings. Along with Australia's participation in annual ASEAN meetings with Dialogue Partners, the ASEAN-Australia Forum is held every 18 months to two years. The 24th, and most recent, ASEAN-Australia Forum was held in Canberra on 5-6 September 2011. The Co-Chairs' Statement from the 24th Forum is attached below. The next forum is due to take place in the Philippines in November 2012.

Australia, New Zealand and ASEAN Ministers signed the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) on 27 February 2009, which subsequently entered into force on 1 January 2010. Covering over 634 million people and with a combined GDP of A$3.5 trillion, AANZFTA is the largest Free Trade Agreement (FTA) Australia has entered into, and is the most comprehensive FTA that ASEAN has signed. In 2011, two-way trade in goods and services with ASEAN totalled $88,4billion and accounted for 14.5 per cent of Australia's total trade.

Education services are Australia's largest services export to ASEAN. Australia is a leading provider of on-shore and off-shore education services to the region, with approximately 104,000 students from ASEAN countries studying at Australian educational institutions in 2011. Australia awarded 1284 scholarships to citizens of ASEAN countries in 2011 under the Australia Awards. Academic and institutional links between Australia and ASEAN continue to strengthen, with many Australian universities setting up offshore campuses. Our people-to-people links are also strong, with high-levels of tourism and travel between Australia and ASEAN countries and dynamic cultural relations.

Australia's development cooperation partnership with ASEAN has been a key feature of our relationship since 1974. Australia has committed A$1.16 billion in development assistance to ASEAN countries for 2012-13. One vital element of this partnership is the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program (AADCP). Phase II of AADCP, signed in 2009, is an A$67 million program designed to help ASEAN realise its goal of an economic community by 2015. Further information on Australia's development assistance to the region can be found on the AusAID website.

Australia is also a co-sponsor of the Regional Interfaith Dialogue, together with Indonesia, the Philippines and New Zealand. In addition to the co-sponsoring countries, the eight remaining ASEAN countries also participate in the Dialogue, as well as Timor-Leste, Papua New Guinea and Fiji. The Dialogue has been held on five occasions, most recently in Perth in October 2009. The theme of the Perth Dialogue was "Future Faith Leaders: Regional Challenges and Co-operation". The Perth Dialogue followed on from a positive history of regional Dialogues: the Yogyakarta Dialogue on Interfaith Cooperation (December 2004), the Cebu Dialogue on Regional Cooperation for Peace, Development and Human Dignity (March 2006), the Waitangi Dialogue on Building Bridges (May 2007) and the Phnom Penh Dialogue on Interfaith Cooperation for Peace and Harmony (April 2008). The sixth Dialogue, "Strengthening Collaborative Communities to Promote Regional Peace and Security" was held in Semarang, Indonesia in mid-March 2012.

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Duangkamol Buranasomphop

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