Australia commits deeper engagement with Southeast Asia hinh anh 1ASEAN and Australian Foreign Ministers pose for a photo in Jakarta in July 2023. (Photo: VNA)
Jakarta (VNA) – Australia’s key message at the 43rd ASEAN Summit and related meetings is to give priority to deepening its engagement with Southeast Asia, Ambassador of the Australian mission to ASEAN Will Nankervis told the Vietnam News Agency’s correspondent in Jakarta.

Australia has longstanding connections with the region across the fields of business, education and tourism, he said, affirming Australia recognises and supports its regional partners’ influence, dynamism and agency, while seeking to listen to and understand the region’s perspectives on shared challenges and the way to address them together.

The Ambassador said Australia strongly supports ASEAN centrality, and the 43rd ASEAN Summit and related meetings are an opportunity for leaders across the Indo-Pacific to come together under ASEAN’s unmatched convening power.

Touching on standout cooperation achievements between ASEAN and Australia over the past time, Ambassador Nankervis said since becoming ASEAN’s first dialogue partner in 1974, the ASEAN – Australia cooperation has continued to grow and evolve. In 2021, ASEAN and Australia made the historic decision to establish a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP).

Under the CSP, Canberra has established the Australia for ASEAN (Aus4ASEAN) programme, with the 204-million-AUD Aus4ASEAN Futures Initiative which supports projects that address complicated challenges in the region.

Australia’s 100 for ASEAN scholarships are helping emerging leaders from each ASEAN member state to study at a Masters level in Australia in fields that advance the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific. The Aus4ASEAN Digital Transformation and Future Skills Initiative is supporting the region’s future skills needs, and responding to rapid digitalisation.

In 2010, the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) entered into force, and since then it has been the central pillar of Australia's trade and investment relationship with ASEAN members, the diplomat said, noting that last month’s historic upgrade of AANZFTA includes key sustainable development outcomes, including on environmental protection, green economy, labour rights and women’s economic empowerment. He said Australia’s 46-million-AUD Regional Trade for Development facility will provide technical assistance and capacity building to help eligible ASEAN member states realise the benefits of the upgraded AANZFTA and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP).

Next year, ASEAN and Australia will celebrate 50 years of Dialogue Partner relations, and the Australian Prime Minister will welcome ASEAN Leaders to Australia for a Special Summit to Commemorate the Anniversary, he said, adding both sides are looking to the next 50 years of cooperation and how they can best address shared challenges and grow the relationship further.

Australia also recognises that the region is facing shared challenges on issues such as food security, climate change and building the region’s resilience to future pandemics – all areas where ASEAN and Australia are cooperating.  

However, there are also great opportunities for ASEAN at this time too, as the economies of Southeast Asia grow. By 2030, the ASEAN economy is predicted to be the fourth largest single market after the European Union, USA and China. That represents a huge opportunity for Southeast Asia and for Australia.

Ambassador Nankervis also took the occasion to spotlight the close cooperation with Vietnam in the region and through ASEAN, saying it sits at the heart of Australia’s Indo-Pacific engagement.

Vietnam deftly chaired ASEAN in 2020 – a particularly difficult time for the region and the world. The Hanoi Declaration, negotiated by Vietnam in its 2020 Chair year, continues to guide the work of the East Asia Summit.
He said Australia is pleased to have developed a close working relationship with Vietnam within ASEAN and its forums, adding both sides are supporting outcomes which enhance the security, stability and prosperity of the Indo-Pacific.

In 2021, Australia and Vietnam co-hosted the 2nd ASEAN-Australia Women, Peace and Security Dialogue in Hanoi. They also have a strong record of collaboration on maritime security in the ASEAN Regional Forum, with Australia and Vietnam co-chairing, together with the EU and New Zealand, the 4th ASEAN Regional Forum workshop on implementing the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) and other international instruments, to address emerging maritime issues.

The Ambassador said the bilateral relationship continues to go from strength to strength, which is demonstrated by the strong tempo of high-level exchanges – with Australia’s Prime Minister, Governor-General, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Trade and Tourism and the Special Envoy for Southeast Asia all visiting Vietnam in the last five months.

“For both ASEAN and Vietnam, we’re excited about what our next fifty years of partnership will bring – and we look forward to working closely with Vietnam and with ASEAN towards a region where our countries and peoples can cooperate, trade and thrive”, he said./.