Tuesday, April 23, 2024

‘Melbourne Declaration’ reaffirms ASEAN and Australia partnership


Prime Minister, Anthony Albanese and Leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Timor-Leste have today reaffirmed their commitment to securing peace, stability, prosperity and a sustainable future for the region.

Mr Albanese hosted the leaders of the Lao PDR, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam and Timor-Leste in Melbourne at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.

Themed ‘A Partnership for the Future’, the Summit marked 50 years since Australia became ASEAN’s first Dialogue Partner.

Leaders committed to working together to address shared challenges while embracing opportunities that will benefit all who live in the region.

Prime Minister Albanese and ASEAN Leaders adopted the ASEAN-Australia Joint Leaders’ Vision Statement and the Melbourne Declaration which set out the next 50 years of our enduring partnership to promote an open, inclusive and transparent region with ASEAN at the centre.

“It has been an honour to host leaders from ASEAN and Timor-Leste in Melbourne as we mark 50 years of partnership between ASEAN and Australia,” said the Australian PM.

“ASEAN binds our region together and I can say with confidence that our partnership has never been stronger or more consequential to our mutual prosperity and to the stability of the region we call home.

“Australia is committed to being an exemplary partner to the countries of Southeast Asia – we will continue to be constructive, and to engage with respect, honesty and trust, and, importantly, to listen.

“ASEAN and Australia’s economies are deeply intertwined. We want to play a bigger role in Southeast Asia’s pursuit of economic opportunity, development, and growth.

“My Government has made serious, sustained and consistent international engagement a priority – working together with our friends and partners to shape the future we want to see.”

Leaders set out their shared aspirations for the region’s future, committing to work together to contribute to the maintenance of peace and stability, as well as enhance cooperation for sustainable development and prosperity in the region.

They identified areas of practical cooperation for the future, ranging from deepening economic and socio-cultural ties to strengthening educational and environmental cooperation.

In line with Australia’s enduring ties with ASEAN and the priority the Government places on building stronger partnerships with Southeast Asia, today Prime Minister Albanese announced:

  • Establishing an ASEAN-Australia Centre in Canberra. Commencing on 1 July 2024, the Centre will be a focal point for engagement with ASEAN and promote greater Southeast Asia cultural literacy in Australia. The Centre will focus on strengthening business, education, cultural and community connections between Australia, ASEAN Member States and Timor-Leste.
  • More than 75 new Aus4ASEAN scholarships, some of which will be co-funded by Australian universities, and 55 fellowships for emerging leaders from the region to have a world-class Australian education.
  • An Energy Cooperation Package under the Aus4ASEAN Futures Initiative to enhance ASEAN-led regional energy policy and planning, including implementation of the ASEAN Strategy for Carbon Neutrality. The package will support the ASEAN Centre for Energy and the establishment of an ASEAN Centre for Climate Change in Brunei Darussalam.
  • Providing English language training for Timor-Leste to support its path to full ASEAN membership. The package will enable valuable training to help Timor-Leste engage effectively in ASEAN.

During the Special Summit, the Prime Minister reiterated Australia’s commitment to deepening two-way trade and investment with ASEAN to drive growth that creates jobs and realises economic benefits for all people in the region.

The Australian Government announced a number of initiatives to implement key recommendations from Invested: Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040, launched last year:

  • Establishing a $2 billion Southeast Asia Investment Financing Facility to catalyse Australian investment in the region in key sectors such as infrastructure and the clean energy transition;
  • Extending Australia’s Partnerships for Infrastructure initiative that supports efforts to improve regional infrastructure development and attract more diverse, quality infrastructure finance;
  • Appointing 10 Business Champions to facilitate greater commercial links between Australia and the economies of ASEAN, ensuring Government and the private sector work in tandem to boost our two-way trade and investment;
  • Establishing new regional ‘Landing Pads’ in Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City to bolster Australian technology exports and support the region’s digital transformation;
  • Improving visa access for Southeast Asia, with the extension of the Business Visitor Visa from three to five years, and the introduction of the Frequent Traveller stream, providing 10 year visas for eligible ASEAN Member States. This sends a clear signal that Australia is open for business;
  • Announcing the location of regional hubs for Investment Deal Teams in Singapore, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City; and
  • The first business mission under the Australia-Southeast Asia Business Exchange to Singapore and Malaysia in April focusing on green energy transition.

The Australian Government also announced the extension of initiatives to support the clean energy transition and practical maritime cooperation, including:

  • Implementing the next phase of the Mekong-Australia Partnership to deepen Australia’s engagement in the Mekong subregion to address shared challenges, including water security, climate change and transnational crime.
  • $64 million to enhance Australia’s Southeast Asia Maritime Partnerships. This will expand Australia’s maritime cooperation with regional partners and contribute to the security and prosperity of the region, consistent with the priorities of Southeast Asian countries.
  • A $10 million specific Climate and Clean Energy Window as part of the Southeast Asia Government-to-Government Partnerships Fund announced in 2023. This will facilitate knowledge sharing and capacity building in addressing climate change.

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