ASEAN and Australia Reaffirm Strong Partnership

Canberra – ASEAN and Australia agreed to work together to elevate ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations as the two sides celebrate the 40th anniversary of their partnership this year. This was highlighted during the meeting of the Committee of Permanent Representatives (CPR) with Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs Julie Bishop and Minister for Trade and Investment Andrew Robb during the CPR’s visit to Canberra last week as part of the commemorative activities for the 40th anniversary of ASEAN–Australia relations.

Both sides also agreed that the ASEAN-Australia Commemorative Summit to be held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar, in November will be an important opportunity for the leaders of both sides to launch a new era of Dialogue Relations, including the unveiling of the new 2015-2019 Plan of Action and an ASEAN-Australia Leaders’ Joint Statement that will chart the future directions of partnership in political, economic, people-to-people and socio-cultural fields.

During their meeting at the Parliament House in Canberra, the CPR discussed and exchanged views with Ministers Bishop and Robb on matters related to trade and investment cooperation, Australia’s forthcoming trade missions to some ASEAN Member States, negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), tourism promotion, educational and people-to-people exchanges and peace and security issues, including developments in the South China Sea.

Ministers Bishop and Robb made special mention of the new Colombo Plan as a proof of Australia’s strong commitment to strengthen people-to-people links and engagement with ASEAN. The program is a signature policy initiative of the Australian Government, which is designed to increase the number of Australian undergraduate students studying in the Indo-Pacific region.

Minister Bishop stressed that the new Colombo Plan is the manifestation of Australia’s relationship with ASEAN, hoping that Australian students will come back to Australia with new perspectives in building relationships with the countries in the region. She clarified that Australia will continue its substantial scholarship programs for ASEAN students who want to study in Australia.

During their visit to Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney from 27 May to 1 June, the CPR also met with officials of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra and government officials and representatives from the business sector and cultural organizations in the States of Victoria and New South Wales, including the Victorian Multicultural Commission, Heathmont College, Arts Victoria, Australian Competition & Consumer Commission and Taronga Conservation Society Australia. They also met with the Peter Walsh, Victorian Minister for Agriculture and Food Security, and business sector representatives in Melbourne, who discussed the importance of enhancing further trade, investment and people-to-people relations between the State of Victoria and ASEAN Member States, including Victoria’s “super trade” missions to some ASEAN Member States in June. Further, they participated in roundtable discussions on ASEAN-Australia relations with academics and scholars at the Asialink in the University of Melbourne, Australian National University in Canberra and the Lowy Institute for International Policy in Sydney.

Before proceeding to Australia, the CPR attended the ASEAN-Australia Connectivity Workshop in Singapore on 26 May 2014, which is also part of the commemorative activities for the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations.

Photo: ASEAN Secretariat