ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement on the Agenda

Jakarta/Sydney – At the invitation of Julie Bishop, Minister for Foreign of Affairs of Australia,  Le Luong Minh, Secretary-General of ASEAN, visited Australia from 16-19 March. The visit was part of the commemorative activities to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of the ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations.

During his trip, Secretary-General Minh met with the  Julie Bishop, Andrew Robb, Minister for Trade and Investment, and the Opposition Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs, Tanya Plibersek. He also engaged in discussions with relevant government agencies, businesses, academia and students to exchange views on different issues related to ASEAN-Australia cooperation.

Emphasising the importance of ASEAN in Australia’s regional strategy, Australia’s high-ranking officials reaffirmed their strong commitment to work with ASEAN to strengthen and deepen the long-standing ASEAN-Australia partnership. They articulated Australia’s full support for ASEAN’s central role in regional mechanisms for dialogue and cooperation such as the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus (ADMM Plus), and the East Asia Summit (EAS), and expressed their commitment to work with ASEAN to further strengthen these mechanisms.

Secretary-General Minh and the high ranking Australian officials were of the view that ASEAN and Australia need to work closely to effectively implement the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) as well as contribute to the efficient negotiations of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). Australia also expressed its keen interest in providing technical assistance to ASEAN in the field of competition policy, where several ASEAN Member States are in the process of drafting and developing their respective competition laws.

They also stressed the importance of cooperation in areas such as disaster management and emergency response, connectivity, education, culture and people-to-people contacts. Both sides agreed that cooperation should be further enhanced in these areas to achieve the common goal of building a caring and sharing society.

Highlighting the geographical and strategic position of Australia, Secretary-General Minh encouraged Australia to play a greater role in contributing to ASEAN-led mechanisms for the maintenance of peace, security and stability. He further encouraged both sides to forge cooperation in other potential areas such as governance, forestry, public health, arts and cultures, sports, SMEs, infrastructure development and vocational training. He also conveyed that the ASEAN Secretariat would stand ready to effectively coordinate with ASEAN Member States in co-operating with Australia in these joint endeavours.

Secretary-General Minh thanked Australia for its active and steadfast support for ASEAN’s regional integration and Community building efforts over the past years, and called upon Australia to further extend and align its support to ASEAN’s Post-2015 agenda, which is currently being developed.

As part of his programme in Sydney, Secretary-General Minh met with the Chairman of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission as well as ASEAN and Australian students at the University of Sydney. In Canberra, he gave an address at the College of Asia and the Pacific of the Australian National University.

ASEAN and Australia will convene a Commemorative Summit later this year in Myanmar to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations.