Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

Australian Government - Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Advancing the interests of Australia and Australians internationally

1.1.2 South-East Asia


The department continued to strengthen and deepen Australia’s relations with South-East Asia–a region critical to Australia’s continued security and prosperity, with over 600 million people and $80 billion in two-way trade in 2010. The decision by leaders to expand the East Asia Summit to include the United States and Russia, for which the Government had consistently lobbied, met a core Australian objective in having a regional institution with membership capable of making strategic decisions about the region’s future. We also led whole-of-government efforts to strengthen Australia’s strategic partnership with Indonesia through new bilateral architecture, closer regional cooperation and strong economic and people-to-people ties.

We advanced Australia’s bilateral, regional and multilateral interests through support for high-level visits and meetings, including by Prime Minister Gillard to Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam; by Mr Rudd to Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, and Burma; by Dr Emerson to Indonesia and Singapore; a visit by Malaysia’s Prime Minister, Najib Razak; and the convening of the Philippines–Australia Ministerial meeting.

The department supported efforts to reach successful agreement with Indonesia to negotiate a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement. We led negotiations that resulted in agreement to address market access and implementation issues under the Thailand–Australia Free Trade Agreement. The department provided Parliament with amendments to the Singapore–Australia FTA arising from the second review of that agreement. We pursued negotiations on a Malaysia–Australia Free Trade Agreement with the aim of concluding one within a year as agreed by Prime Ministers. We negotiated memorandums of understanding with Malaysia on education and sports and led the negotiating team which reached agreement with Vietnam on a Plan of Action to implement our Comprehensive Partnership. The department worked closely with other agencies to manage and work towards resolving the temporary suspension of live cattle exports to Indonesia.


Photo - See caption below for description
The Minister for Trade, Dr Emerson, with Indonesian Minister for Trade, Dr Mari Pangestu, in Jakarta on 20 April 2011.

The department played a key role in supporting Prime Minister Gillard’s visit to Indonesia in November 2010, which reaffirmed the strength of the bilateral relationship. The Prime Minister and President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono endorsed a plan to forge a broader economic relationship through an Australia–Indonesia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and also committed to deepen our education partnership.

We supported Mr Rudd’s participation in the December 2010 Bali Democracy Forum, Indonesia’s premier initiative to promote democracy in the region. With Indonesia assuming the East Asia Summit (EAS) chair in 2011, Mr Rudd engaged President Yudhoyono and Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa in Jakarta in March 2011 on strengthening the Summit’s agenda, before co-hosting with Dr Natalegawa the 4th Bali Process Regional Ministerial Conference on people smuggling. Our embassy in Jakarta was active throughout the year in successfully engaging Indonesian authorities to track and disrupt people smuggling operations.

We facilitated the visit of Vice-President Boediono to Australia under the Guest-of-Government Program in March 2011. He was accompanied by a large delegation, including four ministers, and participated in well-attended high-level business forums in Perth and Sydney, furthering our trade interests.

To advance our bilateral and regional economic interests, the department supported Dr Emerson’s participation in the 9th Trade Ministers’ Meeting in Jakarta in April 2011 where he met his counterpart, Dr Mari Pangestu.

The department began preparations for an Australia–Indonesia Dialogue to strengthen people-to-people links. Announced during President Yudhoyono’s 2010 visit, the dialogue will comprise senior figures from politics, the media, academia, science and community groups.

The department organised the visit by the Governor of Bali, I Made Mangku Pastika AO, under the Special Visits Program, which helped strengthen understanding and promote common interests.

To strengthen people-to-people links, the department supported the Australia–Indonesia Institute’s efforts to promote positive images of each country. Programs focused on education, youth, interfaith, and arts and cultural links (see Public information services and public diplomacy 1.1.13).


  Exports Exports   Imports Imports  
Goods and services 2009 2010 Trend growth|
2009 2010 Trend growth
  $m $m % $m $m %
Singapore 8,291 7,463 4.2 14,636 14,145 3.9
Thailand 5,306 6,870 6.4 13,852 12,960 19.3
Indonesia 5,331 5,737 3.9 5,991 7,171 8.8
Malaysia 4,767 5,306 7.0 8,539 10,248 7.5
Vietnam 2,239 2,491 17.3 3,723 3,828 -2.6
Philippines 1,570 1,677 10.7 930 945 -2.1
Other ASEAN (b) 308 332 7.0 957 1,316 3.8
Total ASEAN 27,812 29,876 6.3 48,628 50,613 7.6
East Timor (c) 43 62 22.9 5 1 20.5
Total South-East Asia 27,855 29,938 6.3 48,633 50,614 7.6

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
(b) Other ASEAN comprises Brunei, Burma, Cambodia and Laos.
(c) Goods data only. Services data is not published by the ABS for East Timor.
Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.


The department led the negotiating team to the second Thailand–Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) Joint Commission in Canberra in February 2011. Thailand agreed to Australia’s proposal to convene TAFTA working group meetings to address implementation and market access issues raised by Australian industry during outreach and consultations by the department. Discussions continued on the scope for further negotiations provided for in the FTA.

The department provided assistance for visits to Thailand by the Governor-General in April 2011 and Mr Rudd in May 2011, which reinforced our historical ties and contemporary partnership with Thailand. The Australia–Thailand Institute continued its work with departmental support to strengthen people-to-people and institutional links (see Public information services and public diplomacy 1.1.13).


Measures agreed during reciprocal Prime Ministerial visits between Australia and Malaysia in 2010–11 strengthened cooperation in regional security, trade, education, public sector reform and sports. Prime Minister Gillard visited Malaysia from 31 October to 1 November 2010 while Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak visited Australia in March 2011.

During Prime Minister Najib’s visit, he and Prime Minister Gillard witnessed the signing of memorandums of understanding on cooperation in education and in sport, which the department had helped negotiate. The Prime Ministers discussed progress on negotiations for a Malaysia–Australia Free Trade Agreement (see Bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations 1.1.7) and undertook to finalise the agreement by March 2012. The Australia–Malaysia Institute continued building on visit outcomes to strengthen sports and education collaboration and to promote leadership linkages through an emerging leaders program (see Public information services and public diplomacy 1.1.13).

In August 2010, the department participated in the inaugural bilateral Malaysia–Australia Working Group on Counter-Terrorism which further developed our counter–terrorism cooperation. The department supported extensive cooperation on combating people smuggling with strong operational links between relevant agencies in both countries and negotiations on a cooperative transfer arrangement under the regional cooperation framework.

The Philippines

Photo - See caption below for description
Philippine Trade and Industry Secretary, Mr Gregory Domingo, Philippine Foreign Secretary, Mr Albert Del Rosario, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, and the Minister for Trade, Dr Emerson, in Canberra on 16 June 2011.
Photo: Andrew Taylor

The department coordinated the third Philippines–Australia Ministerial Meeting in Canberra in June 2011, co-chaired by Mr Rudd and Dr Emerson and their Philippine counterparts, Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Secretary Gregory Domingo. The Ministerial Meeting provided an opportunity to discuss the full range of bilateral, regional and global strategic issues. The ministers and secretaries committed to a deepening partnership between Australia and the Philippines through enhanced defence, security, economic and development cooperation.

The department continued to play a coordinating role in Australia’s support for security and stability in the Philippines. In 2010–11, this included development assistance, defence and counter-terrorism cooperation, advocacy of adherence to international human rights norms and support for the resumed Mindanao peace process negotiations.


The department coordinated implementation of the Australia–Vietnam Plan of Action 2010–2013 which was signed during Prime Minister Gillard’s visit to Vietnam in October 2010. The Plan of Action sets out a work program to implement the Comprehensive Partnership Agreement between Australia and Vietnam, signed in 2009.

Photo - See caption below for description
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, places a wreath during a visit to the Long Tan Cross site in Ba Ria-Vung Tau Province, Vietnam on 13 April 2011. Also pictured are Australian Consul-General to Ho Chi Minh City, Mr Graeme Swift, Assistant Defence Attaché, WO Daniel Kindness, and Australian Ambassador to Vietnam, Mr Allaster Cox.
Photo: Peter Stuckings

The department supported high-level visits to Vietnam, including by the Prime Minister, for the suite of ASEAN and EAS related meetings. The department facilitated the Governor-General’s State visit to Vietnam in May 2011, the most senior visit to the country by an Australian dignitary. She met senior leaders and highlighted Australia’s initiatives in education, health, child injury prevention, cultural links and reconciliation.

Due to the caretaker government in Australia at the time, Australia’s foreign and trade ministers were represented at ASEAN and East Asia Summit meetings by senior departmental officials. The department engaged closely with Vietnam, as ASEAN Chair in 2010, on substantive outcomes including the expansion of the East Asia Summit.

The department facilitated Mr Rudd’s visit to Vietnam in April 2011, which featured discussions with Vietnam’s leaders on regional architecture underlining the common views the two countries share on this issue. During his visit, Mr Rudd spoke at RMIT Vietnam (RMIT International University Vietnam) in Ho Chi Minh City about Australia and Vietnam’s partnership in shaping the region for the 21st century.

The department supported Vietnam joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership and provided an in-country trade policy training course (see Bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations 1.1.7). The department supported the Department of Defence in negotiation of a Memorandum of Understanding on Defence Cooperation. The department hosted the Australia–Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue in February and the Australia–Vietnam Consular Consultations in November 2010 (see International organisations, legal and environment 1.1.9 and Consular services 2.1).


The department managed Dr Emerson’s visit to Singapore in November 2010 to discuss mutual interests in multilateral and regional trade liberalisation. We supported high-level visits including by the Governor-General in December 2010, Singapore’s Deputy Prime Minister and then-Minister for Defence, Teo Chee Hean, in November 2010 and the Minister for Defence, Mr Smith, to attend the Shangri-La Dialogue, an Asia-Pacific security forum for defence ministers and senior military, in June 2011. Under our Special Visits Program, we hosted Singapore’s Senior Minister of State for National Development and Education, Ms Grace Fu, which developed our education links. We also prepared for tabling in Parliament the amendments from the second review of the Singapore–Australia FTA (see Bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations 1.1.7). We worked closely with Singapore on regional architecture developments.

East Timor

The department coordinated Australian efforts in East Timor to promote growth and prosperity. We supported the work of other agencies in implementing the development assistance program and shared management of resources in the Joint Petroleum Development Area. The department provided assistance to help Australian Defence Force personnel and police in East Timor support East Timor’s stability. In 2010–11, the department advocated continued international engagement in East Timor, including renewal in February 2011 of the mandate for the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste. The department supported a visit to Australia in March 2011 by East Timor’s Prosecutor-General, Dr Ana Pessoa, to build greater capacity in East Timor’s justice sector.

Other bilateral relationships

In Cambodia, the embassy continued to encourage judicial process in the trials of former Khmer Rouge leaders. The trial of the first defendant, Kaing Guek Eav, known as Duch, concluded in July 2010.

We supported a delegation visit from Laos led by Vice-Minister of Finance, Madame Viengthong Siphandone, in May 2011 to share Australia’s experiences on mining revenue management practices.

We facilitated a business and investment delegation visit to Australia led by Brunei’s Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources,
Dato Paduka Dr Amin Abdullah, who travelled to Australia on the inaugural Royal Brunei Airlines flight to Melbourne in March 2011. The visit increased economic links in agriculture, and was an opportunity to explore market access for Brunei’s halal goods. In October 2010 the department participated in the third round of negotiations for the Trans-Pacific Partnership in Brunei.

The department advised the Government on political developments in Burma in the lead-up to the country’s first elections in 20 years in November 2010. The department also supported the Government’s response to the flawed polls, the inauguration of the first nominally-civilian Burmese government in 50 years, and the opening of new national and regional parliaments and assemblies. We prepared for Mr Rudd’s visit to Burma in June–July 2011, the first by an Australian Foreign Minister since 2002. We engaged actively with the international community on policy approaches to Burma. We continued to raise serious human rights concerns directly with Burmese authorities and in international forums, including the Human Rights Council. The department provided advice to the Government on its Burma sanctions regime, including in the context of the introduction of new Autonomous Sanctions legislation.

East Asia Summit, ASEAN and regional issues

Australia strongly advocated for the East Asia Summit (EAS) to become the region’s pre-eminent forum with the membership and mandate to address the full range of political, economic and security challenges facing the region.

Working with other agencies, the department helped take forward EAS priorities, notably disaster response, economic integration and education cooperation. We were successful in building regional support for developing a political and security agenda for the EAS through sustained advocacy by our posts, including in the lead-up to the EAS Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in July 2011 and the historic EAS Summit in November 2011, which will include, for the first time, the United States and Russia.

The department supported this advocacy consistently through our missions and assistance to high-level visits.

We played a key role in coordinating the ASEAN–Australia Summit on 30 October 2010 in Hanoi, Vietnam, which the Prime Minister co-chaired with her Vietnamese counterpart, Mr Nguyen Tan Dung. This was a landmark meeting that provided a platform for leaders to reflect on significant achievements since Australia became ASEAN’s first dialogue partner in 1974 and exchange views on regional and international issues. At the summit, Australia announced new funding and support for ASEAN infrastructure connectivity, migrant worker protection in the Greater Mekong Subregion, and for building links between the Australian Human Rights Commission and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission in 2011.


FIGURE 9. Australia’s trade in goods and services with ASEAN

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.
Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.

The department established a regional interfaith website, which was a key recommendation of the fifth Regional Interfaith Dialogue in Perth in 2009. We provided seed money to a consortium of civil society groups to develop the website, which was launched in March 2011 with a video message from Mr Rudd. We encouraged use of the website in Regional Interfaith Dialogue countries to show its continuing value.

In the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), we co-chaired with Indonesia the Inter-Sessional Support Group (ISG) process, with meetings in Bali and Sydney. The ISG prepared work plans on preventive diplomacy, maritime security and non-proliferation and disarmament for consideration by ministers at their July 2011 meeting. The department joined key response agencies in participating in the ARF’s second disaster relief field exercise in Indonesia in March 2011. The exercise assisted in improving the inter-operability of ARF participants responding to regional disasters. In response to the growing interest of ARF member countries in maritime legal frameworks, the department co-chaired with the Philippines an ARF seminar on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea.

Personal Profile:

Photo - See caption below for description
Ms Gillian Kenny (centre), Second Secretary in Jakarta, with Indonesian alumni of Australian universities.

Gillian Kenny

Based in the Australian Embassy in Jakarta, Gillian Kenny reports on regional architecture including ASEAN and the East Asia Summit (EAS), as well as Indonesia’s engagement with multilateral organisations, such as the United Nations and the Asia-Europe Meeting. She has also represented Australia’s interests regarding regional developments on counter terrorism, regional disaster management and interfaith initiatives, and managed the embassy’s direct aid program.

Building regional architecture in line with Australia’s objective for an Asia Pacific community—creating a forum in which leaders from across the Asia Pacific can meet to discuss the full spectrum of political, economic and security challenges facing the region—is a core strategic priority for the Australian government. Gillian works with the Indonesian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, the ASEAN Secretariat and ASEAN dialogue partner missions and reports on developments that enhance Australia’s understanding of the region. Indonesia’s 2011 chairmanship of ASEAN makes Jakarta pivotal to Australia’s engagement with member countries and the broader region.

“It has been a privilege to represent Australia’s interests in ASEAN and the East Asia Summit during such a dynamic period. It has offered me an opportunity to play a role in Australia’s active middle power diplomacy, which is shaping regional discussions on the strategic future of the Asia Pacific region.”


The department will work with ASEAN and South-East Asian states to deepen relations and advance Australia’s interests in strategic stability, economic growth, and political and people-to-people links. The department will provide policy advice and logistical support for the inaugural ‘2 + 2’ meeting between Australian and Indonesian Foreign and Defence Ministers. We will support the inaugural Australia-Indonesia Dialogue to strengthen senior non-government links and capture emerging opportunities in a key relationship. In 2012, we will use appropriate opportunities to commemorate the 60th anniversary of Australia’s relations with Thailand and Laos.

The department will continue to work closely with South-East Asian countries to strengthen regional architecture and integration to meet emerging challenges. We will advocate for further development of the EAS’s political, security, economic and social agenda. At the ARF, the department will co-chair with the Philippines and Japan the Inter-Sessional Meeting on Non-Proliferation and Disarmament over the next three years. This will provide an opportunity to promote regional implementation of the 2010 Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) Review Conference outcomes and prepare for the 2015 NPT Review Conference.

In recognition of the opportunities provided by strong and sustained growth in South-East Asia, the department will work to open new markets, reduce trade barriers and improve access for Australian business. This will include leading negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement with Indonesia, and on a bilateral free trade agreement with Malaysia. We will implement the work program on the Thailand–Australia Free Trade Agreement and support the implementation of the ASEAN–Australia–New Zealand FTA and Singapore–Australia FTA as well as pursue other regional economic integration initiatives.

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