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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

Overview

Australia's prosperity and security are inextricably linked to the resilience and depth of our relationships with the countries of South-East Asia.

Over the past year Australia celebrated 60 years of diplomatic relations with Thailand and Laos, and 10 years of diplomatic relations with Timor-Leste. The department supported observers to Timor-Leste's presidential election and watershed by-elections in Myanmar. Continuing reform in Myanmar led to Australia lifting travel and financial sanctions, some of which had been in place since the 1990s.

Australia's two-way trade with South-East Asia totalled $88 billion in 2011. The department focused on continuing to open markets and liberalise trade in the region. Signature of the Malaysia–Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) (also see Bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations 1.1.7) was a significant achievement. We also, alongside other agencies, ensured there would be continued access for Australian agricultural exports to Indonesia.

The department strengthened relationships with South-East Asian leaders by supporting a large number of visits to and from the region. The Prime Minister, Mr Rudd and Dr Emerson all visited Indonesia. Australia hosted the first ever '2+2' meeting with Indonesian Foreign and Defence Ministers. The Prime Minister also visited Singapore and hosted her counterparts from Thailand, Yingluck Shinawatra, and Timor-Leste, Xanana Gusmão; then Foreign Minister Mr Rudd visited Timor-Leste, the Philippines, Myanmar and Singapore, and Dr Emerson visited Vietnam and Malaysia. Senator Carr visited Cambodia, Vietnam, Singapore and Myanmar.

We worked to deepen Australia's close relationship with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and to strengthen the East Asia Summit (EAS) to address regional challenges. Our policy initiatives and advocacy at EAS and ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) meetings led directly to an Australia–Indonesia initiative in the EAS to help improve regional responses to natural disasters, and an expansion of the work of the ARF in preventive diplomacy.

Indonesia

The department played a key role in realising a new framework of high-level meetings with Indonesia, including supporting the Prime Minister's attendance at the inaugural Annual Leaders' Meeting in Bali in November 2011, which focused on our common interests in the stability, security and prosperity of our region. This was one of four meetings the Prime Minister had with President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono over the year. We also coordinated the inaugural '2+2' meeting in Canberra in March 2012 at which Foreign and Defence Ministers discussed evolving regional and global strategic issues. This is the only such dialogue held by Indonesia; Australia holds meetings in this format with the United States, United Kingdom and Japan. We supported participation at an inaugural Australia–Indonesia Dialogue hosted by Indonesia in October 2011 – a roundtable meeting of Australian and Indonesian business and civil society leaders. The department worked closely with Indonesia in its capacity as chair of the EAS in 2011 to take forward our shared EAS priorities, including disaster response. We continued to work closely and collaboratively with other Australian agencies and Indonesian counterparts on a wide range of issues, including countering terrorism and people smuggling, disaster relief and promoting human rights.

The department continued to identify and foster commercial opportunities for Australian businesses in Indonesia. We supported visits by Dr Emerson, including one accompanied by a high-level business delegation, which stimulated greater commercial interest, built support for the Indonesia–Australia Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (also see Bilateral, regional and multilateral trade negotiations 1.1.7) and furthered discussion of bilateral economic partnerships. The department, in close coordination with the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Forestry, worked with Indonesian agencies to ensure continued access for Australian horticulture exports. The two departments managed the successful resumption of live cattle exports to Indonesia under new export arrangements, including the first investigation and resolution of a breach of the arrangements.

The department received $450 000 in administered funding for Australia's contribution to the Bali Peace Park in 2011–12. The contribution is contingent on the land in Bali being offered for sale to the Bali Peace Park Association. It will be used as a memorial for the victims of terrorist attacks. Negotiations on this matter are progressing and it is anticipated that the funds will be spent in 2012–13. The Australia–Indonesia Institute (AII) worked to develop our people-to-people linkages, including through education collaboration, media visits and youth and religious exchanges (also see Public information services and public diplomacy 1.1.13).

Photo of The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Carr, at a media conference following the inaugural Australia–Indonesia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in Canberra in March 2012. (L–R) Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Marty Natalegawa, Senator Carr, Indonesian Minister of Defence, Dr Purnomo Yusgiantoro, and Minister for Defence, Mr Smith. Photo: Mark Graham

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Carr, at a media conference following the inaugural Australia–Indonesia 2+2 Ministerial Dialogue in Canberra in March 2012. (L–R) Indonesian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr Marty Natalegawa, Senator Carr, Indonesian Minister of Defence, Dr Purnomo Yusgiantoro, and Minister for Defence, Mr Smith. Photo: Mark Graham

Table 2. Australia's trade in goods and services with South-East Asia (a)

 
Exports
Exports
 
Imports
Imports
 
Goods and services
2010
2011
Trend growth 2006–2011
2010
2011
Trend growth
2006–2011
 
$m
$m
%
$m
$m
%
Singapore
7,443
9,526
3.7
14,167
18,157
1.7
Thailand
6,862
7,725
8.5
12,955
10,732
8.5
Indonesia
5,733
6,662
4.9
7,134
8,167
9.2
Malaysia
5,292
6,134
7.1
10,237
9,891
5.2
Vietnam
2,475
2,958
9.6
3,816
3,586
-9.1
Philippines
1,673
1,984
8.9
936
965
-3.3
Other ASEAN (b)
332
322
5.3
1,311
1,580
0.9
Total ASEAN
29,810
35,311
6.2
50,556
53,078
3.6
Timor-Leste (c)
62
30
5.1
1
1
-7.9
Total South East Asia
29,872
35,341
6.3
50,557
53,079
3.6

(a) Goods data on a recorded trade basis, services data on a balance of payments basis.

(b) Other ASEAN comprises Brunei, Myanmar, Cambodia and Laos.

(c) Goods data only. Services data is not published by the ABS for these countries.

Based on DFAT STARS database and ABS catalogue 5368.0.55.004.

Personal Profile:

Angky Septiana OAM

Angky Septiana OAM
Ms Angky Septiana OAM (right)
with Ms Devianti Faridz (left),
winner of the Elizabeth O'Neill
Journalism Award 2011
at a reception in April 2012.

Angky served at the consulate in Bali during the Bali bombings before moving to Jakarta to work as the embassy's Human Resources Manager, where she managed hundreds of locally engaged staff across multiple agencies. Angky was selected by the late Liz O'Neill to fill the position of senior media officer in the Embassy's Public Affairs Section.

Angky supports the Counsellor (Public Affairs) in handling media queries on a bilateral relationship that encompasses complex and difficult issues and has a high profile in Indonesia. Indonesia is home to a vibrant, competitive and fast-moving media industry, as well as a large Australian media contingent. Angky is one of the highest-ranked locally engaged staff in our missions in Indonesia. She received a Group Bravery Citation in August 2005 for her work during the Australian Embassy Jakarta Bombing.

"The people I work with have made my time with DFAT enjoyable and memorable. I have made life-long friends and this is something that I cherish and will always be thankful for."

 

Thailand

The highlight of the celebrations of the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations was the visit to Australia in May 2012 by Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra, whose Government took office in August 2011. Reflecting the breadth of the bilateral relationship, Prime Minister Yingluck was accompanied to Australia by Foreign Minister Surapong Tovichakchaikul, Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom, Education Minister Suchart Thadathamrongvech and Industry Minister Pongsvas Svasti.

We worked to implement outcomes of the visit, including a commitment by Prime Ministers to work together in 2012 to complete a general review of the Thailand–Australia Free Trade Agreement (TAFTA) and a review of its provisions on special agricultural safeguards. At the third meeting of the TAFTA Joint Commission held in Bangkok in June 2012, the department-led delegation and the Thai delegation agreed to a process for completing the reviews by the end of 2012.

Through the Australia–Thailand Institute (ATI), the department worked towards a new initiative announced by Prime Ministers for cooperation between Thai and Australian schools. The ATI coordinated a range of projects to celebrate the 60th anniversary by expanding people-to-people links (also see Public information services and public diplomacy 1.1.13).

The department played a central role in developing other outcomes announced by Prime Ministers in the joint communiqué issued in Canberra on 28 May 2012, including a new exchange program for young political leaders and commitments to deepen cooperation on disaster management, energy, food safety, security and regional issues. We also contributed to whole-of-government efforts to assist Thailand's recovery from severe floods in the second half of 2011 that claimed over 800 lives.

Malaysia

The signing of the Malaysia–Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) on 22 May 2012 in Kuala Lumpur was a significant bilateral milestone. The department led negotiations and supported Dr Emerson's visit to Malaysia in March 2012 to conclude MAFTA, meeting the ambitious one-year deadline for MAFTA agreed by Prime Ministers in March 2011 (also see Bilateral, regional and multilateral negotiations 1.1.7).

We also developed, in conjunction with the Department of Industry, Innovation, Science, Research and Tertiary Education, a three-year package of scholarships, fellowships, awards and exchanges in support of Malaysia's economic reform, which was announced at the MAFTA signing in May 2012.

The department supported Dr Emerson at the 16th Malaysia–Australia Joint Trade Committee Meeting in Kuala Lumpur in January 2012. Dr Emerson and his counterpart, Dato' Sri Mustapa Mohamed, reviewed the progress of MAFTA negotiations and discussed opportunities for cooperation in logistics, economic reform, Islamic finance, and sustainable and green construction. The Australia–Malaysia Institute also furthered our bilateral economic linkages, including through education collaboration and training (also see Public information services and public diplomacy 1.1.13).

We were also active in senior officials' engagement with Malaysia, including on combating people smuggling and hosting the Malaysia–Australia Working Group on Counter-Terrorism in April 2012.

Photo of The Minister for Trade and Competitiveness, Dr Emerson, signing the Malaysia–Australia Free Trade Agreement with Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry, Dato' Sri Mustapa Mohamed, in Kuala Lumpur, 22 May 2012.

The Minister for Trade and Competitiveness, Dr Emerson, signing the Malaysia–Australia Free Trade Agreement with Malaysian Minister of International Trade and Industry, Dato' Sri Mustapa Mohamed, in Kuala Lumpur, 22 May 2012.

Singapore

The department supported a visit to Singapore by Prime Minister Gillard in April 2012, marking the 70th anniversary of the fall of Singapore. During the visit, leaders agreed to hold a regular leaders' level meeting and that the Singapore–Australia Joint Ministerial Committee should report back to the two Prime Ministers on ways to deepen our cooperation, including on trade and investment. We also managed visits to Singapore by Mr Rudd in October 2011 and by Senator Carr in March 2012 as part of his first international visit as Foreign Minister. These visits underscored the continuing strength of Australia's longstanding relationship with Singapore.

We facilitated the entry into force of amendments to the Singapore–Australia Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) in September 2011, stemming from the second ministerial review.

Myanmar

The department played a central role in the Government's increased engagement with Myanmar, including supporting ministerial visits by Senator Carr in June 2012 and Mr Rudd in July 2011. We provided advice on Myanmar's political reform process, which informed the Government's decision to normalise the trade and investment relationship, lift targeted financial and travel sanctions and significantly increase aid.

We engaged extensively with the international community on policy approaches to Myanmar. The department facilitated the deployment of an election observer mission to watershed by-elections in April 2012. We continued to raise human rights concerns directly with the Myanmar Government and in international forums, including the UN Human Rights Council. We also hosted the first-ever Special Visits Program participant from Myanmar, Presidential Political Adviser, Ko Ko Hlaing.

The Philippines

The department built on the positive momentum of the third Philippines–Australia Ministerial Meeting (PAMM), held in Canberra in June 2011, to strengthen further Australia's expanding bilateral relationship with the Philippines. We worked to implement outcomes of the PAMM, including holding an inaugural dialogue on climate change in Manila in September 2011.

We supported visits to the Philippines by Mr Rudd in October 2011 and the Governor-General in April 2012. The visits provided opportunities to reiterate Australia's support for the Philippine Government's active agenda to tackle corruption and improve governance; and to promote Australian investment in the Philippines, particularly in the mining sector.

We continued to play a coordinating role in Australia's support for security and stability in the Philippines. Australia's support included development assistance, defence and counter-terrorism cooperation, advocacy of adherence to international human rights norms, and support for the Mindanao peace process.

Vietnam

In line with the Comprehensive Partnership agreement that underpins bilateral ties, the department supported a number of senior visits. This included Dr Emerson's visit to Hanoi in December 2011 to co-chair the tenth meeting of the Australia–Vietnam Joint Trade and Economic Cooperation Committee (JTECC) and to undertake a range of bilateral meetings. JTECC considered strategic directions for the trade and investment relationship. Senator Carr's visit to Vietnam in March 2012 featured discussions on the breadth of the bilateral relationship, highlighting Australia's aid program and cooperation on education in particular. Senator Carr raised human rights issues and advocated on behalf of the Australia Network to ensure ongoing access to the Vietnamese television market. The department led Australia's delegation to the ninth Australia–Vietnam Human Rights Dialogue in April 2012.

Photo of The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Carr, and Singaporean Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, in Singapore in March 2012.

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Carr, and Singaporean Prime Minister, Mr Lee Hsien Loong, in Singapore in March 2012.

In April 2012 in collaboration with AusAID and relevant UN agencies, we supported the visit to Australia by the Deputy Prime Minister, Nguyen Xuan Phuc, to study Australia's response to HIV, drug use and sex work. During the visit, Australia and Vietnam signed an Extradition Treaty and a memorandum of understanding on legal cooperation in criminal matters that will boost efforts to fight crime in the region.

In February 2012, the department co-hosted with the Department of Defence in Canberra the inaugural Australia–Vietnam Strategic Dialogue at Vice-Minister/Deputy Secretary level—the first political-military talks between the two countries—which provided a frank and comprehensive exchange of views on bilateral, regional and global issues. Australia–Vietnam Consular Consultations were held in Hanoi in December 2011.

Timor-Leste (East Timor)

The department was active in supporting the diverse and extensive Australian Government engagement in Timor-Leste, covering development assistance, defence and police cooperation and development of shared oil and gas. We advocated for the renewal until the end of 2012 of the UN Integrated Mission in Timor-Leste (UNMIT) and supported a visit by the Head of UNMIT, Ameerah Haq, to Canberra.

We supported activities marking the 10th anniversary of Timor-Leste's independence, including facilitating the attendance of the Governor-General at the official celebration. The department arranged Australia's 10th anniversary gift to Timor-Leste, a project with the National Film and Sound Archive to identify important archival material from Timor-Leste's cultural heritage.

We supported Australian parliamentary observers to Timor-Leste's Presidential elections in March and April 2012.

Photo of The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, with then Timor-Leste Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Zacarias da Costa, in Dili, July 2011.

The then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Rudd, with then Timor-Leste Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Zacarias da Costa, in Dili, July 2011.

Other bilateral relationships

Senator Carr visited Cambodia in March 2012 in his first official visit overseas as Foreign Minister. His meetings with Prime Minister Hun Sen and other senior government representatives reinforced a positive bilateral relationship. Senator Carr visited Australian aid projects in Siem Reap and witnessed the ongoing trial of former Khmer Rouge leaders in the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC), underlining Australia's ongoing support for the ECCC.

The department supported a visit by Brunei's Deputy Minister of Defence, Dato Paduka Haji Mustappa bin Haji Sirat, to Australia in February 2012 to discuss defence cooperation and regional architecture.

The 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations between Australia and Laos was marked in 2012. We supported a visit by the Lao Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dr Thongloun Sisoulith, in February 2012. The Vice-President of the Lao National Assembly, Dr Xaysomphone Phomvihane, also visited Australia in November 2011 to develop links between the two parliaments. We led Australia's delegation to the third Australia–Laos Human Rights Dialogue in Vientiane in April 2012, which provided an open and constructive forum to discuss human rights issues.

Photo of The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Carr, is shown around the Australian-funded Cambodian Midwife Project at the Khmer-Russian Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh by Mrs Pen Khimny, Vice Chief of Midwifery and Cambodian Health Minister, Dr Mam Bun Heng, in March 2012. Photo: Nick Sells

The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Senator Carr, is shown around the Australian-funded Cambodian Midwife Project at the Khmer-Russian Friendship Hospital in Phnom Penh by Mrs Pen Khimny, Vice Chief of Midwifery and Cambodian Health Minister, Dr Mam Bun Heng, in March 2012. Photo: Nick Sells

Personal Profile:

Lynda Worthaisong

As Ambassador to the Lao PDR, Lynda is responsible for overseeing Australia's bilateral relationship with Laos, spanning a significant and growing development assistance program and increasing government and parliamentary relations. She arranged a number of special events to mark the 60th anniversary of bilateral relations between Australia and Laos in 2012 – the longest unbroken relationship Laos has had with any country.

Lynda has worked on, or in, South-East Asian countries for most of her career since joining the department in 1990, where her first job was as Myanmar desk officer. Among other things she has completed a posting to Thailand, has headed sections in Canberra responsible for ASEAN, Singapore, Malaysia and Brunei, and is currently serving her second term at the Australian Embassy in Laos. She participated in recovery efforts in Phuket after the Boxing Day tsunami. Lynda has an Asian Studies degree and speaks Thai and Lao.

"I love working in South-East Asia, which is such a dynamic, important and culturally-rich region on Australia's doorstep. As Ambassador to Laos my work is very diverse and I'm proud to see the contributions that Australia and Australians have made here over many years. This is a particularly exciting time to be in Laos, which is hosting the Asia–Europe Meeting in 2012 in which Australia now participates as a member of the Asian group."

Photo of Australian Ambassador to Lao PDR, Ms Lynda Worthaisong (centre), with Embassy staff in Vientiane.

Australian Ambassador to Lao PDR, Ms Lynda Worthaisong (centre), with Embassy staff in Vientiane. Photo: Khamphone Saypaseuth

East Asia Summit, ASEAN and regional issues

The leaders' summit in Bali in November 2011 marked the beginning of a process of consolidation and strengthening of the EAS, with the United States and Russia attending for the first time. Australia worked closely with Indonesia, as EAS Chair, and others to achieve this expansion of the EAS membership in order to bring the region's key players into an East Asian grouping with a mandate to discuss the full range of regional economic, political and security issues. The department led the development of strategy and policy initiatives and supported both Mr Rudd's participation in the EAS foreign ministers' meeting in July 2011 and the Prime Minister's participation at the leaders' summit. We led development of an initiative with Indonesia to improve regional responses to natural disasters, and built support among members for a political and security agenda for the EAS, with discussions among leaders and foreign ministers on issues such as maritime security and non-proliferation.

We continued to support linkages between the Australian Human Rights Commission and the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission for Human Rights (AICHR). The department supported outreach to the AICHR and the ASEAN Commission for the Promotion and Protection of the Rights of Women and Children (ACWC) on gender issues through the Global Ambassador for Women and Girls (also see Advancing Gender Equality section).

Australia joined Indonesia, New Zealand and the Philippines in holding the 6th Regional Interfaith Dialogue (RID) in Semarang, Indonesia, in March 2012. The department supported the participation of the Australian delegation, led by former Deputy Prime Minister and former Ambassador to the Holy See, Mr Tim Fischer, and assisted participation by developing countries. The RID developed a plan of action to guide regional grassroots interfaith activities.

The department hosted and co-chaired with the Philippines and Japan a meeting of the ARF on non-proliferation and disarmament which promoted best practice in preventing the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction. We also hosted and co-chaired with Indonesia a meeting on disaster relief that agreed to the development of a new ARF disaster relief work plan. Australia worked actively with Timor-Leste and other ARF members to support the ARF sending an observer mission to Timor-Leste's parliamentary elections in July 2012 and, with Indonesia and Singapore, led drafting of a preventive diplomacy work plan adopted by ministers in July 2011.

Figure 9. Australia's trade in goods and services with ASEAN (a)

Figure 9. Australia's trade in goods and services with ASEAN

Outlook

The department will continue to deepen relations with South-East Asia. We will support further high-level engagement with Indonesia, lead negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement and, with the Indonesian Government, support a service to mark the 10th anniversary of the first Bali bombings on 12 October 2012 (also see Consular services 2.1). We will continue to promote events celebrating the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations with Thailand and foster our evolving relations with Myanmar. The department will support the Singapore–Australia Joint Ministerial Committee meeting and is planning an inaugural bilateral strategic dialogue with the Philippines. The department will support the implementation of the Malaysia–Australia Free Trade Agreement, which is expected to enter into force in early 2013. We will engage with the new government in Timor-Leste to broaden the focus of the bilateral relationship following the expected drawdown of international forces at the end of 2012.

In the EAS, we will promote practical cooperation in the priority areas of health, education, energy and the environment, disaster management and finance, and a strengthened leaders' dialogue on security issues. The department will work to support regional economic integration initiatives, including the ASEAN-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership. In the ARF, we will continue to promote preventive diplomacy as well as confidence-building activities. We will also co-chair meetings on non-proliferation and disarmament and disaster relief, and from 2013, on counter-terrorism and transnational crime.

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade