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Southeast Asia

ASEAN and Australia

Australia sees ASEAN at the centre of a stable, peaceful, prosperous and secure region, where sovereignty is respected, and all countries benefit from strategic balance. Australia recognises ASEAN centrality as key to the region's stability and security, and we are committed to supporting ASEAN's leadership. Our relationship is based on friendship, mutual trust, shared interests and a positive vision for our region's future.

Australia became ASEAN's first Dialogue Partner in 1974. On 4-6 March 2024, Australia held the ASEAN–Australia Special Summit to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations. The Melbourne Declaration and Leaders' Vision Statement outline our shared ambitions for the next 50 years of our partnership. At the Special Summit, Prime Minister Albanese announced the establishment of the ASEAN-Australia Centre which will strengthen business, education, cultural and community connections between Australia and the region.

Australia collaborates closely on ASEAN-led arrangements, such as the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum, and ASEAN-Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus. We strongly support the principles of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP) and are committed to supporting its implementation.

Since 2013, Australia has a resident ambassador accredited to the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta.

Trade and investment

ASEAN is a key trading partner for Australia. In 2022-23, Australia's two-way trade with ASEAN nations amounted to around $185 billion – greater than our two-way trade with Japan, the United States or the EU. Our two-way investment with ASEAN in 2022 was $289.7 billion.

Our strong trade links are supported by our regional and bilateral free trade agreements. This includes the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP), which are pathways for Australian business to tap into ASEAN and the ASEAN Economic Community.

ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership

In October 2021, ASEAN and Australia made the historic decision to establish a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP)Under the CSP, we have ramped up our cooperation with ASEAN through three new Australia for ASEAN (Aus4ASEAN) initiatives.

The Aus4ASEAN Futures Initiative supports jointly agreed projects that address complex regional challenges and support implementation of the AOIP. The Futures Initiative responds to ASEAN priorities and provides practical assistance through ASEAN systems. Since commencing operations, the Futures Initiative has supported projects focused on ASEAN's transition to a green economy, strengthening ASEAN's digital economy and advancing regional economic integration.

One hundred Aus4ASEAN Scholarships were announced as part of our CSP, and an additional 75 scholarships were announced at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in March 2024. These scholarships are supporting emerging ASEAN leaders to study at Master's level in Australia in fields that advance the AOIP under its priority areas of cooperation – maritime, connectivity, economic, and sustainable development cooperation.

The Aus4ASEAN Digital Transformation and Futures Skills (DTFS) initiative is supporting our region's futures skills needs, responding to rapid digitalisation, and supporting long-term economic development. The DTFS initiative includes 350 short course scholarships, technical assistance partnerships between Australian and ASEAN training institutions and regional skills dialogues.

Development cooperation

ASEAN and Mekong Program 2023-24 bilateral allocation [budget estimate]

$102.4 million

ASEAN and Mekong Program 2022-23 bilateral allocation [actual]

$99.0 million

ASEAN and Mekong Program 2021-22 total Australian ODA [actual]

$74.2 million

Australia's development cooperation with ASEAN supports a range of areas. This includes combatting human trafficking, enhancing economic integration, implementation of RCEP and AANZFTA, and reducing the risk of future pandemics.

We support ASEAN's work on energy transition and decarbonisation, connectivity, sustainable urbanisation, food security, and safe and fair migration. Australia is also helping ASEAN take forward its Women, Peace and Security agenda, and strengthening digital trade standards in ASEAN.

Australia provides bilateral development assistance to some countries in Southeast Asia. Details are available on the Development Program Progress Reports page.

People connections

Australia has strong connections to the people of Southeast Asia, including through migration, education exchanges and tourism. Over one million Australian residents claimed an ASEAN country as their country of birth in the 2021 Census and over 1.1 million had ASEAN ancestry. Over 800,000 Australians speak an ASEAN language.

Australia's people and institutional connections with Southeast Asia are enhanced by the Australia-ASEAN Council. The council strengthens Australia's engagement with the region through advocacy, support for business, education and cultural initiatives.

Many Southeast Asian alumni of Australian universities have careers in politics, business, academia and the arts while maintaining their close ties to Australia. Young Australians are also choosing to study in Southeast Asia, including under the New Colombo Plan (NCP). The NCP is an important initiative for Australia in building people-to-people links. The NCP contributes to Australia's skills needs, and helps build an understanding of modern Australia by supporting a diverse range of Australian undergraduates to study and gain work-based experiences in Southeast Asia.

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