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Southeast Asia

ASEAN and Australia

Australia sees ASEAN at the centre of a stable, peaceful, prosperous and secure region, where all states contribute to a strategic equilibrium. ASEAN is of profound significance for Australia's future, and our strong relations reflect fifty years of deep and broad cooperation.

Australia became ASEAN's first Dialogue Partner in 1974. In 2024 we commemorate the 50th anniversary of this relationship through the ASEAN–Australia Special Summit in March.

Through major ASEAN-led arrangements, such as the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum, and ASEAN-Defence Ministers' Meeting-Plus, we collaborate closely on the region's trade and economic agenda. 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, Australia's two-way trade with ASEAN nations amounted to around $178 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.

100 Aus4ASEAN 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 ASEAN alumni 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.

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