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Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Southeast Asia frames Australia’s northern approaches and sits at the nexus of strategic competition in the Indo-Pacific. It is of profound significance for our future – strategically, economically, and diplomatically. ASEAN brings together ten Southeast Asian states – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – into one organisation. ASEAN’s success has helped support regional security and prosperity for 50 years and it is uniquely placed to address critical regional issues.

Australia supports a strong, resilient and cohesive ASEAN. ASEAN and its fora play a crucial role in shaping and reinforcing rules and norms in the region. ASEAN-led architecture provides a framework of regular dialogue and cooperation that underpin peace and stability in Southeast Asia. The centrality of ASEAN within regional architecture is essential.

Australia became ASEAN’s first Dialogue Partner in 1974 and we became Strategic Partners in 2014. Australia and ASEAN have an agreed Plan of Action covering the breadth of our cooperation, which is updated every five years. Our partnership with ASEAN amplifies our voice in the region. It also provides a platform for the Prime Minister and Australian ministers to meet annually with Southeast Asian counterparts. Officials meet through the annual ASEAN-Australia Forum and other mechanisms. Learn some key facts about ASEAN in Why ASEAN matters: key facts.

In March 2018, Prime Minister Turnbull welcomed ASEAN Leaders to Sydney for the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit. Learn more about Australia's engagement with ASEAN in Why ASEAN matters: our mutual cooperation.

In November 2020, Australia and ASEAN agreed to upgrade the tempo of our leaders’ meetings to annual summits, marking a new chapter in our Strategic Partnership.

Australia's security interests are inextricably linked with the countries of Southeast Asia. Learn more about Australia's work with ASEAN to address common security challenges in Why ASEAN matters: our shared security.

ASEAN is our second largest trading partner as a bloc and is essential to Australia’s economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2019-20, Australia's trade with ASEAN countries was $113.7 billion, which is greater than our two-way trade with Japan and the United States. Our two-way investment with ASEAN in 2019 was over $259 billion. Our strong trade links are supported by our regional and bilateral free trade agreements that act as pathways for Australian business to tap into ASEAN and the ASEAN Economic Community. Learn more about our economic ties with ASEAN in Why ASEAN matters: our shared prosperity.

Though disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, Australia has strong connections to the people of Southeast Asia, including through migration, education exchanges and tourism. Learn more about our people-to-people links with ASEAN in Why ASEAN matters: our shared connections.

In response to COVID-19, Australia is supporting ASEAN to play a central role in health security and economic recovery in Southeast Asia. Australia has pivoted our suite of ASEAN-Australia development initiatives to tackle the impacts of the pandemic under our Partnerships for Recovery. It focuses on strengthening health security, maintaining social stability, and stimulating economic recovery.

In 2020, Prime Minister Morrison announced an additional $500 million package of economic, development and security measures to further support Southeast Asia’s recovery. Our regional ASEAN and Mekong development programs, complement the work of our bilateral development programs, in building a stable, open, inclusive and resilient Southeast Asia.

In 2020, Australia also committed $623.2 million to support vaccine access and health security in the Pacific and Southeast Asia. About $400 million of this commitment will support Southeast Asia to access vaccines and monitor quality, including the $100 million Quad Vaccines initiative for Southeast Asia.

These significant investments complement Australia’s extensive engagement with ASEAN to respond to the pandemic. In 2020, this included convening a Special ASEAN-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on 30 June, enhanced dialogue between ASEAN and Australian health experts; and over $83 million in cooperation initiatives.

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