Southeast Asia frames Australia’s northern approaches and is of profound significance for our future. ASEAN’s success has helped support regional security and prosperity for 50 years. In 2016, Australia’s trade with ASEAN countries was greater than with our second-largest bilateral trading partner, the United States.
Southeast Asia sits at a nexus of strategic competition in the Indo–Pacific. This both tests the region’s cohesion and underlines ASEAN’s central role in convening the region’s strategic forums such as the EAS.
Australia places high priority on our bilateral relationships in Southeast Asia and on our support for ASEAN. The Government is enhancing engagement with the region to support an increasingly prosperous, outwardly-focused, stable and resilient Southeast Asia. As an example, we have agreed a new Strategic Partnership with Vietnam.
In 2018, Australia will host ASEAN leaders in Sydney for an historic ASEAN – Australia Special Summit. This will reinforce our Strategic Partnership with ASEAN as we advance shared interests. The Summit will demonstrate our elevated commitment to ASEAN and our enduring ties with the countries of Southeast Asia.
As a key element of our Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, we will strengthen security cooperation with Singapore, including by jointly developing military training areas in Australia. The Government will also boost defence engagement with Southeast Asia more broadly, including multilaterally through the ADMM Plus meeting of defence ministers. Close cooperation with Singapore and Malaysia through the Five Power Defence Arrangements is an essential part of our security engagement with Southeast Asia.
We will cooperate more closely with our Southeast Asian partners on transnational challenges such as crime and people smuggling. The continuing threat to the region of terrorism and violent extremism will require concerted and determined cooperation between us.
We will continue to boost trade and investment links, including through a comprehensive review of the ASEAN – Australia – New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) and upgrades to our FTAs with Singapore, Thailand and Malaysia. We will elevate our development, trade and investment cooperation with Vietnam. We will also continue to build on extensive political, defence, educational and people-to-people links between Australia and the region.
Through our development partnerships, we will work with Southeast Asian countries to deliver effective programs to promote economic reform and inclusive growth, reduce poverty and address inequality. In this way we strengthen bilateral relationships and contribute to regional stability and prosperity.
Supporting growth in our region
Australia has a vital interest in the strength of the regional economy. Most economies in the Indo–Pacific require difficult-to-implement reforms to unlock the next stage of economic growth.
Australia has effective institutions, regulations and standards. We have a record of economic reform that has delivered growth and jobs. We will continue to work with other countries in the region to share our technical expertise.
Through our development assistance, we support the governance and stability of regional countries. We assist with efforts to boost productivity by supporting education and training. We work with partner governments to help improve investment settings, regulatory frameworks, taxation systems, management of natural resource revenues, women’s participation in the workforce, and the design and management of national budgets.
In APEC, we encourage countries to improve productivity, competition, good governance and market openness, including in services. Australia also funds initiatives on services, investment, competition policy and intellectual property to support the development of the ASEAN Economic Community.