ASEAN, Australia look toward stronger partnership
Participants to the virtual ASEAN-Australia Ministerial Meeting on September 10 shared the view that the ASEAN-Australia dialogue relationship has made strong progress since its establishment in 1974, and positively contributed to regional peace and stability.
At the event, held within the framework of the 53rd ASEAN Ministerial Meeting (AMM-53), the foreign ministers of both sides held that ASEAN-Australia cooperation has significantly contributed to realising the ASEAN Community Vision 2025, including the Blueprints of the ASEAN Political-Security Community, the ASEAN Economic Community and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, the Work Plan of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) phase III and the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) 2025.
Australia is currently ASEAN's 7th largest trade partner while ASEAN is Australia's third largest trade partner. ASEAN is preparing for negotiations to upgrade the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), thus bringing more practical benefits to the business community and stakeholders. Notably, in recent years, Australia has always been one of the top destinations chosen by ASEAN students.
Addressing the event, Australian Foreign Minister Maris Payne affirmed the Australian commitment to building a stronger partnership on par with ASEAN’s potential. She announced that her country will provide 1 million AUD for the ASEAN COVID-19 Response Fund.
Australia confirmed its support for specific cooperation with ASEAN according to the ASEAN Perspectives Document on the Indo-Pacific, thereby providing approximately 60 million AUD to enhance economic integration under the ASEAN-Australia Development Partnership, with priority given to economic recovery, focusing on connectivity, infrastructure and digital transformation, she said.
She expressed her hope that the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) will soon be signed. Australian will continue supporting ASEAN students in the country through policies such as extending visas, delaying fee collection and creating jobs.
For his part, Vietnamese Deputy Prime Minister and Foreign Minister Pham Binh Minh welcomed Australia's assistance to ASEAN countries in promoting regional health security, economic recovery and stability, including the aid package of 23 million AUD.
Minh appreciated Australia's support for ASEAN's efforts to ensure peace, security, stability and freedom of navigation and aviation in the South China Sea.
The Vietnamese official reiterated ASEAN's principled stance and asked the parties to uphold restraint, refrain from the acts that further complicate the situation and from militarisation and settle disputes through peaceful measures.
The parties should continue to fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) and soon finalise an effective and efficient Code of Conduct (COC) in accordance with international law, especially the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS 1982), contributing to maintaining peace, security and stability in the South China Sea and in the region, he noted.
He also welcomed Australia for co-chairing the 2nd ASEAN-Australia dialogue on women, peace and security, which will take place later this year.
At the end of the meeting, the ministers approved the new Plan of Action (2020-2024) to further deepen the ASEAN-Australia Strategic Partnership. The two sides agreed to hold the annual ASEAN-Australia Summit, starting from 2021./.