| Danial Norjidi in Sydney |
THE Asean-Australia Special Summit on March 17-18 will mark the first time Australia will host a summit with Asean leaders in Australia.
Building on a deep legacy of economic cooperation, political dialogue and the natural interweaving of the people of Asean and Australia, the Special Summit aims to establish a contemporary, outward-looking partnership that will respond to the challenges of a rapidly changing Indo-Pacific region.
The Special Summit is being held to strengthen regional security and prosperity through intensified leader-level discussion and a forward programme of increased practical engagement on education, economic cooperation, countering terrorism and common security challenges.
Sydney will be the host city for the Summit, and it marks a historic opportunity to strengthen the strategic partnership between Australia and Asean.
The centrepiece of the Asean-Australia Special Summit will be the Leaders’ Summit and Retreat. There will also be two major side-events: a Business Summit which will bring together leaders of industry and small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) to unlock new opportunities for job-creation, investment and enterprise; as well as a Counter-Terrorism Conference that will strengthen connectivity and cooperation with regional partners to combat terrorism, counter terrorism financing and counter violent extremism.
A spokesperson of the Asean-Australia Taskforce spoke on the Special Summit in a briefing with Asean journalists during a recent international media visit programme organised by Australia’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
The taskforce leads the Australian government’s preparations for the Asean-Australia Special Summit.
“It will be our great privilege to welcome the leaders of the 10 Asean member states to Sydney to join with the Australian Prime Minister and other Australian leaders to engage on themes of shared interest about how we continue our longstanding work together of developing prosperity and security for our region,” the spokesperson said.
“It’s a special summit, and it’s an invitation from the Australian Prime Minister to his counterparts forming Asean to come to Australia to hear from him direct about how Australia sees the future of our partnership with Asean and to work together to come up with ideas, initiatives and programmes that will take our partnership into the future.”
The spokesperson highlighted that the objective of the meeting is to reflect to Asean the value Australia places in Asean as an institution and why it is important to Australia.
“Asean has proved itself over 50 years to be critical to the stability and prosperity of Southeast Asia,” the spokesperson said. “Asean has developed the habits of cooperation and collaboration that has meant that Southeast Asia has enjoyed a period of relative peace and stability, and through that has achieved extraordinary prosperity.”
“The economic growth in Southeast Asia, particularly since the early 90s, has been the best anywhere in the world. That’s reflected in the fact that Asean as a combined economy, as a single economy, is Australia’s third largest trading partner – sometimes second largest trading partner.”
“For us, Asean has been critical to our own prosperity and security for the last 50 years. If Asean hadn’t created the conditions in Southeast Asia for stability and prosperity, then our own stability and prosperity would be less than it is now.”
“So, for those reasons, the Prime Minister wants to have a special summit that reflects how Australia has benefitted both in the economic sense and the security sense from a successful Asean, and how by working together we can improve our mutual interests,” the spokesperson added.
It was also shared that another reason for Asean’s importance to Australia is that it is the region’s strategic convener.
“Asean meets as Asean, but Asean also meets as the convener of the East Asia Summit, and it also meets as the convener of RCEP (Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership),” said the taskforce spokesperson.
“So on the strategic and security side, on the economic and trade policy side, Asean is sitting there at the centre of some of the most important themes of the day, and has done an extraordinary job of bringing together the region, and when we say the region, we mean that broad sweep from India through to the United States and all those countries in between; that Asia-Pacific region, that Indo-Pacific region.”
The spokesperson highlighted that Asean centrality has defined some of the most important regional architecture that this part of the world has.
“So as an acknowledgement to Asean’s success as a regional convener, both on the strategic side through the EAS and on the economic side through RCEP, we want to acknowledge those achievements and support them in building up those institutions so that we can have a region that reflects the values that we share: rules-based, consultative, open, resisting the challenges of protectionism in the economic space, driving forward with the free trade agenda and keeping our part of the world open for business, and a place where countries can go about their activities safe in the knowledge that the rule of law in the international arrangements as we understand them will guarantee them their rights,” the spokesperson said.