/ 04 March 2024

A big regional get together


The Squiz

PM Anthony Albanese is in Melbourne today, launching a 3-day Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Australia special summit. It will mark 50 years of the strategic partnership, which Albanese says will ensure our “shared future prosperity and security”. Eleven foreign leaders will be in hand to discuss speeding up the clean energy transition, increasing maritime cooperation, and supporting emerging leaders in the region. Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040, which aims to increase trade and investment within the region, was launched last year and will also be a hot topic.

Is it a big deal?

While we’re not an ASEAN member (a dialogue partner…), the 10 member states represent 685 million people and about $178 billion in 2-way trade with Oz. They’re important partners, and PM Albanese has promised to bolster regional security and economic opportunities. It’s also notable because it’s the most significant gathering of Southeast Asian leaders in Oz for 6 years and the biggest international meeting Australia has hosted since the first ASEAN-Australia special summit in 2018. And there will be a bit of ‘getting-to-know-you’ with the leaders of Malaysia, the Philippines, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, and Vietnam all taking office over the past 2 years, and it will be their first official visits to Australia. Also showing up – aspiring ASEAN member Timor-Leste is sending PM Xanana Gusmão and Kiwi PM Christopher Luxon is flying in from over the ditch. 

Anything to look out for?

There’s heaps going on in our region, so yes… Philippines President Ferdinand Marcos Jr is expected to raise the territorial argument with China in the South China Sea, as he did when he addressed our federal parliament last week… The ongoing political instability in Myanmar after the military coup in 2021 will also come up as the member state faces criticism and sanctions. On a more positive note, Australia wants to help ASEAN nations achieve their renewable energy goals, which would also benefit Aussie businesses. And the 2040 strategy, which saw Oz commit $100 million over 4 years to strengthen our economic ties with the region, will also be part of the conversation. Last week, the Lowy Institute said the summit would be a success if Albanese “can build relationships, articulate a clear narrative, and avoid controversy.” Simples…   

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