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The Asean-Australia Special Summit marks a step toward a deeper relationship

23 8 10

THIS weekend, Asean leaders will be in Sydney to attend the first Asean-Australia Special Summit. Proposed by Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the first Asean-Australia Biennial Summit in Laos in 2016, the event will include a leaders’ summit and retreat, a business summit, and a counter-terrorism conference.

In recent years, the Asean-Australia relationship has reached several milestones. These include the Asean-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement in 2010, the establishment of an Australian Mission to Asean in Jakarta in 2013, and an agreement to upgrade the relationship to a strategic partnership in 2014.

Australian leaders have been eager to emphasise Asean’s importance. In his keynote speech at the Shangri-La Dialogue in 2017, Turnbull stressed:

We support a strong, united Asean that continues to convene and strengthen organisations such as the East Asia Summit … We support an Asean that remains committed to liberal economic values.

Asean leaders pose with Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull at the First Asean-Australia Biennial Summit in Vientiane, Laos on September 7, 2016. Source: Australian Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet

SEE ALSO: Indonesia is brightest hope for democracy in Asean say parliamentarians, experts

The point was reinforced by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop at an event in Bangkok celebrating Asean’s 50th anniversary:

… the central and essential role of Asean is recognised and respected by the great powers of the world. In a period of opportunity and challenge, we will need to strengthen that role and standing of Asean’s so as to advance peace, freedom and prosperity in the region and beyond.

The summit may build on the momentum of recent years. But there are still some hurdles to be overcome for the Asean-Australia........

© Asian Correspondent