Australia supports ASEAN’s centrality in Indo-Pacific

Australia Prime Minister Scott Morrison affirmed his country’s support for ASEAN’s centrality in the Indo-Pacific region while addressing the first ASEAN - Australia Summit, held virtually on October 27.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (centre) and ASEAN leaders at the virtual summit on October 27 (Photo: AFP/VNA)
Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison (centre) and ASEAN leaders at the virtual summit on October 27 (Photo: AFP/VNA)

He viewed the summit as another significant milestone in the bilateral relationship, noting that annual summits will allow ASEAN and Australia, the first dialogue partner of the bloc, to deepen their “already very, very strong ties” and will guide them through an era of profound change in the Indo-Pacific.

“ASEAN is at the centre of the Indo-Pacific. And we back this, both through our words and our actions,” he affirmed.

Morrison announced the Australia for ASEAN Futures Initiative to drive cooperation, support implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, and deepen his country’s investment in the region's future.

It will provide AUD 124 million (over US$ 93 million) to fund projects, jointly identified by ASEAN and Australia, to address complex and emerging challenges, including COVID-19 recovery, terrorism, transnational crime, energy security and transition to lower emissions technology, the circular economy, and healthy oceans.

At the summit, leaders of ASEAN and Australia agreed to elevate bilateral ties to a comprehensive strategic partnership.

PM Morrison noted the partnership establishment underscores Australia’s commitment to ASEAN’s central role in the Indo-Pacific and positions their partnership for the future, and that a strong, united, and resilient ASEAN is vital to the region’s success and supports Australia’s own security and prosperity.

To mark this new chapter, Australia said it will invest AUD 154 million into its cooperation with ASEAN, and the country supports a peaceful, stable, resilient, and prosperous region, with ASEAN at its heart.

The Australian PM underlined his country’s commitment to provide the Indo-Pacific region with at least 60 million COVID-19 vaccine doses by the end of 2022. From late 2021 to mid-2022, it will share at least 10 million doses from its domestic supply with ASEAN countries.

Speaking at the event, Singaporean PM Lee Hsien Loong spoke highly of Australia’s active engagement with ASEAN and welcomed its contribution via the Australia for ASEAN Futures Initiative.

Indonesian President Joko Widodo encouraged ASEAN and Australia to enhance cooperation to promote the building of strategic trust, thus contributing to regional stability and peace.

Meanwhile, Malaysian PM Ismail Sabri Yaakob highly valued Australia’s strong assistance for ASEAN’s efforts to minimise impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha called on ASEAN and Australia to strengthen ties in public health, economic recovery, and people-to-people connectivity.