Federal Politics

OPINION
Save
Print
License article

ASEAN summit reflects our standing in the region

Show comments

This week for the first time, the leaders of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, will meet in Australia.

This is a historic moment for our place in the world; a rare opportunity in a time of momentous change – unprecedented in its scale and pace.

Overwhelmingly, it is a meeting about prosperity and security.

In less than one generation, millions of people across the Indo-Pacific region have been lifted out of dire poverty.

Nowhere in the world has this pace of change been more apparent than in Southeast Asia.

ASEAN’s combined real GDP more than doubled in the last 10 years, accompanied by rapid growth in consumer spending, urbanisation and internet use. By 2030, ASEAN middle-class households will more than quadruple to 161 million.

Advertisement

The same forces of change have also made more Australians better off. Our economy has been growing for 26 years. We’ve created a record number of new jobs, and trade and investment is strong.

While change has brought prosperity, concerns about globalisation, levels of political alienation and economic nationalism are on the rise in many countries.

And power is shifting between nations, driving geo-political uncertainty, upgrades in military capability and strategic competition.

This should not make us anxious, it should make us ambitious.

Australia has the strength to shape our future. Our economy is strong and growing. Our values, multicultural society, and democratic freedoms are sources of global influence. Our strategic co-operation with our neighbours and allies remains solid.

We must take responsibility for our own security and prosperity, while recognising that we are stronger when we share the burden of leadership with trusted partners.

ASEAN is vital to this ambition. It has been a bulwark of stability and constancy for 50 years. It has stood the test of time as the region’s strategic convener, amplifying our neighbourhood’s voice on the global stage. Its commitment to dialogue and economic integration has shaped a more prosperous and secure region for us all.

This Special Summit marks a historic milestone in Australia’s partnership with ASEAN.

In 1974, when Australia became ASEAN’s first dialogue partner, development assistance in the form of economic cooperation was the mainstay of our engagement.

How different the outlook is today. We are indispensable strategic partners and work together to keep our region secure. The rising threat of terrorism and extremism is a shared challenge we can only tackle together.

Taken as a group, ASEAN economies are our third largest trading partner, with bilateral trade amounting to almost $100 billion in 2016-2017.

And there are deep and constant links between our people. Nearly one million Australians claim heritage from ASEAN nations. In 2016-2017, Australia welcomed more than 1.3 million ASEAN visitors and Australians made almost three million trips to ASEAN countries.

As the first Australian Prime Minister to host ASEAN Leaders in Australia, I see the potential of the ASEAN-Australia relationship to grow further still. The summit is a reflection of our standing in the region.

We will use it to build on our deep legacy of co-operation to establish a contemporary, outward-looking partnership for the rapidly changing world we live in.

During their visit, the leaders will join me at a Counter-Terrorism Conference where we will strengthen our united approach to the scourge of violent extremism in our region.

Our businesspeople will meet in a CEO Forum and Conference for Small and Medium Enterprises to unlock new opportunities for trade and investment, creating more jobs here and across the region.

And as part of ASEAN-Australia Week, we will celebrate the warm bonds between our people, through sporting, academic, educational and cultural events.

As we host this special ASEAN-Australia summit we are working constructively with our closest neighbours to secure our collective prosperity and security.

Malcolm Turnbull is the Prime Minister of Australia.

0 comments