Overview of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations

1.  The ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations have evolved and matured considerably since Australia became ASEAN’s very first Dialogue Partner in 1974.

2.  The Leaders of ASEAN, Australia, and New Zealand met in 2004 to commemorate the 30th anniversary of their Dialogue Relations. During the Commemorative Summit, the Leaders adopted the Joint Declaration of the Leaders to further broaden and deepen their dialogue relations in all fields, including political, economic and socio-cultural cooperation. 

3.  The first stand-alone ASEAN-Australia Summit was held in Hanoi in October 2010 in conjunction with the 17th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits, during which the Leaders reaffirmed the significance of Australia’s longstanding partnership with ASEAN.

4.  The ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations reached a significant milestone in 2007 with the adoption of the Joint Declaration on ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Partnership. The Joint Declaration reflected the strong commitment of both sides to promote their partnership in areas of political, economic and socio-cultural cooperation. It also charts out the direction of the ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations in the years to come. A Plan of Action to implement the Joint Declaration (2008-2013) was subsequently adopted in the same year, and was later extended until 2014.  A new Plan of Action for 2015-2019 to implement the Joint Declaration on ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Partnership will be adopted by the Ministers at the ASEAN PMC+1 Session with Australia in August 2014.

5.  Australia has appointed its first resident Ambassador to ASEAN, H.E. Mr. Simon Philip Merrifield, who presented his credentials to the Secretary-General of ASEAN, H.E. Mr. Le Luong Minh, on 1 October 2013. This appointment, together with the establishment of the Mission of Australia to ASEAN in Jakarta, underlined Australia’s strong commitment to deepen its engagement with ASEAN.

6.  The year 2014 marks the 40th Anniversary of the partnership between ASEAN and Australia. A Commemorative Summit to mark this Anniversary will be convened in Myanmar later this year, and will be an opportune moment for both sides to explore ways and means to further enhance the long-standing ties and expand the partnership in new fields of cooperation. Other commemorative activities, including official visits to Australia by the Secretary-General of ASEAN and the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN (CPR), have been held throughout the year to celebrate the Anniversary.

A. Political-Security Cooperation

7.  Australia participates in a series of consultative meetings with ASEAN, including the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus), the East Asia Summit (EAS), the Post Ministerial Conferences (PMC) and the Senior Officials’ Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) + Australia Consultation. 

8.  Australia has been actively participating in the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), a consultative forum for promoting open dialogue on political and security issues in the Asia-Pacific region. Australia has been supporting ARF’s work on counter-terrorism and transnational crime, disaster relief, maritime security, non-proliferation and disarmament, and preventive diplomacy. Australia is co-chairing with the Philippines and Japan the ARF Inter-Sessional Meetings on Non-Proliferation and Disarmament for 2011-2014. It co-chaired the 12th ARF ISM on Disaster Relief with Indonesia and the 11th ARF ISM on Counter-Terrorism with Viet Nam in March 2013. During 2010-2012, it co-hosted with the United States and the Philippines a series of workshops under the ARF framework.

9.  Australia is a member and a strong supporter of the ADMM-Plus, a platform for ASEAN and its eight Dialogue Partners to strengthen practical security and defence cooperation. Australia is co-chairing with Singapore the ADMM-Plus Experts’ Working Groups (EWGs) on Counter-Terrorism for 2014-2017. In 2013, Australia hosted the inaugural ADMM-Plus Maritime Security Field Training Exercise back to back with the Royal Australian Navy’s International Fleet Review in October. It also took part in the ADMM-Plus Exercise on Humanitarian Assistance, Disaster Relief and Military Medicine in Brunei in June 2013 and the ADMM-Plus Counter-Terrorism Exercise in Indonesia in September 2013.

10.  Australia has been pro-active in supporting functional cooperation under the EAS, including in the areas of disaster response, environment, education, healthcare and finance. Australia is keen on working with ASEAN to strengthen the EAS through initiatives such as the Asia-Pacific Leaders Malaria Alliance (APLMA) and the New Colombo Plan.

11.  In December 2005, Australia acceded to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC). Australia’s accession to the TAC underscored the importance of the TAC as a code of conduct governing inter-state relations in the region, as well as Australia’s strong commitment to promoting regional peace and security.  

12.  Regular consultations have been held between the ASEAN Senior Officials’ Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC) and Australia, which provide the venue for the two sides to discuss issues of mutual interest in the area of transnational crime, including international terrorism. ASEAN and Australia have actively implemented the ‘ASEAN SOMTC+ Australia Work Programme on Counter-Terrorism and Transnational Crime’ to implement the ASEAN-Australia Joint Declaration for Cooperation to Combat International Terrorism. 

13.  Australia has provided support to the region in preventing trafficking in persons through the Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons Project (ARTIP), funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and concluded in March 2013. Recognising the progress and achievements against trafficking in persons within the ASEAN region, the Australian Government decided to begin a new five-year programme called the Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons (AAPTIP), valued at A$50 million, to strengthen law enforcement, judicial and prosecutorial responses to trafficking in persons and to enhance policy, legal and outreach capability in the region. The official singing of AAPTIP was held on 13 March 2014 in Myanmar.


B. Economic Cooperation 

14.  Economic and trade relations between ASEAN and Australia have steadily expanded in the past years. Two-way merchandise trade between ASEAN and Australia valued at US$ 67.9 billion in 2013, representing a slight decrease of 2.4% from 2012. 

15.  Foreign direct investment (FDI) from Australia to ASEAN grew by 11.1 per cent, from US$1.8 billion in 2012 to US$20 billion in 2013. With a share of 1.67 per cent of total inward investment to ASEAN in 2013, Australia is the seventh largest source of FDI of ASEAN.

16.  Tourist arrival from Australia to ASEAN is also significant at more than 4 million visits in year 2012, sharing 4.5% of the total number of visitors to ASEAN (or 8.2% of total non-ASEAN visitors).

17.  The ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Commemorative Summit in 2004 launched negotiations on a Free Trade Agreement (FTA). Subsequently, the Agreement Establishing the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) was signed by the Economic Ministers of ASEAN, Australia and New Zealand at the side-lines of the 14th ASEAN Summit on 27 February 2009 in Cha-am Hua Hin. The AANZFTA is a modern and comprehensive economic agreement, which covers commitments and obligations beyond trade in goods, trade in services and investment. It includes provisions on standards, sanitary and phytosanitary measures, electronic commerce, intellectual property, competition policy, and movement of business persons.

18.  The first Protocol to Amend the AANZFTA covering Chapers in Trade in Goods and Rules of Origins, including the Ministers’ decision on the removal of FOB value from the Certificate of Origin in certain circumstances, has been finalised for signing in 2014. 

19.  Under the AANZFTA Agreement and with support from Australia and New Zealand, the AANZFTA Economic Support Programme (AECSP), established in 2010, continues to support economic cooperation activities and long-term projects aimed not only at implementation of the FTA but also towards achieving broad economic integration and improve business utitlisation. The AECSP funds a five-year Economic Cooperation Work Programme (ECWP) and the AANZFTA Support Unit in the ASEAN Secretariat. The ECWP consists of a range of activities across nine broad components covering goods, services, investment, intellectual property and competition-related aspects of AANZFTA, as well as general outreach activities relevant to the FTA as a whole. The AANZFTA Support Unit was established in August 2010 to provide technical assistance and support to the FTA Joint Committee and the Parties in implementing the Agreement. 

20.  The annual ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM)-Closer Economic Relations (CER) Consultations have become the highest-level forum where trade policies and ideas supportive of closer ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand partnership are being discussed and initiated. The ASEAN Senior Economic Officials (SEOM) also regularly meet with their counterparts from the CER.  At the 18th AEM-CER Ministers in Brunei Darussalam in August 2013, the Ministers welcomed the positive outcome of the independent review of the AANZFTA Economic Cooperation Support Programme (AECSP) and agreed in-principle for the extension of the AECSP to 31 December 2015.

21.  Australia is among the six Dialogue Partners of ASEAN that joined the negotiations on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), which was launched at the sidelines of the 21st ASEAN Summit on 20 November 2012. RCEP has the potential to deliver significant opportunities for businesses in the region as its 16 participating countries account for almost half of the world’s population, almost 39% of global GDP and over a quarter of world exports. Australia hosted the second round of RCEP negotiation in September 2013.

22.  Cooperation in the area of energy remains robust. Australia actively participates in the regular/annual meetings of the EAS Energy Cooperation Task Force (ECTF) and EAS Energy Ministers (EMM). In addition, Australia continues to host and support the South East Asia and Pacific Regional Secretariat of the Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency Partnership (REEEP), which is working to reduce barriers to the uptake of renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies with a focus on developing countries and emerging markets.


C. Socio-Cultural Cooperation

23.  Australia provided support to the implementation of  priority areas under the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER) Work Programme Phase 1 (2010-2012), including the ASEAN-Emergency Rapid Assessment Team (ERAT), Risk Assessments (in particular the ASEAN Earthquake Model initiative), Safe Schools, Training and Knowledge Management. Australia is continuing its support for the implementation of the AADMER Work Plan Phase 2 (2013-2015) and is working with the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on disaster management (AHA Centre) to strengthen disaster mitigation capacity of ASEAN.

24.  Australia, through the Australia-Indonesia Facility for Disaster Reduction (AIFDR), has committed AUD$2.08 million to the Cooperation Arrangement to Support the Implementation of the AADMER Work Programme (2010-2015). The Cooperation Arrangement was signed on 9 August 2010 and was subsequently amended three times. The latest Amendment was made on 24 October 2013, extending the Cooperation Arrangement until 30 June 2014 and reflecting Australia’s additional contribution of AUD$750,000. 

25.  In the area of Public Health, Australia has committed A$32 million for 2010-2014 to combat emerging infectious diseases and pandemics in the Asia-Pacific region, guided by Australia’s Pandemics and Emerging Infectious Diseases (EID) Framework 2010-2015. One of the key components of this framework is to provide support to ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Secretariat in the regional implementation of the ASEAN Medium-Term Plan for Emerging Infectious Diseases. The six work plans that were supported include regional laboratory network, risk communication, animal-human health collaboration, operationalisation of standards for joint multi-sectoral outbreak investigation and response, and field epidemiology training network on Dengue and Malaria.

26.  Education is a flagship area of the Australian aid programme to ASEAN. At the ASEAN-Australia Summit in 2010, the ASEAN Leaders welcomed Australia’s enduring commitment to support ASEAN in this sector by offering more than its current award of around 1,000 scholarships per year to ASEAN students to study in Australia, and to Australian students to study in ASEAN countries. 

27.  On 10 December 2013, Australia launched the New Colombo Plan, a signature initiative of the Australian Government which aims to enhance knowledge of the Indo-Pacific in Australia and strengthen people-to-people and institutional relationships, through study and internship undertaken by Australian graduate students in the region. The Australian Government has also announced funding of $100 million over five years for this Plan. It is planned to commence in 2015, after a pilot phase in 2014 involving two ASEAN Members States, namely Indonesia and Singapore. 

28.  In addition, the ASEAN Qualifications Referencing Framework project is currently being implemented under the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) Economic Cooperation Work Program and will be completed in 2015. The project aims to: i) build capacity within ASEAN countries through increased awareness and development of policy frameworks for National Qualifications Frameworks (phase 1); ii) develop an ASEAN Common Reference Framework (phase 2); and iii) conduct collaborative training and development programs for participating ASEAN countries, along with appropriate in-country expert technical training (phase 3).

29.  Australia has also provided assistance to ASEAN in its efforts to address the risks that come with greater connectivity and integration, such as exploitation of migrant works and child sex tourism.  To this end, Australia has supported various programmes, such as the ARTIP and its successor-AAPTIP, Project Childhood, Tripartite Action to Protect Migrants from Labour Exploitation (TRIANGLE), and MTV End Exploitation and Trafficking (MTV EXIT). 


D. Development Cooperation 


24. The current primary vehicle for Australia’s regional assistance to ASEAN is the 2008-2015 ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program Phase II (AADCP II). The AADCP II, with a total budget of A$57 million, builds up the approach and successes of the ASEAN-Australian Development Cooperation upon its Phase I Programme, which was concluded in June 2008. The overall objective of AADCP II is to support ASEAN to implement its economic integration policies and priorities in line with the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The three core components of the AADCP II aim to: i) Strengthen institutional capacity of the ASEAN Secretariat to facilitate and support ASEAN integration and community building efforts (Component 1); ii) Support movement towards the ASEAN Economic Community through provision of timely and high quality economic research and policy advice (Component 2a), and iii) Support regional mechanisms and capacity for the implementation of selected AEC Blueprint activities at the national level (Component 2b). The Program has 44 completed or on-going activities in corporate development, services, investment, agriculture, monitoring and evaluation, logistics, narrowing the development gap and consumer protection.


25. At the Second ASEAN-Australia Joint Cooperation Committee Meeting held in September 2012 at the ASEAN Secretariat, Australia informed ASEAN of its decision to extend the AADCP II to December 2019.


26. In supporting efforts to narrow the development gap within ASEAN, Australia allocated A$ 2.7 million to identify long term opportunities to address growth and security constraints in the sub-region of Southern Philippines and Eastern Indonesia. AADCP II includes research to inform policy makers about actions to promote inclusive economic development, for instance through the AADCP II-funded ASEAN publication “Narrowing the Development Gap: Policy options and drivers” in 2013.


27. Australia is committed to partnering with ASEAN in the implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC), including its active participation in the 4th ASEAN Connectivity Symposium in August 2013 in Brunei Darussalam.


28. In 2011, the ASEAN-Australia Joint Cooperation Committee (AA-JCC) was established. The inaugural AAJCC Meeting was held in Jakarta on 27-28 October 2011. The AA-JCC met the second time in Jakarta on 5 September 2012 and the third time in Jakarta on 20 November 2013. The third AAJCC adopted the revised AA-JCC Terms of Reference, which defined the role of AA-JCC in: i) reviewing the strategic directions of ASEAN-Australia cooperation; ii) monitoring, facilitating, and coordinating all activities relating to the areas of cooperation under its purview; and iii) providing direction to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of cooperation in areas under its purview.



[1]The EAI comprised five Pilot Projects namely:

  • the Business Development Pilot Project (BDS);
  • the Customs Information Exchange Pilot Project (CIE);
  • the Maritime Logistics Pilot Project (MLP);
  • the Maritime Security Pilot Project (MSP); and
  • the Single Window for Investment and Trade Facilitation Pilot Project (SWIFT).