1. The 19th ASEAN-Australia Forum was held on 8 – 9 May 2003 in Bandar Seri Begawan, Brunei Darussalam.
2. The Meeting was co-chaired by H.E. Pengiran Dato Paduka Osman Patra, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Brunei Darussalam and H.E. Mr. Peter Varghese, Deputy Secretary at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia. All ASEAN member countries and the ASEAN Secretariat participated.
3. Both sides agreed that the high quality of dialogue at the Forum underlined the strength and maturity of the ASEAN-Australia partnership. Noting that the ASEAN-Australia dialogue has been established since 1974, the Forum expressed satisfaction with the depth and extent of ASEAN-Australia linkages at both the bilateral and regional levels. Both sides reiterated the importance they continued to attach to close engagement and to practical cooperation on matters of mutual interest, in particular, regional and international security and economic issues. ASEAN and Australia discussed areas of future cooperation which would underscore our continued commitment to the dialogue relationship.
4. Australia welcomed the outcomes of the 8th ASEAN Summit and related summits held in November 2002 in Phnom Penh, in particular ASEAN’s commitment to regional economic integration, enhancing ASEAN’s competitiveness, bridging the development gap in ASEAN and advancing cooperation with its dialogue partners, especially with its East Asian neighbours. Australia took note of the briefing by ASEAN on the developments with regard to the accession of Dialogue Partners to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC).
5. The Forum reviewed the overall security environment of the Asia Pacific and was of the view that the situation remained relatively stable. The Forum also noted the range of security challenges confronting the region, in particular, the threat posed by international terrorism to regional peace, security and economic prosperity. Both sides recognised that the transnational nature of the problem called for a comprehensive approach that embraced action on many fronts as well as close cooperation in bilateral, regional and multilateral fora. They welcomed the excellent counter-terrorism cooperation between governments that has characterised the region’s response to terrorism and reaffirmed their commitment to a continuation of this cooperation.
6. In this regard, the Forum also welcomed the bilateral Counter-Terrorism Memoranda of Understanding between Australia and Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and the Philippines, which underpinned the continuing practical, operational-level counter-terrorism cooperation between security, intelligence and law enforcement agencies. Australia shared ASEAN’s resolve at preventing, suppressing and eradicating terrorism. The Forum discussed ways in which the international community could work together, including through the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and the United Nations (UN), to combat terrorism.
7. The Forum noted the latest developments in the Korean Peninsula and attached importance to the recent talks among China, the DPRK and the United States held in Beijing on 23 – 25 April 2003. Both sides recognized the need for the DPRK to resume its cooperation with the IAEA and to reverse its decision to withdraw from the NPT, and expressed support for all efforts to achieve a peaceful diplomatic settlement. The Forum called for a nuclear weapon-free Korean Peninsula in line with North Korea’s undertaking in the 1992 North-South Agreement on the Denuclearisation of the Korean Peninsula. Australia expressed appreciation to the ARF Chairman for his efforts in seeking ways to help defuse tensions on the Korean Peninsula. Both sides recognised the importance of the ARF as a useful forum in facilitating dialogue among ARF participants in further promoting regional peace and security.
8. On the post-war situation in Iraq, views were expressed in support of the central role of the United Nations in the reconstruction of Iraq in accordance with the aspiration of the Iraqi people.
9. The Forum welcomed close regional cooperation on other transnational problems such as people-smuggling, narcotics trafficking, money laundering and HIV/AIDs. The Forum noted the success of the Second Regional Ministerial Conference on People Smuggling, Trafficking in Persons and Related Transnational Crime in Bali from 28-30 April 2003, jointly chaired by Indonesia and Australia.
10. Australia commended ASEAN’s initiative in convening a Special Leaders Meeting on Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) held in Bangkok on 29 April 2003, to address this disease at a regional level. The Forum also welcomed the ASEAN Leaders’ call on the APEC Health Ministers to meet and take collaborative action as soon as possible to control the spread of SARS and enhance research and development capacities in cooperation with related international organisations. ASEAN expressed appreciation to Australia for its financial support to WHO’s regional programs to combat SARS. Both sides welcomed the flexibility in the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program (AADCP) to address emerging challenges including, in the immediate term, through the development of a potential project to control and contain SARS.
11. The Forum welcomed the positive outcomes and progress on the AFTA-CER Closer Economic Partnership to date, including the signing of the Ministerial Declaration in Bandar Seri Begawan on 14 September 2002. Both sides looked forward to the implementation of the joint work program activities identified and developed in support of achieving the agreed goal of doubling AFTA-CER trade and investment by 2010.
12. The Forum noted the importance of maintaining momentum in AFTA-CER CEP and ensuring substantial progress on the work program in the lead up to the Ministerial Meeting in September. The Forum acknowledged the central role of business communities in the AFTA-CER CEP process through the AFTA-CER Business Council and endorsed the view that more needs to be done to raise awareness of the CEP and its work program among respective business communities and their publics more generally.
13. The Forum had a good exchange of views on WTO issues, and noted the importance of the Doha Round and of concluding the negotiations by the agreed deadline, as well as achieving a successful outcome from the Fifth WTO Ministerial Conference in September 2003. The Forum also expressed continuing support for the accessions of Cambodia, Lao PDR and Vietnam to the WTO.
14. The Forum noted the preparations for the upcoming APEC Economic Leaders’ Meeting (AELM) in Bangkok in October, of which the theme is “A World of Differences: Partnership for the Future” and looked forward to the AELM to help enhance regional economic dynamism and stability. They also noted the preparations for the ASEAN Showcase which will take place at the margins of the AELM.
15. The Forum also welcomed progress in implementing the AADCP and it was agreed that the Program is making a positive contribution to economic growth and poverty reduction in the region, as well as to the closer integration of ASEAN. The Forum further welcomed the positive progress achieved at the first meeting of the AADCP Joint Planning Committee. Both sides were pleased to note that the current AADCP strategic direction is consistent with ASEAN priorities and that it should provide a mechanism to respond to long-term and new emerging priorities such as counter terrorism and SARS control.
16. It was agreed that the 20th ASEAN-Australia Forum would be held in Canberra in 2005.
17. Brunei Darussalam expressed its appreciation for the support and cooperation extended by Australia, ASEAN member countries and the ASEAN Secretariat during its term as country coordinator for ASEAN-Australia dialogue relations. Australia welcomed the constructive and active role played by Brunei Darussalam as its dialogue coordinator over the last three years and looks forward to working with Viet Nam in the period ahead.
18. The Forum expressed its appreciation to the Government of Brunei Darussalam for its warm hospitality and for the excellent arrangements made for the meeting. The meeting was conducted in a spirit of cordiality under the chairmanship of Brunei Darussalam and Australia.