Address by Ambassador Bill Tweddell
to the Department of Asia Pacific Studies
of the University of Asia and the Pacific
23 February 2015
Atty Delia Tantuico, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences
Dr Elizabeth Urgel, Chair of the Department of Asia Pacific Studies
Ma. Victoria Cayton, Instructor Australian Studies, College of Arts and Sciences
Ladies and Gentlemen
I am delighted to be here and honoured to have been asked to speak about ASEAN and Australia.
Australia has had a long and substantial engagement with ASEAN.
Australia became ASEAN’s first dialogue partner in 1974. Through vision, leadership and a deeply ingrained habit of consultation over the years, ASEAN has become a defining feature of South-East Asia’s stability and prosperity – for 10 countries and 625 million people.
Underlining the importance of ASEAN to Australia, in 2013, Australia took a step in establishing a Mission to ASEAN with our first resident Ambassador Simon Merrifield.
It was about a year ago, and here in Manila, that Australia’s Foreign Minister Julie Bishop launched the 40th anniversary of Australia’s official partnership with ASEAN.
It was fitting that the launch took place in Manila as the Philippines is currently Australia’s country coordinator in ASEAN. We are of course grateful to the Philippines for facilitating Australia’s relations with ASEAN in this role, since 2012 until the middle of this year.
2014 then culminated in a Leaders’ commemorative summit held at Nay Pyi Taw, in Myanmar in November. It was there that leaders announced that Australia’s relations with ASEAN would be elevated to a strategic partner. For Australia, this is an acknowledgement of the journey travelled together, but it also signalled a shared future of continuing to work closely together and promoting security, prosperity and people-to-people engagement in this corner of the world.
Australia collaborates with ASEAN on a broad range of issues.
We take a close interest in ASEAN’s work on disaster management, an issue which is highly relevant for us in the Philippines. We are building on our strong bilateral cooperation in this area, born out of responses to such calamities as the 2004 tsunami, the 2008 cyclone in Myanmar and the devastating Typhoon Haiyan – known locally as Yolanda – here in the Philippines in 2013. We are pleased that Australia can continue to assist in the post-Haiyan recovery and reconstruction efforts of the Government of the Philippines in areas badly affected by the typhoon. Through a A$36.3 million contribution, Australia is supporting the construction of classrooms and daycare centres, provision of alternative livelihoods, building the disaster preparedness and resilience of communities, deployment of specialists to support recovery, and prepositioning of essential emergency supplies.
ASEAN has a key role, we believe, in helping all of us to manage successfully the changing strategic dynamics in the region, including the relationships between and among major players.
ASEAN centrality serves a strategic purpose in helping to balance these dynamics. ASEAN and ASEAN-led fora can make the most of this centrality with active management of some of the region’s more sensitive issues. This includes, of course, the ongoing tensions in the South China Sea, which affects claimants and non-claimants alike, by virtue of its role as a major thoroughfare for international trade – including Australia’s, with around 60 per cent of Australian exports and 40 per cent of our imports passing through those waters.
This is why it’s important for members of the broader region to invest in building up ASEAN-led mechanisms for dealing with security and strategic issues and maintaining regional cohesion. This is why Australia has consistently attached great importance to those processes that have brought together ASEAN members with the wider region. And this is why Australia chose to be a founding member of the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and has been an active participant for the 20 years of its existence.
The ARF’s work on functional cooperation across so many areas has been critical to fostering the habits of cooperation. From disaster management and maritime security to newer issues such as cyber security, the ARF has delivered practical results to the regional security agenda.
Australia also sees opportunity for the region with the ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM+). With disputed territories in our region giving rise to the risk of miscalculation, the ADMM+’s fostering of military-to-military cooperation at the operational level is of immense value – its efforts on building relationships and familiarity among armed services has a vital role to play in our regional security, complementing both the ARF and the East Asia Summit (EAS).
From Australia’s perspective, the EAS is the premier regional forum: it is a leaders-led process, it includes all ASEAN members together with all the key players in the region, with the United States, China, India, Japan and Korea, at the one table, and it has the mandate to address the most compelling issues of our times. With ASEAN at its centre, the East Asia Summit represents a potential anchor for our region’s peace, and a stabiliser for our region in challenging times. Australia will continue to work with ASEAN to ensure the EAS remains as the premier forum.
A key feature of our future relationship with ASEAN will be the culture of two-way partnership. This notion – that Australia has much to learn from our friends in the region – underpins the thinking behind the New Colombo Plan, the Australian Government’s scheme to provide opportunities to young Australians to live, study and work in Asia. Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced in Nay Pyi Taw that, following its successful pilot in 2014, the New Colombo Plan would be rolled out to all ten ASEAN Member States. So in the Philippines, from this year, expect to see bright young Australians, here to learn, understand and appreciate your way of life and your way of seeing things. We are pleased that Australia’s first New Colombo Plan scholar has arrived in Manila in January.
2015 is a profound time for ASEAN.
ASEAN has an ambitious plan to prepare for the ASEAN Community by the end of this year.
The vision is to integrate the ten ASEAN Member States under the three ASEAN pillars:
• First, the political-security community, in which the ten member states aspire to live in peace and pursue political development in adherence to the principles of democracy, the rule of law and good governance, with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms.
• Second, the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC), about which I will speak most today, will provide a thriving integrated regional economy fully integrated into the global economy, and
• Third, the socio-cultural community, people-centred, sharing a common identity, forming an inclusive, sharing and caring society.
So what will ASEAN 2015 look like? Well, for the Economic Community, there is a blueprint on the public record – which is comprehensive and contains detailed, specific policy measures to be implemented by member states. The Economic Community will be declared on 31 December. While it is likely that the AEC will take a few years to be fully operational, it offers further investment and trade opportunities for Australia and ASEAN, including through the ASEAN-Australia Plan of Action and post-2015 economic and infrastructure agenda.
Australia has been a strong supporter of ASEAN’s vision of cooperation and integration. While implementation is ultimately the responsibility of the individual member states, which means there will be inevitable variations on the pace and completeness of the project, there are plenty of indications that ASEAN will deliver substantially on its goals and that these complex and ambitious plans will reach fruition.
Australia has offered more than just moral support to ASEAN in pursuing this ambition. We are working with ASEAN to help it fulfil its plans.
In addition to our extensive development cooperation programs with the six aid-eligible ASEAN member states (which are the Philippines, Indonesia, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam), Australia has been working with the ASEAN Secretariat on helping ASEAN Member States on economic issues, which in more recent years we have described as ‘helping with the move towards the AEC’.
In its current form, this facility is known as the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program II (AADCP II), but AADCP II is in fact the grandchild of the ASEAN-Australia Economic Cooperation Program, which began in 1974 and has now reached its generation. So the AADCP II’s DNA goes back for four decades.
The AADCP II supports ASEAN implement its economic integration policies to support the AEC agenda. This includes focusing on strengthening the ASEAN secretariat and agreed high-priority AEC Blueprint activities and current priority areas are services, investment, agriculture, ASEAN Connectivity and financial integration.
ASEAN matters to Australia, particularly in this 21st century. No one would have foreseen that by 2014, ASEAN would be Australia’s second-largest trading partner. A larger trading partner for us than Japan, than the European Union, than the US. With a A$99 billion two-way trade relationship, ASEAN is second only to China. Our economic partnership is on the trajectory. Our two-way trade relationship has more than doubled in a decade. Clearly this is not a relationship that is standing still.
• Total bilateral investment (2013) is A$155 billion.
• One million arrivals from Australia into ASEAN 2013-14, and 2.5 million ASEAN arrivals into Australia, including 100,000 students.
• Over 2,000 ASEAN students are Australia Award recipients and from 2015 all ASEAN nations will participate, as I mentioned earlier, in the New Colombo Plan.
• Australian industry too is increasingly taking notice
around 19,000 Australian exporters are engaged in ASEAN, compared to 5,600 in China.
The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry has recently resurrected the Australia-ASEAN Business Council to focus Australian business engagement within ASEAN.
The Australia-ASEAN Council is expected to be launched in July 2015. The Council aims to expand Australia’s people-to-people, institution-to-institution and business-to-business links across ASEAN.
ASEAN and Australia have worked hard together to create the right conditions for growing trade. We have negotiated a very high-standard free trade agreement known as the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA). This ground-breaking agreement was something we all wanted, Australia, New Zealand and the ASEAN countries – an idea to advance our mutual interest and better link ourselves economically. There are prospects for future growth in our trade and investment relationship through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), currently being negotiated by ASEAN member states and those countries with whom ASEAN has free trade agreements.
In addition, Australia, New Zealand and ASEAN have set up the AANZFTA Economic Cooperation Support Program (AECSP) to build the capacity of ASEAN secretariat and member states implement the AANZFTA by understanding and dealing with those essential but complex and technical concepts and procedures, which are crucial to trade: rules of origin, certification, customs, intellectual property and competition policy.
Through the AECSP, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has begun an intensive capacity building program for ASEAN Member States on implementing competition law, which commenced in Vientiane in September 2014 with its inaugural activity led by Professor Allan Fels, an eminent Australian who was our first competition commissioner.
Another new endeavour is support to the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia, or ERIA, whose role it is to provide research and policy recommendations to ASEAN Leaders, Ministers and others involved in developing policy on ASEAN’s economic community building. Over the next two years, we will be delivering assistance towards better joining up ERIA’s research and analytical output with its potential users. This will have a particular focus on Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam.
In closing, we look to ASEAN to the take the steps to help create a secure, safe, and prosperous region.
We applaud ASEAN’s continued pursuit of the goals it has established for itself, and we reaffirm our continued strong support in helping it deliver on its commitments.
We will do all we can to support ASEAN’s evolution, because a peaceful, secure, and prosperous Southeast Asia is good for Australia.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.