Co-Chairs' Statement of the 24th ASEAN-Australia Forum, Canberra, 6 September 2011

on Thursday, 08 September 2011. Posted in Statement & Communiques, 2011

1. The 24th ASEAN-Australia Forum was held in Canberra on 6 September 2011, with participation of representatives from Australia, ASEAN Member States and the ASEAN Secretariat.

2. The Forum was co-chaired by Ms Gillian Bird, Ambassador to ASEAN and Deputy Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Australia and Mr Bilahari Kausikan, Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore.

3. The Forum celebrated Australia's deep and enduring friendship with ASEAN, as its longest-standing Dialogue Partner. Participants welcomed the 2010 ASEAN-Australia Summit as a landmark event, underlining the strength and depth of Australia's relationship with ASEAN, and looked forward to further summits in the future. The Forum also welcomed the outcomes of the recent ASEAN-Australia Post-Ministerial Conference in Bali. The Forum discussed future cooperation as ASEAN and Australia are moving towards the 40th anniversary of Australia-ASEAN relations in 2014, and ways to commemorate the occasion.

4. ASEAN expressed appreciation for the contributions of Australia through the ASEAN-Australia Development Cooperation Program Phase II (AADCPII), and the Economic Cooperation Support Program for the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), in supporting ASEAN's economic integration agenda. The Forum welcomed the establishment of the ASEAN-Australia Joint Cooperation Committee (JCC) as a new consultative mechanism to enhance and deepen the Dialogue Partnership. The JCC will review the strategic direction of ASEAN-Australia development cooperation. The JCC will be a separate but complementary platform to existing management arrangements for activities under the AADCPII and AANZFTA Economic Cooperation Support Program. The Forum supported the early convening of the inaugural JCC.

5. The Forum welcomed the continued implementation of the AANZFTA. It acknowledged the importance of the AANZFTA in facilitating continued liberalisation of trade and investment in the region. The Forum agreed that while the significant momentum in trade in goods and economic cooperation has contributed to practical business outcomes and removal of impediments to business utilisation of AANZFTA, there was a need to continue efforts to reduce those impediments. The Forum agreed to enhance outreach efforts to raise awareness of such benefits. The Forum acknowledged Australia's ongoing work in the region in support of the ASEAN Connectivity initiative, enhancing ASEAN's integration efforts, including A$292 million in support of connectivity initiatives announced by Prime Minister Gillard at the 2010 ASEAN-Australia Summit. The meeting underlined the importance of the full implementation of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity and highlighted opportunities for further collaboration between ASEAN and Australia, including the promotion of private-public partnership (PPP) projects to support ASEAN Connectivity.

6. The Forum recognised Australia's valuable contribution to narrowing the development gap in the region, and to ASEAN's community-building efforts through the implementation of the Plan of Action to Implement the Joint Declaration on the ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Partnership (2008-2013). It warmly welcomed the growing body of cooperative work ASEAN and Australia are undertaking across a broad spectrum of areas including business and people-to-people links, disaster risk reduction and management, education, HIV AIDS and emerging infectious diseases, rural development, climate change and the environment, counter-terrorism and cooperative mechanisms for combating transnational crime, including drug trafficking, trafficking in persons and people smuggling. The Forum acknowledged Australia's proposed support for the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) through the development of linkages with the Australian Human Rights Commission.

7. The Forum had a constructive discussion on regional developments including the evolving regional architecture in the context of the recent successful EAS Foreign Ministers' Meeting. It discussed Australia and ASEAN's close work together in the ASEAN+1 framework as well as the EAS and other ASEAN-centred fora, including the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) and ASEAN Defence Ministers Meeting Plus (ADMM-Plus). The Forum recognised the constructive role played by ASEAN in driving the ARF to strengthen regional peace and stability through dialogue, consultation and cooperation. It highlighted the importance of the ARF transition to preventive diplomacy.

8. The Forum pledged to continue to advance EAS cooperation in the existing five priority areas of finance, energy, education, pandemic prevention and disaster management, which also complement the efforts undertaken in the ASEAN+1 framework, as well as connectivity in ASEAN and the region and the Comprehensive Economic Partnership in East Asia (CEPEA). The Forum also acknowledged the importance of maintaining and developing a substantive agenda in the EAS, including political-security issues, and welcomed the recent expansion of the EAS to include the United States and Russia. The Forum welcomed the convening in July 2011 of the inaugural EAS Education Ministers' Meeting in Bali and the 3rd EAS Environment Ministers' meeting to be held in October in Cambodia.

9. ASEAN welcomed Australia's and Indonesia's disaster management initiative for the EAS, to be considered by EAS leaders in November, and Australia's support for ASEAN's efforts to implement the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Relief (AADMER) and establish the ASEAN Co-ordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance (AHA Centre). It welcomed Australia's participation in the March 2011 ARF disaster relief exercise, and its planned co-hosting in 2012, with Indonesia, of the next two ARF inter-sessional meetings on disaster relief.

10. The Forum agreed that the 25th ASEAN-Australia Forum would be held in the Philippines in October 2012.