Introduction

Foreword by the Prime Minister

'ASEAN Now' marks both ASEAN's 50th anniversary and a historic juncture in ASEAN-Australian relations.

ASEAN embodies opportunity. Its support for open markets has helped create an environment in which regional real GDP has more than doubled in the last two decades.

Much of this growth is thanks to ASEAN's commitment to integration – reflected in the Declaration of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015 – which will bring benefits to Southeast Asia and ASEAN's economic partners, including Australia.

But the value of ASEAN extends well beyond economics. ASEAN is the voice of the region on strategic issues, using its influence to shape a world where might is not right and where global citizens – big and small – uphold international rules and norms.

Australia's relationship with ASEAN has gone from strength to strength. Since becoming ASEAN's first Dialogue Partner in 1974, we have worked to support the organisation's economic integration and trade liberalising activities as well as supporting other pillars of activity.

Today, ASEAN as a group is one of our top three trading partners, representing around 15 per cent of Australia's total trade. Our security, people-to-people, education, cultural and tourism links are substantial and growing.

In 2014, we elevated our relationship with ASEAN to a Strategic Partnership with biennial leaders' summits commencing in 2016.

I look forward to hosting ASEAN Leaders in March 2018 at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Sydney.

The Special Summit is a historic and unprecedented opportunity to strengthen Australia's strategic partnership with ASEAN and deliver tangible security and economic benefits to both sides. It represents the next bold step in our close relationship.

Australia and ASEAN's futures are closely linked. In the current climate of global change, we must all take on greater responsibility for leadership and work more closely together in every respect.

I commend 'ASEAN Now' to you and trust it will help us to realise the vast potential of our region.

The Hon Malcolm Turnbull MP