Celebrating 50 years of partnership at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit

The Australia ASEAN relationship dominated headlines around the world as leaders in the region commemorated 50 years of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations in Melbourne (4-6 March 2024).

Southeast Asia is at the centre of global growth, with the region expected to be the world’s fourth largest economy by 2040. As a bloc, ASEAN is already Australia’s second largest two-way trading partner.

Key themes of Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040 provided a blueprint for the new initiatives, and the expansion of existing arrangements announced by the Australian Government at the Summit.

These initiatives are largely focused on stepping up two-way trade and investment to capitalise on opportunities for economic growth, while addressing shared challenges in the region.

The following is a recap of some of the major business outcomes and highlights from the Summit.

Funding boost for two-way investment

The Australian Government announced a $2 billion Southeast Asia Investment Financing Facility to be managed by Export Finance Australia. The Facility will provide loans, guarantees, equity and insurance for projects that would boost Australian trade and investment in Southeast Asia with a focus on clean energy and infrastructure development.

There will also be an additional $140 million over 4 years to extend the Partnerships for Infrastructure Program. This supports efforts to improve regional infrastructure development and attract more diverse, quality infrastructure finance. The program has been running since 2021 and has helped partners to accelerate transport connectivity, clean energy transition and telecommunications reforms.

The Honourable Anthony Albanese MP (C), Prime Minister of Australia standing with business and government leaders for a photo at the CEO Lunch at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit 2024.

The Honourable Anthony Albanese MP (centre), Prime Minister of Australia, stands with business leaders during the CEO Lunch at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit 2024 in Melbourne, Tuesday 5 March 2024.

Investment Deal Teams

Southeast Asia is one of the world’s most dynamic regions. Australia stands to benefit from, and contribute to, Southeast Asia’s growth. To do this, we must increase our share of investment in the region.

Foreign Minister Penny Wong and Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell announced the establishment of Southeast Asia Investment Deal Teams hubs in Singapore, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City.

The Southeast Asia Investment Deal Teams will draw on the expertise of Austrade, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Export Finance Australia to increase Australian investment in the region. They will focus on priority sectors including infrastructure, net zero transition, agrifood, health, digital economy and advanced manufacturing.

A Memorandum of Understanding between Austrade and Vietrade was also signed on the sidelines of the ASEAN Summit to encourage increased investment and commercial opportunities between Australia and Vietnam.

Australia Southeast Asia Business Exchange

The Australia Southeast Asia Business Exchange program aims to increase two-way trade between Australia and the region through targeted business missions across priority sectors.

The first mission, announced at the Summit, will visit Singapore and Malaysia in April 2024 with a focus on clean energy transition. The aim is to help more Australian businesses identify and capture commercial opportunities in the fast-growing, rapidly changing markets of Southeast Asia.

Austrade is developing and delivering the Business Exchange program, working closely with industry experts. Consultation on the design of the program is underway.

Two new Landing Pads locations

Austrade welcomed the announcement of the expansion of its Landing Pads program. Two new locations in Southeast Asia. Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City will join the ranks of tech hubs in Singapore, the US, UK, India and China.

The Landing Pads program supports Australian tech companies with the potential for rapid growth to expand in regions identified as global tech ecosystems. Their success will drive digital transformation outcomes at home and abroad.

Business Champions to build commercial links

The Australian Government announced the appointment of 10 senior, private-sector ‘Business Champions’ who will facilitate greater commercial links between Australia and Southeast Asia. This initiative is to ensure ‘government and business work in tandem to deepen regional economic engagement’.

The Business Champions are:

  • Macquarie chief executive Shemara Wikramanayake (the Philippines)
  • Western Sydney University chancellor Jennifer Westacott (Indonesia)
  • ANZ chief executive Shayne Elliott (Singapore)
  • Aurecon chief operating officer Louise Adams (Vietnam)
  • Lendlease CEO Tony Lombardo (Malaysia)
  • AgCoTech chairman Charles Olsson (Laos)
  • Linfox executive chairman Peter Fox (Thailand)
  • MGA Insurance Brokers executive chairman John George (Cambodia)
  • Pristine Pacific Australia executive director Nur Rahman (Brunei)
  • East Timor Trading Group chairman Sakib Awan (Timor-Leste, which is preparing for full membership to ASEAN).

Read Prime Minister Albanese’s address and Trade and Tourism Minister Farrell’s keynote address to the CEO Forum (5 March 2024).

Improved business mobility

Travel between Southeast Asia and Australia will be easier through new visa arrangements. Extending the validity of the Business Visitor visa and introducing the Frequent Traveller stream will strengthen mobility pathways and boost people-to-people links between Australia and ASEAN.

Collaboration on climate and clean energy

The Climate and Clean Energy Transition Forum brought together over 160 participants from Australia, ASEAN and Timor-Leste to boost collaboration and investment in the region’s clean energy transition.

Australia’s Ambassador for Climate Change led discussions on decarbonisation pathways, clean energy technologies and skills, supply chains, financing and investment. These discussions built on the 2023 ASEAN-Australia High-Level Dialogue on Climate Change and Energy Transition.

Read Minister Husic’s address to the Forum.

Regional stability

Foreign Minister Wong announced a further $222.5 million to strengthen leadership, institutions and connections in the Mekong subregion. She also announced $40 million in new funding to enhance Maritime cooperation with Southeast Asia.

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