Australia praises an extensive relationship with ASEAN
(KPL) The government of Australia praises the extensive and productive relationship with ASEAN covering a range of areas including security, culture, trade, education, and development.
This was the statement of Australia's first resident Ambassador to ASEAN, Mr Simon Merrifield at a lecture on ASEAN: Opportunity and challenges - An Australian Perspective to mark the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-Australian relations in Vientiane yesterday.
He said that the bilateral trade between Australia and ASEAN nations had more than doubled in the past 10 years and now reaches US$92 billion annually, making ASEAN nations collectively Australia's second-largest trading partner, after China.
Leaders agreed to elevate the ASEAN-Australian relationship to a "strategic partnership"at the 40th anniversary ASEAN-Australia Summit held in Nay Pyi Taw, Myanmar this month, according to a source from the Australian Embassy in Vientiane on Thursday.
"This year, being the 40th anniversary of ASEAN-Australian relations, has provided an important opportunity for Australia and ASEAN nations to chart a new strategic direction - one that complements ASEAN's focus on an integrated South-East Asia through the ASEAN Economic Community and development of an East Asia Summit,"said Ambassador Merrifield.
"Our friends across ASEAN can continue to count on Australia as an old friend and neighbour, committed to a stable and prosperous Southeast Asia as a key element of our own stability and prosperity," added Mr Merrifield.
During the lecture, Ambassador Merrifield highlighted Australia's long-standing, practical support for ASEAN's vision of regional integration, discussed some of the current opportunities and challenges facing ASEAN, and advised how the region might address these.
The event which was supported by the Australian Embassy in Vientiane in partnership with the Institute of Foreign Affairs attracted more than 100 participants from the Lao government, diplomatic missions, the national university of Laos, and international organizations.
Australian Ambassador to Laos, Mr John Williams, Director General of the ASEAN Department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Mr Phongsavath Sisoulath, and Director General of Foreign Affairs Institute, Mr Yong Chanthalangsy also attended the lecture.