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Australia Targets Significant Trade Expansion with ASEAN Region

by Surya Narayan
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Australia is setting ambitious goals to increase its trade interactions with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), aiming to significantly augment its current $187 billion trade volume. This move comes as Australian leaders gear up for the upcoming ASEAN-Australia Special Summit scheduled to be held in Melbourne. The spotlight is on the potential to boost trade and overcome challenges through collaborative efforts.

In a recent interaction at Parliament House in Canberra, during the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit International Media Visit, Don Farrell, the Australian Minister for Trade and Tourism, shared insights with journalists from various Southeast Asian countries. These countries include Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand, Timor-Leste, and Vietnam. Farrell underscored the vital role of ASEAN nations in Australia’s trade strategy, acknowledging the untapped potential in these relationships.

Farrell pointed out the discrepancy in trade volumes, with China’s trade at $300 billion overshadowing that with the entire ASEAN region. He stressed the need for enhanced engagement with Southeast Asian countries to fortify trade connections and explore new avenues for cooperation. His recent visits to Vietnam, Indonesia, and the Philippines were steps toward this goal, signaling Australia’s commitment to deepening ties with the region.

In 2022, Australia’s bilateral trade with ASEAN nations stood at approximately $178 billion, surpassing trade volumes with other major partners such as Japan, the United States, and the European Union. Mutual investments with ASEAN also reached a notable $289.7 billion in the same year. These figures highlight the strategic importance of ASEAN to Australia’s economic landscape.

Agriculture emerges as a key area for potential collaboration, with Farrell emphasizing Australia’s capabilities in clean and sustainable food production. With a capacity to supply protein to significantly more people than its population, Australia is keen on enhancing food exports to meet the demands of the ASEAN market.

The foundation for these trade relationships is supported by existing regional and bilateral free trade agreements, including the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) and the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (RCEP). These agreements facilitate Australian businesses’ access to ASEAN markets and contribute to the economic integration of the region.

To further promote trade and investment flows, the Australian government has introduced the “Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040.” This long-term plan aims to strengthen economic ties and capitalize on the projected growth of Southeast Asia, anticipated to become the fourth-largest economy globally by 2040.

The strategy involves deploying Australian representatives to the region to build relationships and secure trade contracts. An upcoming gathering in Melbourne, bringing together over 100 CEOs from both Southeast Asian and Australian businesses, is expected to foster new partnerships and diversify Australia’s trading portfolio.

Farrell expressed optimism about the potential to double trade volumes by the decade’s end, highlighting the significance of the forthcoming ASEAN-Australia Special Summit as an opportunity for progress. The summit will also address enhancing connectivity, renewable energy cooperation, and sharing innovative technologies, positioning Australia as a key player in the region’s sustainable future.

As Australia and ASEAN prepare to commemorate 50 years of partnership, the Melbourne Summit represents a critical moment for reinvigorating relations and exploring new dimensions of cooperation. The anticipated Melbourne Declaration will outline the vision for advancing this Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, marking a new chapter in Australia-ASEAN relations.

Source: Khmer Times

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