Today, under the chairmanship of Foreign Minister Julie Bishop, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) Council of Ministers’ Meeting in Perth agreed to a range of initiatives to address the pressing economic growth, development and security challenges faced by the more than 2 billion people who live around the Indian Ocean Rim.

The Council of Ministers issued a declaration on closer economic cooperation among IORA member states. The declaration sets out shared principles for boosting growth and prosperity in the region, including by focusing on the economic empowerment of women and capitalising on the opportunities presented by the Indian Ocean and its vast resources.

The declaration takes forward Australia’s economic diplomacy agenda, and complements Australia’s priorities in the G20 and the WTO. Australia will also establish a dedicated IORA Economic Diplomacy Fund to support initiatives that boost growth and facilitate trade and investment in the Indian Ocean.

For the first time the Council of Ministers meeting was accompanied by a business stream, which included presentations from private sector representatives and chambers of commerce from across the region.

Maritime security was also considered and a memorandum of understanding on maritime search and rescue cooperation was signed by a number of countries. This MOU will expand the channels of communication and cooperation among the search and rescue agencies of the region to help save lives.

To support the MOU, Australia has committed $2.6 million to working with Mauritius, the Maldives and Sri Lanka to enable more effective responses to maritime and aviation distress situations.

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