Today I welcome 80 officials from the 20 Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) countries to Perth for the second Indian Ocean Dialogue.

The Indian Ocean is of crucial strategic and economic importance to Australia and countries on the Indian Ocean rim.  Last year, merchandise trade between Australia and IORA countries was valued around $86 billion

The Indian Ocean provides major sea routes to key markets in the Middle East, Europe and the Americas and is home to around 30 per cent of the world’s population.  Each year, about 100,000 vessels pass through the Indian Ocean region, as do two thirds of the world’s oil tankers and one third of its container traffic.

Maritime transnational crime, regional defence cooperation, illegal fishing, disaster response and other key challenges facing Indian Ocean Rim Association countries will feature on the Dialogue’s agenda today. 

Since assuming the chair in November 2013, Australia has invigorated IORA as the Indian Ocean’s premier regional forum and delivered a new focus on economic growth through the ‘blue economy’ and women’s empowerment.  

Today I announce Australia will provide $1.5 million over three years, to help women who own small businesses in IORA countries build their export competitiveness. The Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry will also work with sister chambers in IORA countries to support women entrepreneurs.

Australia will hand over the chairmanship of IORA to Indonesia at the IORA Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Padang on 23 October. 

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