Launch of the 40th anniversary of the ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Partnership

The Peninsula Manila, Makati

Transcript, E&OE, proof only

20 February 2014

SECRETARY ALBERT DEL ROSARIO: Today we celebrate Australia's status as ASEAN's first official dialogue partner, as well as the mutually-beneficial engagement between ASEAN and Australia these past four decades.

Comprehensively covering political, security, economic, and social-cultural cooperation, our dialogue partnership is firmly supported by development programs that have strengthened the bonds of friendship and understanding between our peoples. Among these would be Australian assistance towards capacity building, toward the implementation of the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response, especially the operationalisation of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance.

Australia's commitment was most recently reaffirmed by its immediate and very generous response to Typhoon Yolanda in the Philippines. I reaffirm my appreciation for the personal interest Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has taken in this matter as demonstrated by her visit to Tacloban on one Sunday in December last year.

The same is true for ASEAN Secretary General Le Luong Minh, who visited the Philippines in the aftermath of Yolanda. We look forward to the continued support of Australia and other ASEAN member states for the reconstruction assistance on Yolanda Rebuilding Program. Australia's support for ASEAN member states in the area of disaster management does not stop there, as it continues to find ways and means to promote this agenda not only within the framework of our dialogue partnership but also in other fora. We hope that our cooperation in disaster management will also address climate change mitigation and adaptation needs as they closely linked to the emerging patterns of natural disasters.

Even as Australia partners with ASEAN in addressing common challenges that confront our citizens, it also endeavors to establish linkages that would ensure our region's economic development in the long term. I speak of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, the implementation of which Australia continues to provide support for ASEAN member states. We're hopeful that the trade agreement will impact positively on the development and growth of our SMEs, which form the backbone of a sustainable economic development.

On the political and security front, Australia has joined ASEAN in calling for a peaceful and prosperous region where universally recognised principles of international law including UNCLOS prevail. In fact, the Philippines is co-chairing the second ASEAN Regional Forum Seminar on UNCLOS this year in Manila. Australia is also making a difference to the peace building agenda within individual ASEAN member states such as the focused assistance on education in Mindanao.

As we stand at the threshold of deeper engagement, we have the opportunity to reset our partnership towards a more strategic direction. The planned commemorative activities this year should give us a clear indication of where we plan to go, so too with a new plan of action to implant the joint declaration on ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Partnership which our leaders expect to adopt at the ASEAN-Australia Commemorative Summit in November this year. Our partnership can build on the theme of Myanmar's ASEAN chairmanship in 2014, moving forward in harmony towards a peaceful and prosperous community. Underlying this is ASEAN's collective aspiration to establish a politically coherent, economically integrated, socially responsible, people-oriented, and people-centred ASEAN community.

Forty years ago, Australia had the vision to partner with ASEAN when it was just five member states. Today, with 10 member states, ASEAN will forge ahead with Australia to build a stronger, resilient and progressive Asia-Pacific region that will meet the challenges of the 21st century. This is our opportunity and we will not fail in this great endeavor. I thank you very much.

MC: Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the Secretary General of ASEAN, His Excellency Le Luong Minh.

SECRETARY GENERAL LE LUONG MINH: Your Excellency, Albert Del Rosario, Secretary of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines, the Hon. Julie Bishop, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Australia, Excellencies, Ministers, Ambassadors representing Australia, partners of ASEAN, and distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

First of all, I'd like to thank the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines and Australia for the initiative and coordinating the organisation of this official launch of 40th Anniversary of the ASEAN-Australia dialogue relations and for inviting me to be part of this event.

Gathered in here today to witness this important milestone of the ASEAN-Australia partnership, we are all encouraged by the progress that has been achieved since its establishment in 1974. The ASEAN-Australia dialogue relation has evolved and matured to cover a wide spectrum of political, security, economic, social, cultural and development cooperation. And this comprehensive partnership has significantly contributed toward the maintenance and promotion of peace, stability and prosperity in Asia-Pacific region, has brought about great opportunities and benefits to the people of ASEAN and Australia.

For years as a dedicated partner, Australia has been rendering strong and active support to ASEAN's effort in building an integrated, connected and people-oriented community, at the same time supporting ASEAN's central role in the regional mechanisms and ASEAN centrality in the evolving regional architecture. We also appreciate Australia's continuing commitment to the region through a new initiative to enhance cooperation with ASEAN in areas such as trade and investment, maritime security, transnational crime, food and energy security, climate change and disaster management, connectivity, education and people to people contacts.

As ASEAN is moving closer to the target of ASEAN community 2015 and embarking on the process of building a vision for ASEAN to continuing declaration in the period beyond 2015, this 40th Anniversary of our partnership will be an opportunity for ASEAN and Australia not only to reflect on our past achievement but also on ways to further expand and deepen our cooperation, our engagement.

Looking forward to the outcome of the ASEAN-Australia Commemorative Summit in Myanmar later this year, and that includes the adoption of a new plan of action for the period 2014-2018 that will guide our partnership into the future, I'm confident that with the strong foundation we have created and for the common goal we are striving for together, the ASEAN-Australia partnership will be further deepened and strengthened to better serve the interests of our people, Australia and ASEAN, and that of regional and global peace, development and prosperity.

And with that, I wish you all a wonderful evening. Thank you.

MC: Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, the Foreign Minister of Australia, Her Excellency Julie Bishop.

FOREIGN MINISTER JULIE BISHOP: Secretary Del Rosario, Your Excellency Secretary General Le Luong Minh, my colleague and friend, Andrew Robb, the Australian Minister for Trade and Investment, distinguished guests, excellencies, ladies and gentlemen.

I can't think of no better place to be to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of Australia's relationship with ASEAN than here in Manila with my very good friend, Albert Del Rosario, who has been a wonderful support, wise counsel, and a guiding light for a very new foreign minister. So, Albert, I thank you for your friendship over the time that we've got to know each other.

It is an important milestone for Australia to recognise 40 years as a dialogue partner and we thank the Philippines for being the coordinating partner during this time.

When you think about it, back in 1974, it must have been a very modest meeting of officials in five ASEAN countries, who decided that there were some objectives they wished to pursue. And Australia was very early to recognise the importance of this grouping. But from 5 countries to 10, and now with dialogue partners, this is the most important piece of regional architecture for Southeast Asia. And the shared values and commitment to freedom and peace and prosperity in the words of the original ASEAN charter to focus on peace, security, stability, sustainable economies, enduring prosperity and social progress, universal ideals but very much focused on our region.

Today, ASEAN represents over 600 million people, combined GDP of 2.4 trillion dollars. This is a significant organisation with significant interest and influence, and Australia is proud to be a dialogue partner. As Sec. Del Rosario said, ASEAN is playing a significant role in meeting the challenges in our region and we are honored to be able to support the ASEAN countries in the work that they do to maintain peace, stability and security.

Our areas of interest now cover trade, investment, education, development assistance, disaster relief, and I thank Secretary Del Rosario for acknowledging the contribution that Australia made to the Philippines. It was an instinctive response when we heard the news of typhoon Yolanda, and Australians gave from their hearts and urged the government to do the same, and our contribution to the reconstruction and the humanitarian effort now reaches about 100 million dollars. I did have the opportunity to visit Tacloban on the 8th of December last year and it was so heartening to see the effort from a number of countries working side by side with the people of the Philippines to bring relief to those who had been so affected by the devastation caused by this natural disaster. And disaster management is an area where, I believe, Australia can assist in making a difference.

In November of this year, we will be holding a commemorative summit in Myanmar and we thank Myanmar for chairing ASEAN this year. It will be an opportunity for us to not only reflect on the past 40 years but look forward to the next. We'll start with a plan of action for four years but we hope that it will underpin an enduring relationship into the future. There'll be a meeting between the ASEAN leaders and our Prime Minister. A commemorative event that, in fact, gives rise to our hope that we'll be able to meet with the ASEAN leaders and with our Prime Minister on a regular basis thereafter, for we have so many issues in common, so many matters to discuss. There'll also be seminars, reflections on our history, books will be published, emerging leader forums. There are many areas where Australia and the ASEAN countries can work together for the betterment of our citizens.

The new Australian government has established an education initiative that is being run out of our Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. We've dubbed it the "New Colombo Plan". You will recall that the original Colombo Plan in the 1950s was designed to bring students from the region to study at universities in Australia, and over 30 years, about 40,000 young people from the region came to study at universities in our country. Today, I'm struck by the number of cabinet ministers and leaders and community members and business people whose perceptions of Australia have been shaped by their experience as a Colombo Plan scholar all those years ago.

Such is our recognition of the changing landscape and the growing strength of our region, that Australia will now take the opportunity to send our best and brightest young people into the region to study at universities in your countries so that our young people can live amongst you, immerse themselves in your culture, learn your language, study at your universities and come back to Australia with new perspectives, new insights, new ideas. Not only will they contribute to the Australian economy and our prosperity because they'll be "Asia literate" but this experience will mean that they would develop connections that hopefully will last a lifetime. So, we hope that from 2015 on, the ASEAN countries will welcome Australian students into their universities, into their homes, into their lives.

Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great honour that Minister Andrew Robb and I are here this evening to celebrate this milestone in ASEAN-Australian relations. Thank you for your support. Your presence here this evening means a great deal to us, and we look forward to the journey ahead as the ASEAN countries and Australia continue to work cooperatively, collaboratively as true friends and partners.

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