Today, I joined ASEAN Foreign Ministers and the ASEAN Secretary-General to discuss Australia and Southeast Asia’s cooperation to combat COVID-19 and to chart a course to economic recovery in the Indo-Pacific region.
For Australia, ASEAN centrality is the core of the Indo-Pacific, and we reiterated the importance of using the principles set out in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific to guide regional states’ responses to COVID-19 and the post-crisis order.
Australia’s health security and economic recovery are closely intertwined with those of our Southeast Asian partners. COVID-19 is a shared crisis – cooperation is essential if we are to avoid a prolonged global health crisis and economic stagnation. As ASEAN’s longest-standing Dialogue Partner, we will stand together through this pandemic, just as we have in past crises.
During today’s Special ASEAN-Australia Foreign Ministers’ Meeting on COVID-19, I emphasised Australia’s concern that the pandemic is compounding strategic risks. It is placing strain on institutions, reducing resilience to shocks and creating the conditions for actions that undermine the rules and norms underpinning our shared stability and prosperity.
My counterparts and I reinforced our shared commitment to maintain an open, peaceful, stable and rules-based region, including by fighting disinformation, and our commitment to the principles set out in the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.
It is critical, in the current context, that we expand our cooperation on strategic challenges.
During today’s discussion, I made a $23 million commitment to help ASEAN bolster health security, economic recovery and stability in our region. In line with the Australian Government’s new Partnerships for Recovery policy, this $23 million package includes:
- On health security, a new ASEAN-Australia health security initiative to help the region better prevent, detect and mitigate communicable diseases.
- On stability, a new ASEAN-Australia Political-Security Partnership, which will include a focus on risks to stability flowing from the pandemic; and enhanced support through the TRIANGLE in ASEAN program to vulnerable migrant worker communities.
- On economic recovery, an extension of our successful ASEAN-Australia Digital Trade Standards initiative to accelerate the region’s digital transformation; and support to the ASEAN Post-Pandemic Recovery Plan to help drive a collective response.
This package complements Australia’s wide-ranging Strategic Partnership with ASEAN, as well as the substantial bilateral work already underway with our Southeast Asian neighbours and our significant contributions to global efforts to fight COVID-19.