The Mabini Dialogue Series of the Foreign Service Institute hosted H.E. Simon Merrifield, Australian Ambassador to ASEAN, at the Carlos P. Romulo Library on 27 March 2015. He discussed the varying facets of ASEAN-Australia relations and Australia’s contribution to ASEAN integration.
Amb. Merrifield began his discussion by narrating the brief history of ASEAN-Australia relations, highlighting the celebration of the 40th Anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Partnership in 2014. He stated that the elevation of Australia to a strategic partner of ASEAN in November 2014 signaled a new era of cooperation in promoting prosperity and peace in the region. It gave Australia the opportunity to play a greater role in supporting ASEAN as the Association takes on more strategic interests and challenges. On Australia-Philippines relations, he stated that Australia’s close bond with the Philippines resulted in an excellent interface with ASEAN, citing the achievements and linkages formed through the years.
Amb. Merrifield acknowledged ASEAN as one of the most successful regional groupings in the world and emphasized that ASEAN’s success is a strategic asset for Australia. Australia has long recognized ASEAN as an emerging political landscape,nurturing close ties with each ASEAN member state since post-colonial times.
He also cited the trade relations of ASEAN-Australia, which is nurtured through the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), stating that ASEAN is Australia’s second largest trading partner. Australia, he said, extends its full support for the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) in narrowing the development gap in ASEAN and giving USD 1 billion in aid for this objective.
Disaster management is also a primary focus of Australia in ASEAN. Amb. Merrifield underscored Australia’s continued support for the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management (AHA Centre) through investments in capacity-building in disaster response.
Amb. Merrifield also reiterated Australia’s continued support for ASEAN multilateral mechanisms such as ARF and ADMM+ as tools for addressing security challenges in the region. He also recognized the fundamental role of EAS as a stabilizer in the region where the culture of dialogue and consultation is nurtured.
Toward the end of his talk, Amb. Merrifield underscored Australia’s continued support for its Two-Way Partnership with ASEAN by deepening its people-to-people linkages to enhance awareness and understanding. In conclusion, he stated Australia’s vision of enhancing its relations with ASEAN by building on the strengths of the past, reflecting on its successes, and by continuously supporting ASEAN Connectivity and Community in partnership and friendship.
The forum was attended by representatives from DFA, the military, and the diplomatic corps.