ASEAN-BIS: Messages from Prime Minister Julia Gillard

Day 3 of the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit presented the last session on ASEAN-Australia relationships. According to, the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand (AANZFTA) was signed on 27 February 2009, and subsequently entered into force for most signatories on 1 January 2010. It has now entered into force for all signatories, except Indonesia. Covering over 620 million people and a combined GDP of A$3.5 trillion, AANZFTA is the largest FTA Australia has entered into, and is the most comprehensive FTA that ASEAN has signed. AANZFTA provides a solid platform for strengthening and deepening the economic relationship between Australia and ASEAN.

What are Prime Minister Gillard’s key messages?

Prime Minister Gillard explained that Australia is proud to be the ASEAN’s first dialogue partner. It was in 1974 that ASEAN started its first dialogue with a foreign country. Since then, Australia has a longstanding relationship with ASEAN countries collaboration not only in trade and economic but also security and culture. Ms Gillard thanked Indonesian President Soesilo Bambang Yudhoyono for his effort in building friendships with Australia.

Ms Gillard recalled her memory as a young girl in 1960s who learnt Asia as a region of poverty, war and ideology. She clearly witnessed how the region has progressed. Australia and Asia have different cultures. But she believed that the two regions have  common objectives to strengthen and depend economic, political and security relationships with the spirit of mutual respect and benefit. Ms Gillard clarified that Asia is not only about India and China.

According to Prime Minister Gillard, Asia is Australia’s favourite region. The region offers many potentials. By 2020, 1,2 billion of people in Asia will join middle class. This is the sign of opportunities. Yet, Asia is not immune of the world event. The global financial crisis started in 2007, characterised by liquidity crisis in the US private sector, and the European crisis, causing high debt and low growth in the European region, challenged emerging countries to act and move the global economy forward. There is a shift in the global domination, from the West to the East. For all countries, structural reform to boost productivity, and therefore, economic growth is required. Economic growth create jobs.

The participation of country leaders at the 2011 East Asian Summit can more or less defines how we define the world. The participant countries represent over a half of the G20 memberships. Trade should be brought forward. Trade equals to growth and growth creates jobs. Ms Gillard defined “nations that are trade are nations at peace”. The Asia-Pacific region will not wait until the global economy moves forward. The Trans Pacific Partnerships (TPP) is expected to be bigger than the European Union. Countries must not respond to uncertainty by closing their markets. Once again, the key to economic growth in the region is economic openness.

This article is prepared by Risti Permani.


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Filed under ASEAN, ASEAN-BIS, Australia, Conference, East Asia, Economic Integration, Reform, Trade

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