Monday, 19 March 2018 07:58

ASEAN, Australian leaders attend special summit`s plenary session

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 Leaders from 10 ASEAN member countries and Australia attended a plenary session of the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit 2018 held in Sydney on Sunday ( 18 March )

"Over the past 50 years, ASEAN has used its influence to defuse tension, build peace, encourage economic cooperation and support to maintain the rule of law," Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said in his opening remarks.

He said the day of the Summit`s plenary session is a historic day, as the leaders of ASEAN and Australia come together for the first time in Australia, working together determining their commitment to the centrality of ASEAN and the commitment of Australia to ASEAN which is at the very heart of the stability, prosperity, security of the region. The meeting comes at a critical time for the region. The pace and scale of change is without any precedent in human history, he added.

"Our vision is optimistic and born of ambition, it`s for a neighbourhood that is defined by open markets and the free flow of goods, services, capital and ideas," the Australian leader said.

Australia is fully committed to backing ASEAN as the strategic convenor of the region, Turnbull stated.

"A region where adherence to rules delivers lasting peace, where the rights of all states are respected, where open markets facilitate the free flow of trade, capital and ideas. And where the rule of law protects all nations. And to quote your Chairman`s father `if you want to have a region where the big fish do not eat the little fish, and the little the shrimps.` You want a region where everybody regardless of their size is respected in their sovereignty and their ability to determine their own course," Turnbull added. The events of the past week have shown how vibrant and dynamic the ASEAN-Australia strategic partnership is, he said.

"Our business leaders are driving economic growth and creating jobs and opportunities and we`ll hear from them shortly, our security and law enforcement agencies are keeping us safe from terrorism and other threats and working more closely together than ever and of course our students, our communities our educational, cultural and sporting institutions are engaging with and learning from each other to our mutual benefit," he said.

Meanwhile, Singapore`s Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong in his speech reiterated how important it was for the region to redouble its resolve to pursue trade liberalisation and regional economic integration.

"This is especially crucial as global mood is shifting against international trade and globalisation. The US has imposed tariffs on solar panels, aluminium and steel, and are contemplating further, more dramatic measures," he said. "These steps could easily lead to tit-for-tat responses and a trade war. This will be very harmful to ASEAN economies, as well as Australia`s, because we are all highly dependent on international trade," he noted.

Lee also called on ASEAN and Australia to work closer on cybersecurity issues, which range from Internet crimes to fake news. He noted that cybercrimes are a transboundary problem that is difficult to police.

"It can have a drastic impact on our populations, for example in terms of critical infrastructure; and it can be insidious - undermining the trust which holds our societies together, for example through fake news," Lee added

The plenary session also discussed regional security threats including those from North Korea. Themed "Enhancing Regional Security and Prosperity", the three-day ASEAN-Australia Special Summit discussed issues related to regional security, economic relations as well as counter-terrorism measures so as to further tighten the relationship between Australia and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The leaders who attended the plenary were Laos Prime Minister Thongloun Sisoulith, Indonesian President Joko Widodo, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen, Sultan of Brunei Darussalam Sultan Hassanal Bolkiah, Prime Minister of Thailand Prayut Chan-o-cha, Prime Minister of Australia Malcolm Turnbull, Prime Minister of Singapore Lee Hsien Loong, Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen Xuan Phuc, Myanmar`s de facto leader Aung San Suu Kyi, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, and Foreign Minister Alan Peter Cayetano of the Philippines. ( antara )

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