A partnership for the future

26/03/2024 14:54
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KPL (KPL) This year, Australia is celebrating 50 years of partnership with ASEAN. We are proud to be ASEAN’s oldest Dialogue Partner, and the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne last week commemorated this significant anniversary.

Co-hosts Prime Minister Sonexay and Prime Minister Albanese leaving the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit together

Op-ed by Australian Ambassador to the Lao PDR Megan Jones


(KPL) This year, Australia is celebrating 50 years of partnership with ASEAN. We are proud to be ASEAN’s oldest Dialogue Partner, and the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit in Melbourne last week commemorated this significant anniversary.

Over three days, the Special Summit brought together leaders, businesses, climate, clean energy and maritime experts, and emerging leaders from ASEAN Member States and Timor-Leste to share their vision for our region.

We were privileged to have Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone undertake an official visit and co-host the Summit as ASEAN Chair and Country-Coordinator for ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations (2021-2024).

The Lao PDR’ theme for ASEAN this year is “ASEAN: Enhancing Connectivity and Resilience” and the importance of this agenda shone through at the Summit.

Prime Minister Sonexay and Prime Minister Albanese sign the Laos-Australia Comprehensive Partnership in Melbourne.

Attending the Summit, I saw the deepening of people-to-people connections and heard discussions on building resilience to address shared regional challenges.

Australia’s cooperation with ASEAN has been going from strength to strength since we established a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership in 2021.

Australia remains steadfastly committed to ASEAN Centrality and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific.

We see ASEAN as holding the centre of a peaceful, stable and prosperous region.

At the Summit, a new historic milestone was reached with the signing of the Lao PDR-Australia Comprehensive Partnership by Prime Minister Sonexay and Australian Prime Minister Albanese.

The Comprehensive Partnership shows our joint commitment to deepening and expanding the bilateral relationship to fully realise its potential.

The Lao PDR and Australia have enjoyed a close friendship for many decades. In 2024, we celebrate 72 years of unbroken diplomatic ties and 70 years since the first Lao scholars went to Australia to study under the Colombo Plan.

Australian Ambassador to the Lao PDR Megan Jones

The Comprehensive Partnership reflects our commitment to bring our two countries even closer together.The Partnership will drive cooperation across four key pillars: people, education and human resource development; economics, trade and investment; climate, environment and energy; and defence and law enforcement.

This agenda complements Australia’s regional cooperation with ASEAN. At the Summit, Australia’s Foreign Minister Penny Wong announced a further AUD 222.5 million to continue our long-term commitment to building resilience in the Mekong subregion.

This second phase of the Mekong-Australia Partnership will build on our existing investments to support the sustainable use of Mekong water resources for Lao PDR and other Mekong countries.

A second phase of the Partnerships for Infrastructure program was also announced, with a AUD140 million (USD 145 million) commitment. In Lao PDR, this will help expand our cooperation in the fields of energy and transport connectivity.

Increasing two-way trade and investment was a key theme of the Summit and Prime Minister Albanese announced a AUD2 billion Southeast Asia Investment Financing Facility to boost Australian investment in the region.

This fund will support the implementation of Invested: Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040, which identifies agriculture and food, resources, and green energy as priority sectors for trade and investment in the Lao PDR.

Prime Minister Albanese appointed 10 Business Champions for Southeast Asia to work with government and the private sector on economic cooperation.

I am delighted that the Business Champion for Laos is AgCoTech Chairman Charles Olsson. Mr Olsson has a wealth of expertise and knows the Lao PDR well.

AgCoTech is an innovative Australian agribusiness working to reduce methane emissions in the Lao PDR. The company produces medicated lick blocks for the farming industry, which cut greenhouse gases by reducing the methane produced by buffalos and increasing their milk production.

This demonstrates what Australian companies do best — harnessing new technology for better social and environmental impacts.

Demonstrating our commitment to public health and scientific innovation, Prime Minister Albanese also announced that Australia will contribute AUD3 million to expand the Vientiane Capital dengue control program in collaboration with the Ministry of Health, Save the Children the Lao PDR and Australia’s World Mosquito Program.

The announcements at the Summit reflect Australia’s commitment to deepening our cooperation with the Lao PDR and ASEAN.

At its conclusion, Leaders adopted two outcome documents.

The Leaders’ Vision Statement – Partners for Peace and Prosperity sets out a joint strategic vision for the next 50 years as partners for peace and prosperity in the region.

The Melbourne Declaration – A Partnership for the Future reaffirms our commitment to working together to address shared challenges while embracing opportunities that will benefit all who live in our region.

Speaking at the Summit, I was honoured to hear Prime Minister Sonexay call Australia ASEAN’s oldest and closest friend.

Australia is with ASEAN and the Lao PDR, every step of the way.