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Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull recently welcomed a number of his counterparts from member states of the Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN). The ASEAN leaders came to Australia to attend the second ASEAN-Australia Biennial Summit, which was held on 17-18 March. It was the first ASEAN summit to be held in Australia.
At the conclusion of the summit, a joint statement titled the Sydney Declaration was released. While the declaration does not contain any surprises, some key points include: condemnation of North Korea’s nuclear and ballistic missile programme; and emphasis on the importance of non-militarisation in the South China Sea. The latter emphasising the need for self-restraint (alluding to China’s ambitions in the area). Indonesia’s maritime deal with Australia, which was signed before the summit, also indirectly dealt with some of the concerns surrounding the South China Sea.
The topic of trade was also heavily discussed during the summit, with Turnbull encouraging a push towards free trade among ASEAN members. That was the general consensus of the attending ASEAN leaders, with the Sydney Declaration stating that the members are committed to enhance trade through resisting protectionism and promoting open and free markets. The ASEAN members and Australia also expressed commitment to the effective implementation of existing agreements, such as the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA). Implemented in 2010, AANZFTA remains the largest FTA Australia has concluded and the most comprehensive FTA that ASEAN has concluded.
Source : http://www.futuredirections.org.au/publication/australia-welcomes-closer-asean-ties-trade-needs-catch/