The ASEAN Summit Is a Win for Australia
In Sydney this week Australia and ASEAN leaders committed to intensifying their responses to regional and global challenges after wrapping up a three-day summit.
It was a sign that ASEAN leaders were prepared to welcome Australia into the Asia Pacific fold more closely than they have to date.
The communiqué also agreed to work more closely to tackle the growing menace of violent extremism and radicalisation and, without mentioning specific countries, condemned the abuse of human rights of their populations.
Floating below the surface of the communiqué was the situation of the Rohingya refugees in Myanmar.
Myanmar leader Aung San Su Kyi was in Sydney for the summit and has attracted a lot of criticism.
“We discussed the situation in Rakhine state at considerable length today,” Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said at a closing press conference.
”Aung San Suu Kyi addressed the matter comprehensively, at some considerable length herself,” he said.
“It’s a very complex problem ... Everyone seeks to end the suffering that has been occasioned by the events.”
The Singapore Prime Minister, Lee Hsien Loong, said the crisis was “a concern for all ASEAN countries, and yet ASEAN is not able to intervene to force an outcome.”
On the South China Sea Australia and ASEAN reaffirmed “the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, stability, maritime safety and security, freedom of navigation and overflight in the region,” without naming Beijing.
The leaders added they wanted to see an “early conclusion of an effective code of conduct in the South China Sea.”
“We will uphold our commitment to the rules-based order and international law in the region, including the South China Sea,” the Prime Minister stressed.
With the Trans-Pacific Partnership free trade pact now signed, although without the United States, Mr Turnbull urged leaders to get behind a “high quality” Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership deal.
Australia, the full ASEAN bloc, as well as China and India are among countries still negotiating that deal.
Singapore’s Lee said there was hope it could be finalised this year.
“This is a historic opportunity to establish the world’s largest trade bloc,” he said.