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South East Asia Investment Push Launched by Albanese Government

Australian companies are being urged by the federal government to invest in Southeast Asian economies following the launch of Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040 in Jakarta on Sept. 6.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese, who is in Indonesia to attend the ASEAN and East Asia summits, said Australian businesses have been lagging behind in seizing the opportunities available in the region.

“Southeast Asia is experiencing remarkable growth. It will be the world’s next economic powerhouse, the world’s fourth-largest economy by 2040,” Mr. Albanese said.

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“In 2022, our two-way trade with ASEAN passed $178 billion (US$113.3 billion), two-way investment was worth $307 billion (US$195.5 billion). But as the report indicates, Australia’s trade and investment with the region hasn’t kept pace with the growth of Southeast Asian economies, and we can do much more. We are determined to fix this and to maximise the opportunities that can exist for our region when we work together in the same direction.”

The strategy, which was generated by Australia’s Special Envoy for Southeast Asia, Nicholas Moore, identifies 10 areas where Australian businesses could see growth, including agriculture and food, energy security and the clean energy transition, infrastructure, education and skills.

Mr. Albanese said that the federal government will move on three initiatives recommended in the report immediately with a $70.2 million (US$44.7 million) injection over the next four years to create several Investment Deal Teams that will be based in the ASEAN region, and will work with Australian investors, Southeast Asian businesses and governments to identify and facilitate investment opportunities.

They will also spend $19.2 million over the next four years to create a Southeast Asia Business Exchange to boost two-way trade and support Australian exporters to enter, compete, and grow in the fast-growing markets of Southeast Asia.

“This will include a trade and investment campaign to promote opportunities in Southeast Asian markets to Australian business and consumers,” the government said.

Additionally, the federal government will allocate $6 million (US$3.8 billion) over the next four years for a pilot program for young professionals to help build ties between Australian and Southeast Asian businesses.

“This strategy will help deliver on the extraordinary promise of Australia’s and Southeast Asia’s economies and what we can achieve together,” the prime minister said.

Foreign Affairs Minister Penny Wong, Treasurer Jim Chalmers, and the Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell will lead the new strategy, which will be supported by a joint taskforce between the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and the Treasury.

Pivot Vital To Australia’s National Security

Senator Wong said that Southeast Asia is pivotal to Australia’s national security and is the reason the Albanese government believes deepening Australia’s engagement in the region is a priority.

“This Asian region is central to our security,” Senator Wong said.

She noted that there were risks to Australia’s prosperity and security in the years ahead, and this move will also provide the economy with resilience.

“The government sees this is a very important part, not only of prosperity, but also of assuring Australian security, economic strength, military deterrence, and diplomatic reassurance. These three aspects of Australian power work together to secure Australia’s prosperity and security. Shared value is a critical incentive for peace and stability at a time of heightened geostrategic contest.”

Senator Wong also signalled that the new strategy was part of Australia’s efforts to limit its economic exposure to the Chinese market, with the foreign minister noting, “reducing reliance on a single market, a single trading partner, is part of doing business in this time and beyond.”

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