CANBERRA — Australia has announced the launching of the Australia-ASEAN Council with a new initiative to strengthen Australia’s links with the countries of South-East Asia.
The Australia-ASEAN Council (AAC), launched by Foreign Minister Julie Bishop on 8 September 2015, is expected to generate opportunities for Australian business, education, science and innovation and the arts to work with partners in South-East Asia.
The Council’s mission will be to increase knowledge and promote Australia’s interests in South-East Asia by initiating and supporting activities designed to enhance awareness, understanding and links between people and institutions in Australia and ten South-East Asian countries: Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Burma, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The Australia-ASEAN Council is expected to shape Australia’s engagement with South-East Asia and strengthen partnerships through stronger business, education, science, arts and cultural links.

South-East Asia is the one of the most important strategic and economic regions in the world with a combined GDP of around USD$2.5 trillion and a population of over 620 million people. The 10 member nations of ASEAN now represent almost 15 per cent of Australia’s total trade, with two-way trade valued at almost $100 billion in 2014.

According to a fact-sheet released by the official department “South-East Asia is the one of the most important strategic and economic regions in the world with a combined GDP of around USD$2.5 trillion and a population of over 620 million people.” The 10 member nations of ASEAN now represent almost 15 per cent of Australia’s total trade, with two-way trade valued at almost $100 billion in 2014. The Australia-ASEAN Council will also work closely with the New Colombo Plan and Australia Alumni networks to facilitate ongoing links between individuals and organisations.

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced that Ms Christine Holgate, CEO and Managing Director of Blackmores, will be appointed Chair of the Council.
Ms Holgate has extensive experience working in Asia, Europe, the Americas and Australia bringing strong leadership and knowledge of Australia’s trade interests in South-East Asia to the role.
Other members of the Australia-ASEAN Council board members are:
Ms Lesley Always, Asialink Arts, University of Melbourne;
Professor Alice Woodhead, University of Southern Queensland;
Dr Imran Lum, National Australia Bank;
Mr Greg Earl, Australian Financial Review
Professor Talal Yassine, Crescent Wealth
Ms Margaret West, Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory; and
Mr Gary Quinlan, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.