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Anthony Albanese to unveil plan to turbocharge ties with southeast Asia


Anthony Albanese is set to unveil a major new strategy to turbocharge economic ties with southeast Asia and reduce Australia’s reliance on China.

The Prime Minister has travelled to Jakarta where he will launch the Southeast Asian Economic Strategy at the ASEAN Indo-Pacific Forum on Wednesday.

The strategy, which contains 75 recommendations, was compiled by Australia’s special envoy for Southeast Asia, former Macquarie chief Nicholas Moore.

It aims to grow two-way trade with the region by $534bn by 2040.

Ahead of the summit, Mr Albanese described the strategy as the “most substantive piece of work ever done about Australia’s relations when it comes to our economic future with Southeast Asia”.

“We need to do better. This blueprint does just that. It provides an opportunity to maximise those opportunities for Australian businesses and workers in a most dynamic region in the world,” he said.

Agriculture, resources, renewable energy and education were identified as some of 10 priority sectors Australia should target out to 2040.

Since coming to power, the Albanese government has been seeking to diversify economic ties to stem the overreliance on China as Beijing is working to expand its own influence in the region.

President Xi Jinping is not expected to travel to Jakarta. Premier Li Qiang will attend the ASEAN summit and the G20 in India in his place, where it’s expected, but not confirmed, he will meet with Mr Albanese

A key recommendation from the report, released on Wednesday, is focused on the removal of blockages in the visa system to facilitate mobility.

It suggested a Singapore-style single-door concierge service be established to help foreign investors navigate approval processes, provide advice on taxation agreements and expedite visa processes.

Mr Moore visited all ASEAN countries and met with more than 750 individuals across Southeast Asia and Australia – across governments, business and civil society in compiling the strategy.

A source with knowledge of the strategy said the first question consistently raised with Mr Moore was about visas.

“A lot of what we’re talking about is related to visas,” they said, but stressed it was a two-way story.

“It’s all about visas allowing people to move between the region and Australia … so that they can actually develop their skills and actually use their skills in a better way.”

The government released a review into Australia’s migration system earlier this year, with a view to unveil its formal strategy by the end of the year.

Mr Moore’s strategy recommended the strategy be adopted, and associated reforms to improve the system, in the immediate to medium-term.

The report also recommended the national cabinet developing a plan to strengthen Asian literacy across the community and business.

It’s also recommended the Australian government have a much closer relationship with business.

Anthony AlbaneseChina

Joanna Swanson

Joanna Swanson is Europe correspondent at the Thomson Reuters Foundation based in Brussels covering politics, culture, business, climate change, society, economies and inclusive tech. With specific focus in breaking news, she has covered some of the world's most significant stories.