Australia’s prosperity and security is intimately linked to that of Southeast Asia.
As our Southeast Asian neighbours look for options to boost their economic growth, and longstanding partners like Brunei strive to diversify their economies beyond hydrocarbon exports, I believe Australia has much to offer the region as a trusted and reliable partner.
Given that Southeast Asia is one of the world’s fastest-growing global regions – across demographics, economic openness, political stability and ambition – we must better harness our shared economic potential for the future.
Many understand the region will be home to one of the most dramatic economic transformations of the 21st century. Brunei, for example, has the potential to transform its economy from one largely dependent on upstream oil and gas mining, into one focused on halal food processing, fertiliser production and ecotourism.
Across Southeast Asia, population growth, increasing large and affluent middle classes, and urbanisation trends will create growing demand for a wider range of goods, services and skills.
The considerable opportunity presented by Southeast Asia is at the core of my report for the Australian government, Invested: Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040, launched by the Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and the Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong in Jakarta last week.
Expanding Australia’s trade and investment links with our region is critical to ensuring our shared future prosperity.
The strategy sets out a practical pathway to capitalise on this opportunity, and recommends ways governments can increase two-way trade and investment by raising awareness, removing blockages, building capacity and deepening investment.
I examined 10 key sectors, which I believe offer the most potential for economic growth – agriculture and food; resources; green energy transition; infrastructure; education and skills; visitor economy; healthcare; digital economy, professional and financial services; and creative industries. These sectors align very closely with Brunei’s own economic diversification strategy under the Sultanate’s Wawasan 2035 policy.
Following extensive consultations, including a productive visit to Brunei in March this year, I have formulated 75 recommendations for consideration by the Australian government.
I welcome the Australian government’s decision to immediately support key initiatives that go to the heart of my strategy.
To increase investment in the region, Australia will establish deal teams to help identify opportunities and commercial partners, and provide market intelligence and guidance on risk, regulation and government engagement.
To raise awareness of business opportunities in Southeast Asia among Australian business, Australia will initiate a Southeast Asia Business Exchange – focused on coordinating business missions to the region, targeting priority sectors and stepping-up coordination with Southeast Asian diaspora.
To expand trade and investment ties between Australia and Southeast Asia, the government will deliver a trade and investment promotion campaign in Australia, which will build understanding of Southeast Asian goods and services and highlight the region as an investment destination.
And to grow capability in Australia and the region, a placements and internships pilot program for young professionals – with an initial focus on investment, energy transition and the digital economy – will deliver enduring links between Australian and Southeast Asian businesses.
These early responses to the strategy demonstrate the Australian government’s commitment to advancing Australia’s ambition to expand commercial links with Brunei and other ASEANs. Australian businesses are also taking notice of the opportunities the region presents – more than 170 Australian businesses people attended the recent ASEAN summits in Jakarta.
Expanding Australia’s trade and investment links with our region is critical to ensuring our shared future prosperity. These impactful first steps are key to advancing Australia’s ambition to significantly expand commercial links with the region – from now until 2040, and beyond.
• Nicholas Moore is Australia’s Special Envoy for Southeast Asia.