ASEAN-Australia: The Road to Recovery Webinar

Asialink at the University of Melbourne, together with the ASEAN Committee in Canberra and the ASEAN-Australia Council, celebrated ASEAN Day with an interactive live event with eminent government and business leaders from ASEAN and Australia, discussing the way forward for the region as it grapples with COVID-19 and its aftermath.

In commemoration of ASEAN Day on 8 August, Asialink joined forces with the ASEAN Committee in Canberra and ASEAN-Australia Council to organise an an interactive webinar on “ASEAN-Australia: The Road to Recovery.” Within the context of a protracted global pandemic, the webinar highlighted the shared values and interests between Australia and ASEAN and discussed the bright spots that both sides could nurture in their post-COVID roadmap to recovery.

Keynote addresses were given by Keynote speaker, Australian Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Simon Birmingham, and Secretary-General of ASEAN Mr Lim Jock Hoi. Mr. Birmingham began the discussion by noting the critical leadership role played by ASEAN in coordinating responses to COVID-19 across Southeast Asia, the role Australia has played in supporting ASEAN’s health security and economic recovery, and the opportunity for greater and more diverse trade and investment between Australia and ASEAN economies. Mr. Lim reiterated the imperative for ASEAN and Australia to strengthen their partnership in the midst of the pandemic crisis. He remarked that the COVID-19 has presented an opportunity for ASEAN to reenergize its integration and strengthen cooperation with partners. He noted the importance of the upcoming review and upgrade of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, and the key role of cooperation with Australia on digitalisation – a key ingredient to COVID-19 recovery, if pursued in an inclusive manner.

Following the keynote speeches, a panel discussion was moderated by Ms Penny Burtt, Group CEO of Asialink and Mr Kwok Fook Seng, Singapore’s High Commissioner to Australia. The panellists comprised of Mr David Thodey from Australia’s National COVID-19 Commission Advisory Board, Indonesia Vice-Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Mahendra Siregar, Tan Sri Dato’ Munir Majid, Chairman of ASEAN Business Advisory Council Malaysia and Ms Christine Holgate, Group CEO and Managing Director of Australia Post. The panel further emphasised the importance of technology, digital literacy, and the free flow of data in enabling global value chains.

The webinar concluded with some key observations: First, the private sector has an important role to play in helping support governments and collaborating with governments to develop roadmaps across the region for economic recovery; Second, both Australia and ASEAN remain committed to open trade and economic integration and there is significant untapped potential in the e-commerce sector across ASEAN particularly for MSMEs; Third, ASEAN and Australia have an enduring friendship and a convergence of economic and security interests and these will guide the continued investment in greater people to people engagement in the future.