Anwar unveils five-point plan to strengthen Asean-Australia ties

MELBOURNE: Datuk Seri Anwar Ibrahim outlined five areas of focus to further strengthen the close relationship between Asean and Australia, which has been established for 50 years, including economic cooperation through the empowerment of micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) ecosystem.

The Prime Minister said Malaysia sees significant potential for support from Australia to strengthen the Asean MSMEs ecosystem, particularly through digital transformation, capacity building, market access, sustainable practices, and enabling equitable participation among MSMEs.

"Under the Second Protocol of the Asean-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, we should expedite the utilisation and engagement of businesses, especially for MSMEs.

"Malaysia is committed to developing MSMEs as drivers for job opportunities, innovation, and economic dynamism," he said.

He made these remarks during a plenary session titled:Review and Future Direction of Asean-Australia Dialogue Relations at the Asean-Australia Special Summit at the Melbourne Convention and Exhibition Centre (MCEC) here today.

The summit was attended by all Asean member countries except Myanmar, as well as three invited countries namely New Zealand, Timor-Leste, and Papua New Guinea.

Anwar said the second focus area to strengthen Asean-Australia relations is energy transition, especially as Malaysia aims to achieve a just transition in technology sectors, achieve net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050, in the National Energy Transition Roadmap.

"We are ready to collaborate with Australia when Asean seeks to expedite the energy transition journey. I want to share that Malaysia will host the first annual Asean Green Jobs Forum in Kuala Lumpur next month, with Australia's support.

"This cross-sector initiative is expected to contribute to green jobs and green skills development in the region," he said.

To solidify Asean-Australia connectivity, which is also the third focus area outlined by Malaysia, the Prime Minister also shared that Malaysia will co-host the Maritime Connectivity Forum with Australia and South Korea in June.

"Experts will discuss digitalisation and digital automation, with a view to further strengthening our infrastructure capacity," he said.

Turning to human capital development, Anwar said he strongly encourages the expansion of cooperation in Education and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) by incorporating new disciplines such as green technology, the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and artificial intelligence.

The Prime Minister also explained that Malaysia, Australia, and Timor-Leste successfully implemented a three-way capacity-building program in 2023, to facilitate Timor-Leste's transition to full Asean membership.

"Our officials are currently in discussions to carry out the second programme, which will be implemented later this year," he said.

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