ASEAN leaders line up against the flags of their respective countries

50 years of ASEAN-Australia relations

20 March 2024
Outcomes of the 2024 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit

A wrap-up of the major initiatives and bilateral agreements announced at the 2024 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit.

The 2024 ASEAN-Australia Special Summit held over three days in March marked the 50th anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations. Co-hosted by Australia and Laos, which holds the ASEAN Chairmanship for 2024, the theme for the Summit was ‘A Partnership for the Future’.

As well as the leaders’ plenary and retreat, events focused on key sectors and themes outlined in Invested: Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040, which Prime Minister Anthony Albanese described as “the most significant upgrade of Australia’s economic engagement with ASEAN for a generation”. He also noted that “more than any other region, Southeast Asia is where Australia’s future lies”.

Between the many meetings and events – including a CEO Business Forum, an SME Conference for small and medium enterprises, an Emerging Leaders Dialogue, a Climate and Clean Energy Forum and a Maritime Cooperation Conference – the Australian Government announced a number of new and expanded initiatives. These include:

— A $2 billion Southeast Asia Investment Financing Facility, managed by Export Finance Australia, to boost Australian trade and investment in the region, particularly in the areas of clean energy and infrastructure development.

 — $140 million to extend the Partnerships for Infrastructure Program to improve regional infrastructure development.

— The appointment of 10 private sector Business Champions to facilitate greater commercial links between Australia and Southeast Asia.

— The launch of regional technology ‘Landing Pads’ in Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City to boost technology services exports to Southeast Asian markets.

— Improved visa access for travel between Australia and the region with Business Visitor visas extended from three to five years, and the ten-year Frequent Traveller stream extended to eligible ASEAN Member States and Timor-Leste.

— Regional hub locations for investment ‘Deal Teams’ in Singapore, Jakarta and Ho Chi Minh City to help identify pipelines for investment opportunities across Southeast Asia.

— A dedicated ASEAN-Australia Centre to drive greater Southeast Asia literacy within Australia and promote greater investment, collaboration and cooperation.

— Over 75 new Aus4ASEAN Scholarships, some co-funded by universities, and 55 Fellowships for emerging leaders.

— English-language training for Timor-Leste to support its path to full ASEAN membership (see Timor-Leste below).

— A further $222.5 million to the Mekong-Australia Partnership to support the resilience of the Mekong subregion and address challenges such as water security and transnational crime.

— A $6.9 million Energy Cooperation Package under the Aus4ASEAN Futures Initiative to support the ASEAN Centre for Energy and establish the ASEAN Centre for Climate Change.

— A $10 million Climate and Clean Energy Window as part of the Southeast Asia Government-to-Government program announced in 2023 to bolster joint efforts on climate change and clean energy.

— $64 million to enhance Australia’s Southeast Asia Maritime Partnerships Initiative.

Prime Minister of Laos and Prime Minister of Australia shaking hands after signing an Australia-Laos Comprehensive Partnership at the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit 2024

Lao Prime Minister Sonexay Siphandone (L) and Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese (R) shake hands after signing an Australia-Laos Comprehensive Partnership. Credit: Flickr/2024 ASEAN Special Summit; Photo by Steve Christo/ASEAN

As well as the major announcements, there were updates in bilateral relationships, outlined below starting with Summit co-chair, Laos. 


Australia and Laos elevated ties to a Comprehensive Partnership, including cooperation in four areas: people, education and human resource development; economics, trade and investment; climate, environment and energy; and defence and law enforcement. The partnership will support Laos to maximise sustainable development in agriculture and food, resources and green energy, key areas identified in Australia’s Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040.

Australia also committed $3 million to Monash University’s World Mosquito Program to assist in the elimination of dengue fever in Laos.


Australia and Brunei elevated their bilateral relationship to a Comprehensive Partnership in June 2023. At the Summit, the leaders of both countries reiterated the importance of developing a Joint Plan of Action to implement the partnership. They committed to looking for practical ways to bolster the cooperation identified in the partnership across a range of areas including economic relations, climate change, food security, defence, security, maritime, people-to-people exchanges and social-cultural ties.


Australia and Cambodia met on the sidelines of the Summit. Prime Minister Albanese posted “Australia will continue to work with Cambodia on ASEAN priorities”. The Khmer Times reported that Prime Minister Hun Manet “suggested that relevant institutions of the two countries work more actively to increase the exchange of trade and investment, encourage university-to-university cooperation focusing on science, and agricultural research and development, as well as cooperation on Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and labour”. The leaders signed an agreement on air transport services, which is expected to boost tourism between the two countries.


Outgoing President Joko Widodo took a limited delegation to the Summit and there was no official statement after the bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Albanese. 

In a press statement before leaving for the Summit, President Widodo noted he would “continue pushing for the strengthening of economic integration, energy transition, and digital transformation”. He also said Indonesia “will keep pushing for cooperation on electric vehicles”.

In November 2023, Indonesia and Australia signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on collaboration in the electric vehicle industry to “advance mutually beneficial cooperation on battery manufacturing, critical minerals processing and other aspects of the electric vehicle ecosystem”. At the Summit, President Widodo said he hoped that the MoU could be implemented through the formation of a joint steering committee, and encouraged prioritising collaboration rather than competition in relation to nickel processing.

Malaysian Foreign Minister Mohamad Hasan (L) and Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong exchange Memorandum of Understanding overseen by Prime Minister Anwar Ibrahim (2nd, L) and Prime Minister Anthony Albanese

Malaysian Foreign Minister Mohamad Hasan (L) and Australian Foreign Minister Penny Wong (R) exchange a Memorandum of Understanding overseen by the Prime Minister of Malaysia, Anwar Ibrahim (2nd, L), and the Prime Minister of Australia, Anthony Albanese (2nd, R). Credit: Flickr/2024 ASEAN Special Summit; Photo by Steve Christo/ASEAN


The Australian and Malaysian prime ministers reaffirmed their Comprehensive Strategic Partnership at the 2nd Australia-Malaysia Annual Leaders’ Meeting and agreed on a range of new initiatives.

These initiatives include collaboration between Australian and Malaysian technology companies to boost two-way investment in the digital economy; cooperation on maritime decarbonisation and clean energy to reduce shipping emissions and drive uptake on renewable energy; a new Maritime Cooperation Package to strengthen capability in maritime domain awareness and build expertise in international law of the sea and marine environmental protection; a closer working relationship on cyber security threats and cyber skills training; and a new MoU for collaboration in youth vocational training and sports.

The two countries also highlighted their longstanding cooperation on education and the benefits of two-way exchange and encouraged further engagement between academic institutions to empower regional voices. They agreed to a practical arrangement on the implementation of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty. Australia also announced the Australia-Malaysia Institutional Strengthening Program, which aims to facilitate government agency exchanges and advance governance reforms.


The Summit started with an historic address by President Ferdinand Marcos to a joint sitting of the Australian Parliament, where he highlighted the upgraded Strategic Partnership signed between Australia and the Philippines in 2023.

A new MoU between the two countries includes three priority areas for the partnership: enhanced maritime cooperation; cyber and critical technology and cooperation on the digital economy; and cooperation between the Australian and Philippine competition commissions.

Australia also announced a $20 million investment to support the Philippines to reform and improve access to its justice system.


The Australia-Singapore Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) will mark its 10th anniversary in 2025. The two leaders reaffirmed their commitment to expanding bilateral cooperation and discussed initiatives for the next phase of the CSP.

The leaders formalised the Green and Digital Shipping Corridor agreement between the two countries’ port authorities, providing an avenue for the export of Australia's renewable energy; adopted a set of ten principles jointly formulated that will support cross-border electricity trade; and announced the first recipients awarded grants under the $20 million Go-Green Co-Innovation Program, aimed at supporting small and medium-sized businesses to develop sustainable products and services.

They also announced additional grant funding for collaborative research between Australian and Singaporean scientists on sustainability, innovation and food technology, and a new agreement between border agencies on border security and cross-border crime.


In a news briefing issued by the Thai Government, Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin noted two key areas that were highlighted at the Summit: seamless connectivity in areas such as trade and investment, infrastructure development and people-to-people linkages; and green energy investment. Speaking to reporters, Prime Minister Thavisin said his government is planning to cooperate with Australia on clean energy usage by developing an ecosystem for electric vehicles. This is part of a green agenda which includes advancing the green economy and the clean energy transition, investing in renewable energy and issuing green bonds to incentivise the private sector, and finding solutions to transboundary haze and fine particles pollution.

He also noted Thailand’s initiative to scale up the delivery of humanitarian assistance to Myanmar as part of ASEAN’s efforts to advance the 5-Point Consensus, “in the hope that it will lead to a dialogue among stakeholders, and a platform for Myanmar’s engagement with the international community”.


In 2022, ASEAN members agreed in principle to admit Timor-Leste as its 11th member state and in 2023 adopted the Roadmap for Timor-Leste’s Full Membership in ASEAN. To achieve full ASEAN membership, Timor-Leste must meet a number of criteria including building institutional capacity, infrastructure and logistics to host ASEAN meetings and having sufficient English-speaking personnel in relevant ministries and agencies.

At the Summit, Australia reaffirmed its commitment to continue providing capacity building assistance to Timor-Leste on the implementation of the Roadmap to full ASEAN membership. Australia also announced English-language training to support Timor-Leste’s path to full membership and enable it to engage more effectively in ASEAN activities particularly in the areas of trade and diplomacy where English is widely used internationally. 


As part of the major upgrade of the Australia–Vietnam relationship to a Comprehensive Strategic Partnership, several new initiatives were announced that build on established collaboration in three key areas: defence and security; economic engagement; and education.

In defence and security, a new Peacekeeping Partnership Arrangement aims to solidify Australia’s support to Vietnam’s peacekeeping efforts. The Australia-Vietnam Security Dialogue was also elevated to Ministerial level. On economic engagement, the two countries agreed to cooperation between the respective agencies responsible for trade and investment to encourage trade in new commodities in agriculture. A new visa will also enable 1,000 Vietnamese workers to work in rural and regional Australia to fill labour gaps in the agricultural sector. In education, Australia and Vietnam renewed a framework for cooperation between education institutions to deliver the workforce skills of the future.

There were also new agreements between maritime and science agencies to support Vietnam’s management of its maritime resources, including through climate change adaptation. And new ministerial dialogues in priority areas, including an annual ministerial dialogue on energy and resources and critical minerals supply chains.

On the final day of the Summit, the Australian Prime Minister and ASEAN leaders adopted the ‘Melbourne Declaration – A Partnership for the Future’. 


Hero image credit: Flickr/2024 ASEAN Special Summit; Photo by Andrew Taylor/ASEAN

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