Thursday, September 19, 2013

Australia's first Jakarta-resident Ambassador to ASEAN takes up his role

Australia's first resident Ambassador to the Association of South East Asian Nations will take up his position this week in Jakarta, the seat of the regional body's secretariat.  New Australian Foreign Minister, Julie Bishop, announced the deployment after confirming official approval from ASEAN foreign ministers.

The new Ambassador, Simon Merrifield, is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Until June 2013 he held the position of DFAT Senior Spokesman and Head of Parliamentary and Media Branch. He has extensive experience in ASEAN countries having served as Deputy High Commissioner to Malaysia, First Secretary, Jakarta and Second Secretary, Manila. He has lived in South-East Asia for 13 years and speaks Indonesian and Malay.

ASEAN, now a significant ten-nation group, is moving to a single market in 2015 and has attracted an increasing number of major countries appointing Jakarta-resident Ambassadors separate from their Ambassadors to Indonesia. Japan appointed Ambassador Takio Yamada in 2010 and the United States appointed Ambassador David L. Carden in 2011. In 2012, China appointed Ambassador Yang Xiuping and the Republic of Korea appointed Ambassador Baek Seong-taek,

The Australian decision was outlined in the Gillard Labor government's White Paper on the Asian Century released in October 2012. In April this year, ASEAN Secretary General, Le Luong Minh, expressed appreciation for the announcement and for Australia’s "strong commitment to deepen and enhance its cooperation with ASEAN". He also recognised Australia’s support to ASEAN’s central role in regional cooperation as well as its community building efforts. 

The ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, in force since 2010, provides the framework for Australia's A$92 billion two-way trade in goods and services with ASEAN countries (2012). Australia is also involved with ASEAN in the negotiations for a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership  which also includes Korea, Japan, China, India, and New Zealand.

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