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ASEAN-Oz summit yields aid

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Prime Minister Hun Sen (top right) joins the ASEAN-Australia Summit on October 27. SPM

ASEAN-Oz summit yields aid

Prime Minister Hun Sen requested that Australia provide technical and vocational training to Cambodian women and migrant workers to help them find new jobs, while the Australian government pledged to provide at least US$115 million in aid to ASEAN member states.

The promise of aid to ASEAN and the generally upbeat and supportive tone of Australia’s diplomatic efforts ensured that the inaugural ASEAN-Australia Summit held on October 27 via video conference would be deemed an unqualified success by both sides.

“Cambodia asks that Australia continue to help with strengthening priority sectors such as digital technology, e-commerce, small and medium-size enterprises, education and human resource development – especially technical and vocational training for women and migrant workers returning from abroad,” he said.

Hun Sen called for an increased focus on women’s issues in general – for the development of Cambodia and across ASEAN – in recognition of the goals of the peace and security agenda and the role women play in the promotion of social welfare and socio-economic development.

He added that the establishment of an annual ASEAN-Australia Summit was a long overdue testament to a strategic partnership between them that has a history of great achievements behind it already.

He continued that the positive relationship with Australia over time has convinced Cambodia to support the promotion of ASEAN-Australian relations to comprehensive strategic partnership status.

He said that in the context of Covid-19’s aftermath, building a sustainable, prosperous and inclusive ASEAN community was a vital mission.

Hun Sen called on both sides to successfully implement the “ASEAN-Australia Plan of Action (2020-2024)” and to continue to address challenges such as public health, economic growth and climate change.

In a press statement on October 27, Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison pledged an investment of A$154 million (US$115 million) directly to ASEAN and its membership.

Specifically, A$124 million (US$93 million) will go into a new “Australia for ASEAN Futures Initiative” to support projects that address complex challenges like health security, terrorism, transnational crime, energy security, healthy oceans and promoting a circular economy in support of the implementation of the “ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific”.

The remaining funds will be invested into ASEAN scholarships to support emerging ASEAN leaders’ studies in Australia and the “ASEAN Digital Transformation and Futures Skills Initiative” to support its long-term economic recovery.

“The Prime Minister was also pleased to underscore Australia’s commitment to providing the Indo-Pacific region with at least 60 million Covid-19 vaccine doses by the end of 2022. From late 2021 to mid-2022, we will share at least 10 million doses from our domestic supply with ASEAN countries,” said the press statement.

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison said that with vaccination levels in Australia continuing to rise, the country will be reopening to the world in the coming days and it will continue to work with all of the ASEAN nations to establish new Covid-safe set of mutual visitor regulations that covers travel in both directions.

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