2nd Australia-Malaysia Annual Foreign Ministers’ Meeting

  • Joint Statement
  • Senator the Hon Marise Payne, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Women, Australia
  • The Hon Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia

Today, Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Women, Senator the Hon Marise Payne, and Malaysia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon Dato’ Saifuddin Abdullah, co-chaired the 2nd Australia-Malaysia Annual Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in Sydney.

The Ministers reviewed progress under the 2015 Australia-Malaysia Joint Declaration of Strategic Partnership, and welcomed the deep and growing engagement between the two nations in all spheres of international cooperation, including political and strategic engagement, defence and security cooperation, trade and investment, and education.

The Ministers welcomed the high tempo of bilateral engagement in 2019, including the meeting between Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Prime Minister Tun Dr. Mahathir Mohamad on the sidelines of the 35th ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Bangkok on 4 November 2019. The Ministers also welcomed the outcomes of the 18th Joint Trade Committee Meeting on 20 August 2019, and the 2nd High Level Committee Meeting on Defence Cooperation on 25 September 2019, co-chaired separately by Trade and Defence Ministers of both countries. These meetings underscored the enduring strength of the Australia-Malaysia partnership and set an ambitious agenda for further cooperation.

Minister Saifuddin briefed Minister Payne on the Foreign Policy Framework of the New Malaysia, which includes a strong focus on promoting human rights, the rule of law and shared prosperity.  Minister Payne briefed Minister Saifuddin on Australia’s term on the Human Rights Council. The two Ministers agreed to continue to work together and share perspectives on international human rights issues of concern.

The Ministers affirmed both countries’ shared commitment to promoting an open, inclusive, prosperous and stable region at a time of rapid change, including increased strategic competition. Minister Payne welcomed the recently adopted ‘ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP)’, and noted that Australia’s vision for the Indo-Pacific region shared many of the same underlying principles, including openness, inclusivity and the importance of ASEAN centrality. The Ministers discussed how Australia could work together with ASEAN to implement the AOIP.  They also reaffirmed the importance of promoting established rules and norms and respect for international law, as set out in the AOIP and in the Australia-Malaysia Joint Declaration of Strategic Partnership.

The Ministers reaffirmed their strong support for the ASEAN-led regional architecture, recognising the central role that ASEAN and its forums play in supporting the rules and norms that have underpinned prosperity, security and stability in our region for more than 50 years. The Ministers underlined the value of the East Asia Summit as the region’s premier Leaders-led forum for dialogue and cooperation on strategic, political, security and economic issues of common interest and concern, with the aim of promoting peace, stability, and prosperity in the region. They reaffirmed their support for further strengthening the East Asia Summit and continuing to build its political-security agenda.  Minister Payne thanked Minister Saifuddin for Malaysia’s excellent work as the Country Coordinator for ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations for the term 2018-2021.

Ministers expressed serious concerns about developments in the South China Sea, and underlined the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, stability, safety and security and upholding freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea. They reaffirmed the need to enhance mutual trust and confidence and exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities. Both sides also emphasised the need for all States to comply with the principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Both sides support the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC). They noted negotiations between ASEAN and China toward a Code of Conduct for the South China Sea (CoC) and called for a CoC to be effective, substantive and consistent with international law, including the 1982 UNCLOS.

The Ministers discussed the rise of non-traditional security threats, including terrorism and returning foreign terrorist fighters, in addition to cyber security challenges, as well as transnational crimes, such as people smuggling and human trafficking.  Both Ministers welcomed the ongoing cooperation between Australia and Malaysia to address these common threats, and are committed to exploring ways to further strengthen this area of cooperation. Minister Saifuddin expressed gratitude to Australia for being an important partner of the Southeast Asia Regional Centre for Counter Terrorism (SEARCCT), Malaysia. Both Ministers agreed to enhance cooperation in capacity building, research and counter-messaging activities in the field of counter terrorism as well as Preventing and Countering Violent Extremism (PVE).

Minister Payne and Minister Saifuddin expressed their grave concern about the plight of the Rohingya people forced to flee their homes in Rakhine State, Myanmar. Both Ministers viewed the humanitarian situation in Cox’s Bazar as unsustainable and in need of an urgent and durable solution. Both Ministers emphasised the urgent need for Myanmar to create a situation conducive to the return of the Rohingya refugees, and called on Myanmar and Bangladesh to work together to expedite the repatriation process. Australia and Malaysia are committed to working with Myanmar, Bangladesh, ASEAN and other partners towards a long-term and durable solution.

Minister Payne outlined Australia’s strengthened engagement with the Pacific under the ‘Pacific Step-Up’. Minister Saifuddin expressed Malaysia’s continuous commitment to providing assistance in capacity building to the Pacific island countries through the Malaysian Technical Cooperation Program. The Ministers agreed to explore opportunities to work together to support regional partners to advance their development priorities.

At a time of concern over trade tensions and the global economic outlook, Australia and Malaysia reaffirmed the importance of free trade, open economies and business-friendly policies as a key engine for growth, jobs and prosperity. Both nations reaffirmed their shared commitment to promoting bilateral economic opportunities and regional economic integration through free trade agreements, such as the Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA) and ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), and cooperation in multilateral frameworks, including the World Trade Organization and APEC.  Minister Saifuddin briefed Minister Payne on Malaysia’s priorities as the host of APEC in 2020, and looked forward to welcoming Minister Payne to Malaysia for the APEC Ministerial Meeting in November 2020.

Ministers reiterated their commitment to the MH17 Joint Investigation Team (JIT) and call on all States and actors that have information on this tragedy to cooperate fully with the JIT in the pursuit of truth, justice and accountability for the victims of flight MH17 and their families.

Minister Payne announced that Malaysia would be the 2020 focus country for Australia’s flagship public diplomacy program “Australia now”. The year-long program emphasising closer partnership and exchange coincides with Malaysia’s APEC host year, the 65th anniversary of diplomatic ties and Visit Malaysia 2020. It will celebrate existing vibrant bilateral partnerships and strengthen connections between the people, places and institutions of both countries.

Both sides reiterated their commitment to a strong and ambitious bilateral relationship, and agreed to explore ways to elevate the Strategic Partnership.

Malaysia is due to host the next Annual Foreign Ministers’ Meeting in 2020.

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