Hon Dato’ Seri Diraja Dr. Zambry Abdul Kadir, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Malaysia
Minister for Foreign Affairs of Australia, Senator the Hon Penny Wong, and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Malaysia, the Hon Dato’ Seri Diraja Dr. Zambry Abdul Kadir, co-chaired the 5th Australia-Malaysia Annual Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AFMM) on 5 May 2023 in Adelaide, Australia.
Both Ministers shared the view that Malaysia and Australia’s bilateral relationship has gone from strength to strength. Reinforced by an ongoing commitment to the Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) agreed in 2021, Ministers demonstrated their ambition to advance cooperation on key areas of strategic importance. The Ministers reflected on their common vision ofan open,stable and prosperous Indo-Pacific region, where sovereignty and widely agreed international rules and norms are respected.
The 5th AFMM marked the second meeting of Australian and Malaysian Foreign Ministers this year. The Ministers anticipated ongoing and sustained high-level engagement between both countries and looked forward to advancing discussions at the next Annual Leaders’ Meeting and Joint Trade Commission.
Comprehensive Strategic Partnership
The Ministers welcomed the strides made under the CSP since its establishment in 2021 and reaffirmed their commitment toward the CSP Plan of Action across its three pillars: Economic Prosperity; Society and Technology; and Defence and Regional Security.
Ministers noted the importance of Australia and Malaysia continuing to work together to sustain growing trade and investment as well asdevelopment cooperation. Both Ministers reaffirmed the importance of a rules-based multilateral trading system, with the World Trade Organisation (WTO) at its core, and their commitment to the timely and effective implementation of the outcomes agreed at the Twelfth WTO Ministerial Conference (MC12), including having a fully and well-functioning dispute settlement system accessible to all WTO members by 2024. Ministers welcomed continued cooperation between Australia and Malaysia on new rule-making at the WTO, particularly on e-commerce, investment facilitation and agricultural reform. Ministers also discussed the successful trade related outcomes as a result of pre-existing agreements and an ongoing focus to explore potential trade and investment opportunities.
The Ministers discussed the Australian Special Envoy to Southeast Asia’s visit to Malaysia (March 2023) and the potential trade and investment opportunities to be unlocked under the Australian Government’s upcoming Southeast Asia Economic Strategy to 2040. Ministers acknowledged the potential of their respective economies and expressed confidence in the continued growth of economic ties and two-way trade and investment between Australia and Malaysia.
The Ministers acknowledged their long-standing, vibrant and complementary trade and investment relationship marked by our 10-year anniversary of the entry-into-force of the Malaysia-Australia Free Trade Agreement (MAFTA). Providing the opportunity to build on recent regional agreements — particularly the ASEAN Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement upgrade — both welcomed the preparatory work on a General Review of MAFTA to modernise the agreement. Australia welcomed the entry-into-force of the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) in Malaysia on 29 November 2022. The Ministers recognised Australia and Malaysia’s close cooperation in APEC to advance regional economic integration and promote an open, dynamic, resilient and peaceful Asia-Pacific community. The Ministers looked forward to advancing the Indo-Pacific Economic Framework (IPEF) and supported cooperation between Australia and Malaysia to ensure IPEF delivers concrete solutions to shared trade and investment challenges in the region.
The Ministers discussed opportunities to strengthen cooperation on the digital economy. The Ministers acknowledged the new Memorandum of Understanding on Digital Collaboration will include actions discussed during the Australian Special Envoy to Southeast Asia’s visit to Malaysia in March 2023, concentrating onfive priority areas: agriculture, digital health, creative content,digital economy and e-commerce. Both Ministers expressed interest in exploring specific areas of digital trade and economic cooperation through the annual Joint Trade Committee Senior Officials Meeting (JTC SOM), drawing on examples from other regional and bilateral cooperation.
The Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to combatting climate change and to achieving net zero carbon emissions by 2050, aligned with the goal of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) and its Paris Agreement. The Ministers noted the opportunities inherent in expanding our green economy and energy cooperation. Australia stands ready to support Malaysia’s clean energy transition, both as a trusted investment partner and through a reliable supply of its traditional and emerging energy needs. The Ministers welcomed the March 2023 visit of senior-level executives to Australia, including from some of Malaysia’s top energy companies, to explore opportunities to expand and deepen our cooperation on green economy and the energy transition.
Ahead of the next Australia-Malaysia Annual Leaders’ Meeting, Ministers looked forward to an update on progress on technical cooperation, including under the Malaysia-Australia Agricultural Cooperation Working Group, the Animal and Animal Products Technical Working Group, and the Halal Taskforce and the Expert Working Group on Audits.
Society and Technology
The Ministers acknowledged science and innovation collaboration plays a crucial part in supporting the deep, long-term people-to-people ties between Australia and Malaysia. The Ministers welcomed the growth in people-to-people ties between Australia and Malaysia following the COVID-19 pandemic, including in the education sector. The Ministers looked forward to progressing Australia and Malaysia’s education ties by updating and renewing the Memoranda of Understanding on Education and on Higher Education, Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and Research, and the re-establishment of a joint working group. The Ministers noted their shared ambition for more collaborative efforts that would benefit both countries with the signing of the memoranda.
The Ministers welcomed progress on the renewal of the Memorandum of Understanding on Youth and Sport and looked forward to its signing in 2023. The Ministers reflected on the success of 2021-22 Australia NowMalaysia program and agreed to consider exploring new areas for cooperation on tourism, culture and First Nations issues. The Ministers looked forward to strengthening the exchange between our respective parliaments and democratic institutions and welcomed ongoing collaboration between our respective civil services.
The Ministers acknowledged the close cooperation on health security during the pandemic, including Australia’s support for Malaysia’s COVID-19 vaccine rollout through UNICEF and the Malaysian Red Crescent, as well as bilateral and regional engagement on mental health. The Ministers welcomed collaboration between agencies under Malaysia’s Ministry of Health and Ministry of Science, Innovation and Technology and Australia’s CSIRO on vaccine R&D and genomic sequencing in 2023, as well as continued cooperation to address regional health challenges through the Australian Government’s new Partnerships for a Healthy Region initiative.
The Ministers discussed growing bilateral cooperation to address climate change and achieve net zero carbon emissions targets through renewable energy transition. Ministers welcomed bilateral collaboration to establish Malaysia’s Greenhouse Gas Information Management System, which was launched at COP27 in 2022. The Ministers discussed and welcomed opportunities to expand cooperation on energy transition best practices through technical exchanges between respective policymakers, regulators and industry.
Defence and Regional Security
The Ministers welcomed the depth of our longstanding defence and security cooperation, emphasising the ongoing importance of the Malaysia-Australia Joint Defence Program and ongoing cooperation under the Five Power Defence Arrangements.
Both Ministers reaffirmed their commitment to furthering cooperation on traditional and non-traditional security issues, including countering terrorism, violent extremism and other transnational crimes, such as narcotics trafficking, money laundering, combatting trafficking in persons and people-smuggling, and promoting safe and regular migration.
The Ministers acknowledged progress on the bilateral Memorandum of Understanding on Co-operation in Cyber Security.
The Ministers emphasised the ongoing importance of the Malaysia-Australia Joint Defence Program. Ministers agreed tocontinue to explore opportunities for enhanced engagement between their respective Defence education institutions. Ministers commended initiatives including the Malaysia-Australia Future Leaders program, sister school arrangement between the Australian and Malaysian Defence College. Ministers noted these are in addition to a long-standing and diverse range of cooperative activities including secondments between the two forces, an extensive education and training program and Maritime Domain Awareness activities.
Both Ministers noted the importance of the current Immigration Cooperation Memorandum of Agreement and looked forward to the respective agencies finalising the review of the agreement to ensure it is in line with principles and operational needs of the respective agencies. Ministers emphasised the need to explore opportunities and expand activities in the civil maritime security space. Both Ministers also welcomed the review and update of the current Memorandum of Agreement between Australian Border Force and Malaysian Maritime Enforcement Agency.
The Ministers noted the importance of advancing the Gender, Peace and Security agenda within the maritime security field. Malaysia acknowledged Australia’s efforts in launching the Women in Maritime Security Network, through which a group of Southeast Asian participants, including three from Malaysia, had participated.
Regional and Global Cooperation
The Ministers reiterated their commitment to promoting a region that is peaceful, secure and stable, defined by respect for sovereignty and international law. The Ministers expressed their support for ASEAN Centrality and ASEAN-led regional architecture that is open, transparent, rules-based and inclusive, including the East Asia Summit, ASEAN Regional Forum, and the ASEAN Defence Ministers’ Meeting Plus. The Ministers welcomed concrete progress in the implementation of the ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Strategic Partnership (CSP) that is meaningful, substantive and mutually beneficial, as well as Australia’s proposal to host a Special Summit to Commemorate the 50th Anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations in 2024. The Ministers looked forward to working together to support Timor-Leste to build capacity in line with the roadmap for Timor-Leste’s membership in ASEAN.
The Ministers shared the goal of a world without nuclear weapons and underscored the urgent need for progress on disarmament. Both expressed their commitment to strengthening the disarmament and non-proliferation regime, including through the cornerstone Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT).
Australia outlined the Quad’s agenda for the region, including its strong support for ASEAN Centrality and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, as well as its positive and practical agenda to work with the region to respond to its most pressing challenges.
Australia provided Malaysia with updates on recent developments concerning AUKUS and the Australian Government’ response to the Defence Strategic Review.
Both Ministers stressed the significance of core principles enshrined in the UN Charter, ASEAN Charter, the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC), the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the Treaty on the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone (SEANWFZ), and the Zone of Peace, Freedom, and Neutrality (ZOPFAN).
Both Ministers reflected that cooperation with Malaysia on energy issues could be extended beyond the bilateral relations to ASEAN regionally including to support cross-border electricity trading in Southeast Asia.
The Ministers reaffirmed Australia and Malaysia’s shared aspiration for a maritime domain that is peaceful, stable and secure. They noted the importance of ongoing cooperation on maritime security, such as Operation REDBACK. Ministers welcomed new initiatives to expand maritime cooperation, including projects on marine resource development, maritime domain awareness and law of the sea. They reaffirmed their intention to strengthen bilateral and 1.5 track dialogue on maritime cooperation and shared maritime interests.
The Ministers reiterated serious concern about developments in the South China Sea, and accentuated the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, security, and stability in the region, as well as freedom of navigation in and overflight above the South China Sea. They encouraged all parties to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities and avoid actions that may raise tensions. Both Ministers emphasised the need for all States to comply with international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Both noted that it is important for a Code of Conduct in the South China Sea to be consistent with international law, including UNCLOS.
Ministers discussed the deeply concerning situation in Ukraine following Russia’s invasion. Australia and Malaysia acknowledged the impact of the crisis on the region, particularly on food and energy supplies. Consistent with UN General Assembly Resolution No. ES-11/6 dated 23 February 2023, the Ministers demanded that Russia immediately withdraw its military forces from the territory of Ukraine within its internationally recognised borders, and underlined the need to reach a comprehensive, just and lasting peace in Ukraine as soon as possible. They urged Russia to respect Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Malaysia called for unhindered access to all humanitarian assistance, as well as adherence to the applicable norms of international humanitarian and human rights law.
The Ministers welcomed the delivery of verdicts of the MH17 court trial and the Council of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) decision on jurisdiction in MH17 legal proceedings. Australia and Malaysia reaffirmed their steadfast commitment to seeking truth justice and accountability for the victims of the downing of the Flight MH17.
The Ministers acknowledged Australia and Malaysia’s support for earthquake affected peoples of Türkiye and Syria and the need for ongoing humanitarian assistance.
The Ministers expressed serious concern about the deteriorating security, economic and humanitarian situation in Myanmar and called for an end to violence by the Myanmar military regime. Ministers reaffirmed their support for the efforts of the ASEAN Chair in resolving the crisis, and called on the Myanmar regimeto immediately and fully implement its commitments under the ASEAN Five Point Consensus. Ministers reiterated their call for the regime to allow safe and unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance, and to engage in dialogue to support a return to democracy.
The Ministers shared serious concerns regarding the crisis in Sudan. The Ministers shared updates on Australia and Malaysia’s responses and evacuations from Sudan.