Australia joins the Asia-Europe Meeting

Parliament house flag post

Australia joins the Asia-Europe Meeting

Posted 14/10/2010 by Nina Markovic

In what was Prime Minister Julia Gillard's first international key leaders' meeting, Australia became a member of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) on 4-5 October, fourteen years since ASEM's inauguration. The Russian Federation and New Zealand also joined the biennial 8th ASEM Summit (ASEM8) at Head of State and Government level, which was conducted under the auspices of the Belgian Presidency of the European Union (EU). A key theme of the gathering was reform of the international economic institutions towards more effective global economic governance.

What is ASEM?

ASEM was established by the EU and several Asian countries and held its first summit meeting in Bangkok in 1996. It is an 'informal' and multi-sectoral dialogue process which now involves 48 partners from across the EU and the Asia-Pacific region. Australia's bid to join ASEM was postponed indefinitely at the 1998 ASEM Summit at the insistence of Malaysia under the Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Muhammad, a position which was at the time also backed by Indonesia.

ASEM8 brought together 46 heads of state (27 from the EU, 16 from Asia, plus three new members - Australia, New Zealand and Russia), the European Commission, the European Council, and the Secretariat of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

ASEM's objectives are to promote greater co-operation, understanding and inter-regional information-sharing amongst its members on major political, financial, and socio-economic issues, as well as to build closer economic, political and cultural ties between the peoples of Europe and Asia.

According to the ASEM8 Chair's Statement and Brussels Declaration, key issues in this year's summit included discussions surrounding the reform of global financial institutions, sustainable development, and environmental protection. Other global issues that were discussed included:
  • piracy at sea
  • transnational terrorism and crime
  • disaster prevention and relief
  • human security
  • human rights and democracy
  • non-proliferation and disarmament
  • reform of the United Nations system, and
  • inter-cultural dialogue.

Region-specific issues were also discussed, including the fragile security situation in Afghanistan, Burma, and the Korean Peninsula, the Iranian nuclear issue, peace efforts in the Middle East, and how best to revive inter-regional co-operation.

As an ASEM member, Australia was invited by the Chair to contribute to the work of ASEM's only formal institution, the Asia-Europe Foundation (established in 1997). This might involve, for example, participating in the thematic projects aimed at improving ASEM's visibility. Apart from the biennial ASEM Summit which alternates between Europe and Asia, official side events include meetings of civil society groups through the Asia Europe People's Forum, Asia-Europe Parliamentary Partnership and the Asia-Europe Business Forum to which Australia could contribute.

Australia's participation in ASEM

Pursuing what could be an innovative development for Australia's foreign relations with its largest two-way trading partner - the EU - the Prime Minister proposed a treaty between Australia and the EU towards closer collaboration, particularly in areas such as research and development, and innovation.

Under the Rudd Government Australia had formally applied for membership in October 2008. Following the endorsement in May 2009 of Australia's application to join ASEM, Australia's Foreign Minister formally announced Australia's involvement in ASEM on 28 May 2009. The decision to join ASEM was outlined in the 2010-11 Budget.

Since ASEM does not include all European and Asian states, it is not intended as a replacement for bilateral initiatives, but rather as a venue for bilateral meetings with major partners from Europe and Asia. It is a stepping stone towards closer inter-regional understanding and practical initiatives to which Australia could both contribute and benefit from. With over 60 ASEM-related meetings a year, Australia is presented with an opportunity to promote its interests and build new bridges with key European and Asian partners, drawing on Australia's economic success and linkages, as well as its unique diplomatic position as a middle-power.

At this time, however, questions remain as to how much Australia's participation in the ASEM will cost; the exact nature of Australia's involvement in ASEM; and the extent to which ASEM could prove useful as a tool to further Australia's national interests in the EU and Asia.

For more information, see the article by Philomena Murray, 'Australia in ASEM - engagement and expectations' in Yeo, LH and Hofmeister, W (eds.), The Asia-Europe Meeting: Engagement, Enlargement and Expectations, Singapore: EU Centre and Konrad Adenauer Stiftung, 2010.
(Image sourced from:

Thank you for your comment. If it does not require moderation, it will appear shortly.
Facebook LinkedIn Twitter Add | Email Print


Flagpost is a blog on current issues of interest to members of the Australian Parliament

Parliamentary Library Logo showing Information Analysis & Advice




refugees asylum immigration Australian foreign policy Parliament climate change elections women social security Indigenous Australians Australian Bureau of Statistics Employment taxation Sport illicit drugs people trafficking Medicare welfare reform Australian Defence Force higher education welfare policy United Nations Asia income management Middle East criminal law disability Australian Sports Anti-Doping Agency World Anti-Doping Agency United States federal budget gambling school education forced labour aid statistics Australian Electoral Commission WADA health financing emissions trading Australia in the Asian Century steroids detention Private health insurance OECD ASADA labour force transport Law Enforcement Australian Federal Police Industrial Relations dental health National Disability Insurance Scheme slavery Senate election results Papua New Guinea Australian Public Service International Women's Day corruption Afghanistan Fair Work Act child protection people smuggling debt federal election 2013 parliamentary procedure poker machines ALP New Zealand Australian Crime Commission Newstart Parenting Payment 43rd Parliament political parties Census constitution High Court skilled migration voting Federal Court terrorist groups Higher Education Loan Program HECS youth paid parental leave Aviation environment foreign debt gross debt net debt defence capability customs doping health crime health risks multiculturalism aged care Gonski Review of Funding for Schooling sex slavery sea farers Special Rapporteur leadership United Kingdom UK Parliament Electoral reform politics banking firearms public policy violence against women domestic violence mental health China ADRV terrorism social media pensions welfare ASIO intelligence community Australian Security Intelligence Organisation governance public service reform Carbon Pricing Mechanism carbon tax mining military history employer employee fishing by-election European Union same sex relationships international relations coal seam gas family assistance planning United Nations Security Council Australian economy food vocational education and training Drugs Indonesia children codes of conduct terrorist financing Productivity asylum seekers early childhood education Canada Population Financial sector national security fuel disability employment Tasmania integrity science research and development Australian Secret Intelligence Service sexual abuse federal state relations World Trade Organization Australia accountability housing affordability bulk billing water renewable energy children's health health policy Governor-General US economy export liquefied natural gas foreign bribery question time speaker superannuation expertise Senators and Members climate Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry food labelling Pacific Islands reserved seats new psychoactive substances synthetic drugs UNODC carbon markets health reform Indigenous constitutional recognition of local government local government consumer laws PISA royal commission US politics language education baby bonus Leaders of the Opposition Parliamentary remuneration health system Australia Greens money laundering servitude Trafficking Protocol energy forced marriage rural and regional Northern Territory Emergency Response ministries social citizenship human rights housing Speaker; House of Representatives; Parliament citizenship Defence High Court; Indigenous; Indigenous Australians; Native Title ACT Indigenous education Norfolk Island External Territories emissions reduction fund; climate change child care funding refugees immigration asylum procurement Indigenous health e-voting internet voting nsw state elections 44th Parliament 2015 ABS Age Pension Death penalty capital punishment execution Bali nine Bali bombings Trade EU China soft power education Fiji India Disability Support Pension Antarctica Diplomacy by-elections state and territories workers Bills anti-corruption fraud bribery transparency corporate ownership whistleblower G20 economic reform innovation standards NATO Members of Parliament Scottish referendum Middle East; national security; terrorism social services Criminal Code Amendment (Misrepresentation of Age to a Minor) Bill 2013 online grooming sexual assault of minors ACT Assembly public health smoking plain packaging tobacco cigarettes Asia; Japan; international relations Work Health and Safety Migration; asylum seekers; regional processing China; United States; international relations fiscal policy Racial Discrimination Act; social policy; human rights; indigenous Australians Foreign policy Southeast Asia Israel Palestine regional unemployment asylum refugees immigration political finance donations foreign aid Economics efficiency human rights; Racial Discrimination Act employment law bullying Animal law; food copyright Australian Law Reform Commission industry peace keeping contracts workplace policies trade unions same-sex marriage disorderly conduct retirement Parliament House standing orders public housing prime ministers election timetable sitting days First speech defence budget submarines Somalia GDP forestry world heritage political engagement leave loading Trade; tariffs; safeguards; Anti-dumping public interest disclosure whistleblowing Productivity Commission regulation limitation period universities Ireland cancer gene patents genetic testing suspension of standing and sessional orders animal health live exports welfare systems infant mortality middle class welfare honorary citizen railways disciplinary tribunals standard of proof World Health Organisation arts international students skilled graduate visas temporary employment visas apologies roads Italy national heritage NHMRC nutrition anti-dumping Constitutional reform referendum Rent Assistance competition policy pharmaceutical benefits scheme obesity evidence law sacrament of confession US presidential election international days DFAT UN General Assembly deregulation Regulation Impact Statements administrative law small business Breaker Morant homelessness regional engagement social determinants of health abortion Youth Allowance Members suspension citizen engagement policymaking federal election 2010 workplace health and safety Trafficking in Persons Report marine reserves hearing TAFE Victoria astronomy resources sector YMCA youth parliament alcohol Korea rebate Australian Greens presidential nomination Racial Discrimination Act entitlements political parties preselection solar hot water Financial Action Taskforce Horn of Africa peacekeeping piracy Great Barrier Reef Stronger futures political financing Hung Parliament political education social inclusion Social Inclusion Board maritime early childhood National Quality Framework for Early Childhood Education and Care Murray-Darling Basin Iran sanctions Norway

Show all
Show less
Back to top