In Deepening Ties With ASEAN, Australia Gains a ‘Strategic Hedge’

In Deepening Ties With ASEAN, Australia Gains a ‘Strategic Hedge’
Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull addresses delegates during an emerging leaders roundtable at the ASEAN special summit, Sydney, Australia, March 16, 2018 (AP photo by Rick Rycroft).

Earlier this month, Australia hosted its first special summit with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the 10-member regional bloc known as ASEAN. While it is not a member, Australia has developed a close working relationship with the group. Amid discussions in Sydney focused on regional security and trade issues, Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hailed ASEAN as a “strategic convener.” The two sides also unveiled a joint infrastructure initiative that looks to provide a potential alternative to China’s huge Belt and Road Initiative. In an email interview, Evan Laksmana, a senior researcher at the Centre for Strategic and International Studies in Jakarta, Indonesia, discusses how ASEAN fits into Australia’s regional foreign policy and the obstacles that could stand in the way of greater cooperation.

WPR: What is driving Australia’s closer alignment with ASEAN, and how does this fit into Australian foreign policy in Asia?

Evan Laksmana: Canberra’s foreign policy in the region can be broken down into three levels—the regional, the bilateral and the multilateral. Each one offers different strategic interests, opportunities and challenges. At the regional level, Southeast Asia has a combined population of 620 million people, as well as a cumulative $2.6 trillion economy growing at more than 5 percent every year. This market offers Australia a huge economic opportunity in the long run and provides it with its geostrategic connection to the broader Indo-Pacific.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.