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Australia sets up $1.3 bn fund to grow trade with ASEAN

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Published: 11:44, 5 March 2024

Australia sets up $1.3 bn fund to grow trade with ASEAN

Prime Minister Anthony. Photo: Collected 

Australia unveiled plans to ramp up investment in Southeast Asia on Tuesday (5 March), setting aside US$1.3 billion to bolster trade in a region of rising economic might.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese announced the funding as leaders from the 10-nation ASEAN forum met in Melbourne for a three-day summit.

The government I lead has made it clear. More than any other region, Southeast Asia is where Australia's future lies, Albanese told a business forum on the summit's sidelines.

Following a series of bruising disputes, Australia has increasingly looked to build economic ties outside of major trading partner China.

Fuelled by years of swift and sustained population growth, the ASEAN bloc is widely seen as an emerging economic powerhouse.

With vast deposits of critical minerals and a booming appetite for electricity, Southeast Asia is also poised to play a major role in the global push for clean energy.

Australia's new funding package will provide export financing and loans geared largely towards infrastructure and renewable energy projects.

Albanese said it was "the most significant upgrade of Australia's economic engagement with ASEAN for a generation".

Climate change looms large on the agenda as leaders from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations jet into Melbourne for a "special summit" with Australian counterparts.

Southeast Asia's hunger for energy is largely fed by fossil fuels, while Australia remains one of the world's biggest exporters of gas and polluting thermal coal.

Both are increasingly eager to pivot toward renewable energy.