Turnbull unveils $30m fund for Asean smart cities

Knowledge bank of sustainable urban planning ideas to be shared between South-east Asia, Australia

Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull considers Singapore an outstanding example of urban planning. PHOTO: REUTERS

SYDNEY • Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull has announced an A$30 million (S$30.5 million) investment fund to support "smart cities" in South-east Asian countries, as he hosts Asean leaders for a special summit in Sydney.

The initiative will set up a knowledge bank of sustainable urban planning ideas to be shared between Asean and Australia.

Asean countries tend to see fast growth in smart city business, as populations in the big cities are increasing quickly, with high demand for security technology and solutions to traffic congestion problems.

Mr Turnbull made the announcement at the CEO Forum yesterday.

Modern cities are applying many advanced technologies like touchscreen, e-commerce and digital currencies designed to be compatible in different countries, Mr Turnbull was cited by SBS, a national public television network in Australia, as saying. He considers Singapore an outstanding example of urban planning.

At the forum held during the Asean-Australia Special Summit in Sydney, Mr Turnbull also expressed hope that Indonesia would one day join the revamped Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), popularly known as TPP-11.

The club is open to new members, the 11 countries in the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) had underlined.

The 11 CPTPP members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore and Vietnam.

They signed the revamped deal on March 8, aimed at slashing tariffs.

"We try to keep the train on the track and of course it is now open for others to join.

"Indonesia perhaps, in the future, Mr President, is there," Mr Turnbull said, alongside Indonesian President Joko Widodo.

The Australian leader said other countries were interested in joining the TPP, including Britain, even though it is not located in the Pacific region. "The UK expressed a strong interest in joining the TPP after it exited the European Union," The Jakarta Post yesterday cited Mr Turnbull as saying.

Mr Joko has expressed his intention to join the TPP, but also made clear that Indonesia was in no hurry to join the deal, the Post reported.

"Caution is of the utmost importance in calculating this. Everything must be calculated for the sake of national interests. It is all still in the process," Mr Joko had said in the United States in 2016. He was there to attend a summit held by then US President Barack Obama with Asean leaders.

Indonesia has yet to comment on the trade deal after the 11 countries signed the CPTPP. Indonesia and Australia had hoped to sign a free trade deal on the sidelines of the current summit after failing to meet a deadline late last year. But talks are ongoing and there is no timeframe on sealing the pact.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on March 18, 2018, with the headline Turnbull unveils $30m fund for Asean smart cities. Subscribe