A review of the Asean-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area agreement has recently been concluded, and Asean leaders and Australia said yesterday that they looked forward to discussions to upgrade the pact.
At the Asean-Australia informal breakfast summit, the leaders also agreed on the need to promote regional economic integration, maintain free and open markets, and resist protectionism, the chairman's statement on the meeting said.
New Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison also said in a release that his country was proud to be Asean's longest-standing dialogue partner - both sides mark 45 years of diplomatic relations next year - and will hold activities across all 10 countries.
At the summit at the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre, Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong stressed the importance of having like-minded partners such as Australia and Asean continue to work closely together, upholding the multilateral system from which countries have benefited.
This comes against the backdrop of security threats evolving beyond terrorism and violent extremism to cyber threats from entities seeking to undermine governments and divide societies. Political and trade tensions between major powers are also leading to geopolitical uncertainty and pressure on world trade, he added.
"We should continue to work together for greater trade liberalisation and economic integration in the region," said PM Lee.
He also flagged the need to strengthen resilience against emerging security challenges, particularly for cyber security, and said Asean looks forward as well to furthering cooperation with Australia on smart cities development.
The leaders also welcomed closer collaboration in a range of areas, from infrastructure development and disaster management to tertiary education.