CEO Forum, Keynote Address - ASEAN-Australia Special Summit Meeting, Sydney

March 17, 2018



Thank you very much Laura. We meet here today on the lands of the Gadigal people of the Eora nation and on behalf of us all I pay my respects and respects from all of us here to their elders past and present.

To my very good friend, President of Indonesia, His Excellency Joko Widodo, ASEAN Secretary-General His Excellency Dato Lim Jock Hoi, honoured guests, ladies and gentlemen. So many of my Ministers are here today and I know that some great meetings have been going on in the course of this Summit.  

I want to thank Mark Vassella, the Chief Executive of BlueScope, where is Mark? There he is, yes, we’ve had an interesting time lately. Chua Sock Koong, from Singapore, good to see you again, CEO of Singtel, for taking on important roles as rapporteurs for the Business Summit.

I also want to thank all the CEO Forum partners, the Australian Industry Group, the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Business Council Australia, the Export Council of Australia and welcome ASEAN Ministers and as I noted earlier, my own ministerial colleagues. And of course, more Chief Executives from near and far. Welcome to you all.

I’m delighted to host this CEO Forum as part of this once-in-a-generation ASEAN–Australia Business Summit.

It’s an exciting opportunity to drive greater prosperity for the ASEAN region both for its businesses and of course, its people.

Australia and our ASEAN neighbours share a commitment to open markets and free trade. To stability and to security.

ASEAN is absolutely at the centre of that. The centrality of ASEAN for the future security, prosperity and stability of our region, is fundamental. We are recognising that and supporting that with this special Summit. I want to thank you all again for being here.

Now, over the past forty years, our region has experienced the greatest burst of economic growth and human advancement the world has ever seen.

There is no sign of that slowing.

The IMF forecasts that over the next five years, six of ASEAN’s economies will grow faster than China and every single one of ASEAN’s economies will grow faster than both the United States and the European Union.

In market terms, this means that the number of middle-class households in the ASEAN region will more than quadruple, exceeding 160 million by 2030.

In other words, there are opportunities ahead for Australian companies to invest in and export to the ASEAN region and for ASEAN companies to do the same.

Together, we can seize those opportunities.

But to do so, governments and business must remain committed to the rules-based order and be fierce advocates, persuasive advocates above all, for free and open trade.

Open markets do not happen by themselves. They require the support and commitment of governments and business leaders like yourselves. That’s why I’ve invited you all here today, our business leaders here today, because the success of a resilient and innovative ASEAN region hinges on your contribution. Your participation today will improve our knowledge of opportunities in our markets and how we can secure them. We need the practical feedback from you Chua Sock Koong and Mark, we need to hear back from you about how we can do our job better. You know, people very rarely tell politicians how they can improve their work.


So we’re looking forward to some frank feedback, we really are. The President and I both came into politics from business and we both understand the importance of business, the important of enterprise. We understand, each of us, through our own lives, the importance of enterprise and we know that governments can set great policies and great legislation, but ultimately the critical feedback and insights come from you. So that’s vital.

So, we’ve created – as all of the Australians here know and indeed many of our visitors know too – we’ve seen 403,000 jobs created in Australia in the last year, the most in our history. We’ve had the longest monthly run of jobs growth, again, in our history. We recognise and we claim that that is in no small measure due to the policies of our Government. But we know that above all it is due to the enterprise and the commitment, the courage and the determination of Australian businesses.

So it is right across the region.

So we have, for our part, we have bilateral free trade agreements with our ASEAN partners Malaysia, Thailand and Singapore and of course with ASEAN through the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand FTA. It’s an agreement widely understood to be ASEAN’s most comprehensive FTA. Just yesterday, I announced that Australia and ASEAN will be working together to develop international standards to promote digital trade. We’re currently negotiating a comprehensive economic partnership agreement with Indonesia and with my Ministers we’ve just come from a meeting with the President and his Ministers, discussing precisely that and our determination to land that important agreement.

We’re also a party to the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership negotiations, the RCEP negotiations, which would bring together 10 of our top 15 trading partners and cover almost half the world’s population.

And then, of course, there’s the TPP-11, a landmark deal signed just a few weeks ago, that opens the door to export opportunities in markets worth almost $14 trillion. It provides a level playing field for non-state companies, updates the rules for the digital world and ensures greater transparency and stronger rule of law in a world that is too often short of both.

It’s a win for all nations in the Indo–Pacific and indeed it’s a win for nations all around the world. Because, you know, Mr President we don’t often think of the United Kingdom as being a Pacific nation, but the United Kingdom has expressed strong interest in joining the TPP after they’ve exited the European Union. It is a great tribute, it is it’s a fact, the reality is that by keeping the TPP going, it’s a great credit to all the countries involved. I particularly recognise the Prime Minister of Japan, Shinzo Abe for that, but all the TPP countries including those in ASEAN. To keep that going, that has provided a live option for others to join, Indonesia perhaps in the future, Mr President. It’s there, we kept the train of the tracks and of course it’s now open for others to join.

Now, I’ve invited a number of education and training stakeholders today and I’ve done so deliberately. We need business and education to be working more closely; education, after all, is one of our most important exports. Australian education providers are building on their long history of delivering into ASEAN countries and cooperating with them.

They are successful partnerships and there’s much to learn from these examples.

Site Group International is a case in point. Site's flagship investment is a 30-hectare facility in the Philippines, a campus that can support more than 1,000 students at a time. Site's first customer in the Philippines was Shell, which engaged Site to train local workers in its own global health and safety standards. Over two years, Site has trained more than 7,000 Shell employees.

The university sector is breaking down borders too. For example, in 2016 around 100,000 students from ASEAN were enrolled to study in Australia, accounting for one-fifth of Australia’s international students. We welcome the diversity and knowledge that they bring and we met some of them today, Mr President, just a little while ago.

Of course, infrastructure is another area in which Australian companies are supporting ASEAN countries and will continue to do so. Again the President and I were talking about that just a few minutes ago. Over the next two decades, ASEAN countries will need around $4.3 trillion of infrastructure investment from bridges and highways, to ports and railways. Australian companies stand ready. They’re ready to help build the ASEAN cities of the future and to share new building technologies, expertise and ideas.

And we have much to learn as well. We would do well to draw lessons from ASEAN particularly when it comes to smart city planning. Very important as we know, we’re learning that lesson as everyone here knows, you see what we’ve announced here in Sydney for the Western Sydney City Deal. It’s important to plan the infrastructure and the railway before the development as opposed to doing it in the reverse order which has often been the case.

So I am really pleased to announce today that the ASEAN–Australia Smart and Sustainable Cities initiative ― a $30 million investment - for Australia to work with ASEAN member states to develop city systems in a smart and sustainable way. It will enable us to gather information and develop a knowledge base that supports a sustainable urbanization – we all want to have liveable cities - all of which will be shared between Australia and ASEAN member states.

The reality is, we can learn – as we were discussing yesterday with Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong of Singapore – we learn from each other’s successes and from each other’s mistakes. It’s very important to work very closely together.

So it’s not only education and cities, of course. There are so many areas where ASEAN and Australia are natural partners. Agri-food supply chain logistics; tourism and aviation; digital transformation in services – again, a very big agenda with Indonesia - advanced manufacturing and industry 4.0; future energy supply chains. All are ripe with potential for closer collaboration and these are all areas you will be discussing after lunch today. Again, Mark and Chua Sock Koong we look forward to hearing your ideas.

After an ASEAN Heads of Government meeting in 1977, the former Australian Prime Minister Malcolm Fraser said our relationship required “continuing and special attention”. Today, that ‘special attention’ means thinking deeply about who we are, where we are going and how we’re going to get there.

We’ve done that recently in our Foreign Policy White Paper which I commend to you all. It underlines our commitment to increasing Australia's efforts to ensure we are a leading security, economic and development partner for Southeast Asia.

What we have in the ASEAN region is an unprecedented opportunity and it’s one we must seize together.

So, today I’m asking you to continue to be strong advocates and persuasive ones, for open markets and free trade.

To be bold, to think big, and open your arms to opportunities and your neighbours.

That’s how we’ll create greater prosperity now and in the future, our children and grandchildren are depending on it.

Thank you very much.


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