Jakarta (ANTARA) - The prime ministers of Japan, Australia, and Canada have expressed their commitment to strengthening cooperation with and support for ASEAN members as fellow countries in the Indo-Pacific region.

They conveyed their commitment at the ASEAN-Indo-Pacific Forum (AIPF) Leaders Talk on Wednesday.

The AIPF was held at the Mulia Hotel in Jakarta on September 5 and 6 as part of the series of events organized under the 43rd ASEAN Summit.

In his speech at the AIPF Leaders Talk, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida said that Japan will strengthen cooperation and support for ASEAN countries in six main areas, as outlined in the "Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Connectivity Initiative."

Specifically, it will promote cooperation to strengthen connectivity in transportation infrastructure development, digital connectivity, maritime cooperation, supply chain resilience, electricity connectivity, as well as human and knowledge connectivity.

For instance, touching upon transportation infrastructure, Kishida promised that Japan will support development projects in ASEAN countries, including the construction of ports, roads, railways, and airports.

Moreover, Japan will offer training for 5 thousand persons over the next three years in those six areas. It will also help enhance maritime law enforcement capabilities by training personnel at coast guard agencies and maritime police, as well as providing patrol vessels, in ASEAN countries, Kishida said.

At the conclusion of the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation, Japan will welcome ASEAN leaders in Tokyo and host a commemorative summit in December.

Besides Japan, Australia also conveyed its commitment to supporting members of the regional grouping.

Australian Prime Minister Anthony Albanese committed to providing 95.4 million Australian dollars to support a number of initiatives as part of the country's priority strategy for improving relations with the Southeast Asian region.

"Today, I announced our commitment of 95.4 million Australian dollars to support three initiatives that drive our priority strategy," he said at the AIPF Leaders Talk activity.

The funds will be channeled by Australia through three main initiatives, with the first initiative being the formation of a new agreement group in Southeast Asia to connect the private and public sectors.

Under the second initiative, Australia will start a Southeast Asian entrepreneurial exchange program to support trade between the two parties.

As part of the third initiative, Albanese informed that his administration will create an exchange program for young talents to build business relations between Australia and Southeast Asia.

Furthermore, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also expressed a commitment to strengthening relations and cooperation with ASEAN.


Screenshot: Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaking at the Leaders Talk event at the ASEAN-Indo-Pacific Forum (AIPF) in Jakarta on Wednesday (September 6, 2023). (ANTARA/Yuni Arisandy)

Trudeau, in his speech at the AIPF Leaders Talk, said that strengthening ties with ASEAN is part of the Indo-Pacific Strategy that the government of Canada had announced last year.

In addition, this year, Canada has also just launched a strategic partnership with ASEAN.

"This is important year for Canada because we officially just launched Canada-ASEAN strategy partnership ... Strengthening our ties with ASEAN is a big part of our Indo-Pacific strategy because we recognize and support ASEAN centrality in the region," Trudeau stated.

Canada will increase its long-term engagement with ASEAN and build a more active presence, he added.

"Last year (2022), Canada's exports and imports to and from ASEAN increased by 29 percent from the year prior," he pointed out.

ASEAN and Canada have been working together in several sectors, including aerospace defense, clean technology, and education.

The AIPF was held as part of the implementation of the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP).

The forum was a flagship event under Indonesia's ASEAN chairmanship. It served as a platform for the public and private sectors to share, engage, and collaborate inclusively in unlocking the potential and promoting economic growth in ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific.

The inaugural forum aimed to unlock further opportunities and build stronger connectivity between ASEAN countries and the Indo-Pacific.

ASEAN is home to some of the world's fastest-growing economies, with a growing market and productive population.

The Indo-Pacific accounts for over 60 percent of the global gross domestic product (GDP) and around half of the global trade. It also serves as a significant economic hub fostering trade, investment, and innovation.

Located in the heart of the Indo-Pacific, ASEAN is poised to become a center of economic activity in the coming decades, as highlighted by the ASEAN 2023 theme of "ASEAN Matters: Epicentrum of Growth."

The AIPF was held in parallel with the 43rd ASEAN Summit and East Asia Summit.

It featured leaders' talks, panel discussions, and talk shows with captains of industry, project showcases, and business matchings.

It also served as an inclusive platform for ASEAN member states and partners, mainly from the public and private sectors, to engage in constructive discussions, identify potential tangible projects, and promote collaboration in the Indo-Pacific.

Three major issues of the future, namely green infrastructure and resilient supply chains, digital transformation and creative economy, and sustainable and innovative financing, took center stage in the discussions and the projects showcased at the forum.

The AIPF involved government and private sector leaders, representatives from international financial institutions (IFIs), and international organizations.

The forum provided a critical opportunity for the ASEAN and the Indo-Pacific region to come together and chart a course for collaboration and growth.

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Editor: Rahmad Nasution
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