Malaysia will be placed at the centre of Australia’s public diplomacy efforts in 2020 in order to boost bilateral relations and Canberra’s standing within the ASEAN framework, Foreign Minister Marise Payne says.
Ms Payne on Friday announced Malaysia would be the 2020 focus country of Australia Now – Canberra’s program of public diplomacy.
The program seeks to raise the profile of Australia in its host country or region, typically chosen for its strategic significance.
The 2019 Australia Now program targeted all ASEAN member states and focused on youth engagement and development, while previous programs have been held in Japan, Germany, Brazil and Turkey.
The 2020 program will specifically be focused on Malaysia.
“A leader in ASEAN, as Malaysia is, provides with us an opportunity to focus on the country for a year,” Ms Payne told reporters in Sydney.
“We want to capitalise on all of that history and then all of the potential.
“As a public diplomacy program, it gives us an opportunity to range over a vast scope in terms of activities and interests.”
Malaysian Foreign Minister Dato Saifuddin Abdullah said he is looking forward to deepening the bilateral relationship.
“We work together very well both at the bilateral level between the two countries and also at the regional level particularly at ASEAN. Malaysia happens to be the country coordinator for the ASEAN-Australia dialogue and we are looking forward to further enhancing and strengthening our relations.”
Kuala Lumpur will also host the APEC summit in 2020.
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Ms Payne said Malaysia was Australia’s 10th-largest two-way trading partner, while 300,000 Malaysians were alumni of Australian education institutions.
Ms Payne and her Minister Saifuddin Abdullah met for bilateral talks in Sydney on Friday.
They announced agreements to improve cooperation in the film and TV production industries.
Mr Saifuddin Abdullah said Canberra had assisted the Malaysian government in parliamentary and law reform since the May 2018 election victory of the Mahathir Mohamad-led Pakatan Harapan coalition.
“There have been some collaborations in the areas of parliamentary reform, and law reform in the past, and I think we can make this one year, you know, where we can also organize activities along those lines, along democracy, freedom, human rights and the rule of law,” he said.