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Prime Minister of Malaysia.



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PRIME MINISTER

PRIME MINISTER OF MALAYSIA

During very constructive and wide ranging discussions today with my Malaysian counterpart, Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, we reaffirmed the longstanding and cooperative links between our two countries, including close ties in education, trade, security and people-to-people exchanges. We welcomed the opportunity to build on these links by strengthening our dialogue and cooperation, particularly at the political level.

Free Trade Agreement, Economic and Sectoral Cooperation

Prime Minister Abdullah and I announced the agreement to commence negotiations on an Australia-Malaysia Free Trade Agreement and welcomed the signing of the Statement of Intent by the Minister for Trade, the Hon Mark Vaile MP, and his Malaysian counterpart, Dato’ Seri Rafidah Aziz. The Free Trade Agreement will build on the already substantial economic relationship between the two countries. Malaysia is Australia’s ninth largest trading partner with two-way goods and services trade valued at nearly $10 billion in 2004.

We encouraged business to explore opportunities for increased two-way investment. We welcomed the proposed $400 million investment in Malaysia by Australian company Grange Resources and acknowledge Malaysia’s decision to award Australia’s Macquarie Group a licence to establish stockbroking operations in Malaysia. Malaysian investment in Australia has also continued to grow, with significant scope for enhanced business opportunities in both directions.

We noted that that Mr Vaile was expected to travel to Malaysia in July leading a business delegation for the 12th Australia-Malaysia Joint Trade Committee (JTC). We reaffirmed the importance of the JTC in providing an important mechanism to advance trade and investment interests to the benefit of both countries.

We also welcomed the signing by Australian Minister for Communications, Information Technology and the Arts, Senator the Hon Helen Coonan and Malaysian Minister of Science, Technology and Innovation, Dato Dr Jamaluddin Jarjis of a Statement of Intent to increase cooperation on Information and Communications Technology (ICT) through a Memorandum of Understanding. The proposed MoU would reinforce the already strong relationship between the two countries in ICT and deepen cooperation at the government-to-government and business levels.

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Education Links

My discussions with Prime Minister Abdullah highlighted the longstanding education links between us, dating back to the Colombo Plan in the 1950s. Around 200,000 Malaysians are alumni of Australian education institutions.

Today, Australia leads in the provision of international education to Malaysian students, including three Australian universities with branch campuses in Malaysia - Monash, Curtin and Swinburne. We looked forward to building on these education links for the benefit of both countries noting the recent visit to Australia by the Malaysian Higher Education Minister, the Hon Dato’ Dr Shafie Salleh, and the forthcoming visit to Malaysia by the Australian Minister for Education, Science and Training, the Hon Dr Brendan Nelson MP. Cooperation will also be strengthened through the University of Melbourne’s Alumni Scholarship Programme, of which the Malaysian Prime Minister is patron.

Defence and Security Cooperation

Both Prime Minister Abdullah and I reaffirmed the strong commitment of both countries to the fight against terrorism and recognised the substantial cooperation between us in important areas such as border security, law enforcement, anti-money laundering, intelligence sharing and defence. Both sides look forward to building on this cooperation, including through participation in initiatives such as the South-East Asia Regional Centre for Counter-Terrorism based in Kuala Lumpur. We welcomed the proposal by Australia’s Austrac to provide training in combating financing of terrorism and money laundering through the Centre later this year.

I expressed thanks to Prime Minister Abdullah for the valuable cooperation between Australia and Malaysia in providing relief to the people of Indonesia following the Indian Ocean tsunami and devastation of Aceh, particularly through access to the Royal Malaysian Armed Forces base at Butterworth.

We noted the longstanding, close nature of defence ties both through the Malaysia Australia Joint Defence Program (MAJDP) and the Five Power Defence Arrangements (FPDA) and reaffirmed the momentum recently made within the FPDA to focus on addressing non-conventional security threats facing the region, including global terrorism, piracy, EEZ protection, disaster relief, drugs trafficking and peacekeeping.

We also welcomed the decision by Foreign Ministers to establish a bilateral security dialogue with the inaugural meeting expected to take place soon.

Regional Cooperation

Prime Minister Abdullah and I discussed our shared interests in a stable and prosperous region. Australia and Malaysia will continue to cooperate closely as neighbours in regional efforts to promote security and combat transnational crime, including through the ASEAN Regional Forum, under the auspices of the ASEAN-Australia MOU on counter-terrorism and as partners in the Bali Process on People Smuggling people. On the economic front, we reaffirmed the importance we attached to APEC and the early conclusion of a high-quality Free Trade Agreement between ASEAN and Australia and New Zealand.

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People-to People Ties - Australia-Malaysia Institute

We reaffirmed the fundamental importance of active people-to-people interaction between the two countries. These have been a solid foundation of the relationship over many decades. To build on this we encouraged members of our cabinets, young political and community leaders as well as the media, professionals and others in the community to intensify their exchanges with counterparts in the other country. We expressed support for continued high-level visits

between the two countries.

I am pleased that the Minister for Foreign Affairs, the Hon Alexander Downer MP will today announce the formal launch of the Australia-Malaysia Institute which will enhance Australia’s people-to-people and institutional links with Malaysia with a focus on

programmes of exchanges.

In recognition of the long-standing links between the two countries, I was also pleased to present to Prime Minister Abdullah the publication Australia and the Formation of Malaysia 1961-66 produced by the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade which documents Australia’s commitment to the establishment of Malaysia and the defence of its territorial integrity.

Canberra

7 April 2005