Australia promises more aid to Asean, seeks stronger relations

Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison speaking during the virtual Asean-Australia summit from Canberra on Oct 27, 2021. - AFP

CANBERRA (Reuters): Australia said on Wednesday (Oct 27) it will donate at least 10 million more Covid-19 vaccines and offer A$124 million (US$92.6 million) in financial aid to South-East Asia, as Canberra seeks to strengthen ties with countries in the region.

Speaking at an online summit with leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Prime Minister Scott Morrison pressed the case for a proposed comprehensive strategic partnership agreement with the 10-member bloc.

"Asean is at the centre of the Indo-Pacific and we back this both through our words and our actions," Morrison told Asean leaders.

Australia's push for a stronger relationship with Asean comes amid growing concerns about China's activities and influence in the Asia-Pacific region.

Morrison said a comprehensive strategic partnership would be more than just a "label", urging Asean to consider positively the proposal for enhanced ties.

"We will back it with substance that positions our partnership to address complex problems in the future," Morrison said.

Morrison highlighted problems such as Covid-19, transnational crime and energy security, as he said Canberra will offer another A$124 million to fund projects to address these issues.

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