The development is aimed at boosting high quality infrastructure projects in the region.
In a strategic development aimed at countering China’s growing influence in the region, Julie Bishop, Australia’s Foreign Minister stated the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and Australia have agreed to establish a regional infrastructure pipeline, which “will develop a pipeline of high-quality infrastructure projects, to attract private and public investment”.
Australia, India, Japan and the United States have been seeking to establish a regional alternative to China’s Belt and Road scheme, stated a report in the Australian Financial Review in February 2018 citing a senior U.S. official.
On Monday, a spokeswoman for Bishop stated the agreement was purely an ASEAN initiative and “not to counter China”.
Shortly after the release of this communique, Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong told a news conference, “This is a security and stability question in Southeast Asia which will affect all ASEAN countries if it goes wrong”.
Incidentally, Australia hosted the ASEAN meeting despite being a non-member of the 10-nation bloc.
A joint statement by Australia and ASEAN also called for “self-restraint” in the South China Sea, where China has been aggressively expanding irking ASEAN members who also have territorial claims in the busy waterway.