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Australia sends envoy to regional group


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September 18, 2008

Asean: Australia sends envoy to regional group
Australia has appointed an ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), the regional bloc's chief said Wednesday, reported Singapore’s news agency Channel News Asia.

By naming Gillian Bird as its envoy, Australia becomes the second ASEAN "dialogue partner" after the United States to appoint an ambassador to the Jakarta-based group.

"Ms Bird's appointment will strengthen and deepen the longstanding partnership between Asean and Australia," Surin said in a statement released by the Asean Secretariat.

"We look forward to working with her to bring about closer cooperation between the two sides in all fields, including trade and investment through the recently concluded Asean-Australia-New Zealand" free trade agreement, he said.

Asean, Australia and New Zealand concluded talks last month to form the bloc's most comprehensive free trade deal ever.

The 10-nation Asean has a combined population of more than 550 million people and is Australia's biggest trading partner collectively.

For Asean, Australia is its sixth-biggest trading partner and New Zealand is ninth.

China, Japan, New Zealand and Russia also planned to appoint ambassadors to ASEAN, the group said in July.

At its summit in Singapore last November, Asean signed a landmark charter committing member states to democracy and human rights, and for the first time sets out principles and rules for the group.

Under the charter, each Asean member state will also appoint a permanent representative to the Secretariat.

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