Australia's first Jakarta-resident Ambassador to ASEAN accredited

Australia's first resident Ambassador to the Association of South East Asian Nations, Mr Simon Merrifield, has taken up his position in Jakarta, the seat of the regional body's secretariat.

ASEAN Secretary-General,  Mr Le Luong Minh, welcomed the accreditation of Ambassador Merrifield and expressed appreciation to Australia for its steadfast assistance to ASEAN Community building efforts, especially in the fields of education, connectivity, disaster management, combating trafficking in persons and counter-terrorism.

He also stressed the importance of finalising the new ASEAN-Australia Plan of Action for the period 2014-2018, adding that good preparations must be made to celebrate the 40th Anniversary of ASEAN-Australia Dialogue Relations in 2014.

ASEAN, now a significant ten-nation group, is moving to a single market in 2015 and each member state
Ambassador Simon Merrifield
now has a Permanent Representative to ASEAN with the rank of Ambassador based in Jakarta. Forming the Committee of Permanent Representatives to ASEAN (CPR), the representatives support the work of the ASEAN community councils and ASEAN sectoral ministerial bodies, coordinate with ASEAN National Secretariats, liaise with the Secretary-General of ASEAN and the ASEAN Secretariat on all subjects relevant to its work and facilitate ASEAN cooperation with external partners.

This new diplomatic space has attracted an increasing number of major countries appointing Jakarta-resident Ambassadors separate from their Ambassadors to Indonesia.

Japan appointed Ambassador Takio Yamada in 2010 followed by the United States’ Ambassador David L. Carden in 2011, and China’s Ambassador Yang Xiuping and the Republic of Korea’s Ambassador Baek Seong-taek in 2012. India and New Zealand are also reportedly preparing to designate resident Ambassadors to ASEAN.

Mr Merrifield, is a senior career officer with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. Until June 2013 he held the position of DFAT Senior Spokesman and Head of Parliamentary and Media Branch. He has extensive experience in ASEAN countries having served as Deputy High Commissioner to Malaysia, First Secretary, Jakarta and Second Secretary, Manila. He has lived in South-East Asia for 13 years and speaks Indonesian and Malay.

The ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement, in force since 2010, provides the framework for Australia's A$92 billion two-way trade in goods and services with ASEAN countries (2012). Australia is also involved with ASEAN in the negotiations for a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership  which also includes Korea, Japan, China, India, and New Zealand.