Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Australia Posts Resident Ambassador to ASEAN

Australia announced today that it would post its first resident ambassador to ASEAN:

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop confirmed on Wednesday that Simon Merrifield would be Australia's first resident ambassador to ASEAN. His appointment has official approval from ASEAN foreign ministers, Ms Bishop said. The position is based in Jakarta and Mr Merrifield will officially take up his role on Friday. Mr Merrifield is a career diplomat with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and has spent 13 years living in south east Asia, including three in Myanmar. 

Of course, this represents another recognition of ASEAN's growing international status.  China, Korea, Japan and the United States also maintain resident ambassadors to ASEAN.  Australia's move makes India and New Zealand the only "ASEAN plus" trading partners (e.g., those countries have FTAs with ASEAN) without resident ASEAN ambassadors.  Due to its small size, New Zealand's ambassador to Indonesia may justifiably handle double duty to ASEAN, which many countries do.  However, India's  absence may also be due to resource constraints, which is more embarassing for a country with ambitions to play a major role in ASEAN.