South East Asian heads of state descend on Sydney for ASEAN summit

Australian Defence Force

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull will welcome leaders from nine of the 10 Asean nations, who will head here from today, including Cambodian strongman Hun Sen and Myanmar's under-fire leader Aung San Suu Kyi. "We must face the world, not turn from it; embrace free trade, not retreat from it", he added.

The anti-protectionism comments come as market sentiment sours with signs of a looming trade war between the United States, China and Europe over U.S. President Donald Trump's plans to raise tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, and possibly up to $60 billion worth of Chinese imports, targeting technology and telecommunications sectors.

The summit which will be held at the International Convention Centre will also be attended by ministers, CEOs and small and medium entrepreneurs from Australia and ASEAN member states.

The two countries hope to sign a free trade deal on the sidelines of the summit after failing to meet a deadline late past year, although negotiations are ongoing.

Minister Ryacudu said he has gone around to ASEAN defence ministers so that each country that faces the East Sea patrols around 230 kilometres.

"Australia's failure to publicly raise human rights concerns at the summit would not only provide a propaganda coup to ASEAN's most abusive leaders: it would embolden all the region's leaders contemplating major crackdowns, jailing journalists, or dismantling democratic institutions", Human Rights Watch's Australian director Elaine Pearson said in a statement.

"There is a range of different perspectives and responses to this shift in the balance among different ASEAN countries".

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Lee told reporters he had agreed in talks with Turnbull on Friday that the partnership should be negotiated by this year.

Australia's stepped up engagement with ASEAN is part of a strategy to look beyond the United States to seek frameworks to bolster security, stability and prosperity in the region, they said.

"The human rights crisis in Rakhine State, and Myanmar as a whole, must be top of the agenda this weekend in Sydney".

Media reports here said that a joint communique will be issued after the ASEAN-Australia summit which would include statements supporting freedom of navigation and resolving disputes through global law.

Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace laureate, has been vehemently condemned by human rights activists for failing to take action amid a military crackdown on her country's minority Rohingya Muslims. Hun Sen has reacted aggressively to such criticism, threatening to hunt down and beat anyone who protests against him in Sydney.

Gomez also urged Asean leaders to pressure Australia to "take their obligations under worldwide law seriously and respect the human rights of refugee" on refugee management and policies.

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop said she will raise human rights concerns with Myanmar and Cambodian leaders.

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