Alexander Downer has, by now, learned that Australia has been locked out of joining a vast new ASEAN nations free trade and energy union. And China demanded Australia be excluded.
Downer is at the East Asia Summit, where he laughingly claimed he would be trying to get a last minute climate change related 'breakthrough agreement' from developing countries like China, Indonesia, Vietnam and The Philippines. Good luck with that.
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China, Japan and South Korea agreed to work with the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations to open up regional trade, dropping a plan to include India, Australia and New Zealand.This will be Downer's last trip as foreign minister of Australia, barring a bizarre upset at the weekend elections.
Leaders from the 13 nations said the so-called Asean Plus Three group ``would remain the main vehicle toward the long- term goal of building'' an Asian regional community, according to a statement released after a meeting today. The document makes no mention of the other three nations that will also attend tomorrow's East Asia Summit in Singapore.
Asean secretary general Ong Keng Yong earlier this year insisted that India, Australia and New Zealand would be included in plans to establish a free-trade zone covering all 16 nations who participate in the East Asia Summit. Today's statement recognizes China's demand that only Asean Plus Three countries should be included in the community.
Will there be time enough left for him to remind us all how great Australia's relationship is with China and East Asia before he takes a board gig with a defence contractor, or joins the NeoCon talk circuit in the United States?