AUSTRALIAN LINKS Philippine Signing Minister of BIMP-EAGA and Chair of the Mindanao Development Authority Secretary Luwalhati Antonino (on screen) addresses the delegation of Australia’s Northern Territory (seated below) headed by its Minister for Asian Engagement and Trade Peter Styles (center) during the 19th BIMP-EAGA Ministerial Meeting held recently at the Le Meridien Hotel in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. The four BIMP-EAGA Signing Ministers together with Minister Styles agreed to deepen cooperation between EAGA member-countries and Australia’s Northern Territory in mutually agreed areas such as tourism, trade, socio-cultural, and education initiatives.

AUSTRALIAN LINKS Philippine Signing Minister of BIMP-EAGA and Chair of the Mindanao Development Authority Secretary Luwalhati Antonino
(on screen) addresses the delegation of Australia's Northern Territory (seated below) headed by its Minister for Asian Engagement and Trade Peter
Styles (center) during the 19th BIMP-EAGA Ministerial Meeting held recently at the Le Meridien Hotel in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah. The four BIMP-EAGA
Signing Ministers together with Minister Styles agreed to deepen cooperation between EAGA member-countries and Australia's Northern Territory
in mutually agreed areas such as tourism, trade, socio-cultural, and education initiatives.

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Member countries of the Brunei Darussalam Indonesia Malaysia the Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) will reconnect their ties with Australia's Northern Territory (NT) by deepening cooperation among mutually agreed areas.

At the recently concluded BIMP-EAGA 19th Ministerial Meeting held at the Le Meridien Hotel in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah, EAGA signing ministers together with Peter Styles, NT Minister for Asian Engagement and Trade agreed to reconnect and focus cooperation on tourism, small and medium enterprises, socio-cultural, and education initiatives.

In a statement released during the meeting, the four BIMP-EAGA Signing Ministers and the NT Minister reaffirmed their "commitment to further deepen cooperation and ensure that concrete results are achieved within the year." It further said that the ministers agree to develop the Plan of Action for the BIMP-EAGA and Northern Territory Cooperation for 2016 to 2020.

The EAGA Ministers that participated in the meeting includedPehin Dato Lim Jock Seng, Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade of Brunei Darussalam; Dr. Rizal Affandi Lukman, Deputy Minister for International Economic Cooperation, Coordinating Ministry for Economic Affairs of Indonesia; Senator Dato' Sri Abdul Wahid Omar, Minister in the Prime Minister's Department of Malaysia; and Secretary Luwalhati Antonino, Chair of the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) of the Philippines.

Citing opportunities in educational exchange between EAGA and NT, the ministers agreed to explore possible collaboration between and among the academe and research institutions of the two regions. The ministers also agreed to promote cooperation among universities and technical institutions in developing academic and professional human resource.

Programs and activities that involve students and the youth which promote educational, social, sports, and cultural exchanges between EAGA and NT were also encouraged by the ministers in support to EAGA's newly adopted Socio-Cultural and Education pillar.

"We also agreed to explore the development of a student exchange program focusing on areas of commonality under the Australian Awards program," said Secretary Antonino who participated in this year's Australia Awards fellowships with 12 other government officials and private sector representatives in Cairns and Brisbane.

The Awards program is part of Australia's commitment to advancing priority foreign affairs and shared development goals. It is also designed to help strengthen partnerships and develop capacities so that individual fellows can advance key development issues in their home country and region.

In expanding trade with NT, the Ministers urged the private sector to take active role in establishing networks and cooperation with counterparts from Australia such as NT's chambers of commerce. A joint study on the two regions' trade complementarity and other future trade linkages that involve supply chains was discussed during the meeting.

The NT government has invited the BIMP-EAGA to participate in the Northern Territory Business Festival in April next year, with the possibility of holding the Darwin Dialogue during the event.

To push for a more robust tourism exchange between EAGA and NT, the ministers jointly agreed to promote and market the two regions as eco-tourism destinations. A sharing of best practices on tourism development was also agreed during the meeting.

"In recognition to the rich heritage, cultures and traditions of the BIMP-EAGA and NT, the signing ministers encourage collaboration to develop socio cultural activities that can contribute to building strong foundation for greater understanding and good neighborliness," added Antonino.

She said the ministers also agreed to cooperate and collaborate on arts, heritage, and culture to foster deeper understanding, appreciation, and preservation of culture and history of EAGA and NT.

Australia's NT offers vast opportunities for trade and business with BIMP-EAGA particularly in the oil and gas industry, agribusiness, and socio-cultural exchanges due to the two regions' proximity. In 2004, NT became EAGA's development partner, 10 years after the launch of the sub-region.

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