Simon Merrifield is a senior career diplomat with the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT). He spent three years living in Myanmar, and served in diplomatic postings in Kuala Lumpur, Manila, and Jakarta. Until June 2013, Merrifield was a senior spokesperson for DFAT. He speaks Malaysian and Indonesia.
Why is he in the news?
On September 18, Foreign Minister Julie Bishop announced that Merrifield would serve as Australia’s first-ever resident ambassador to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Secretariat in Jakarta. He took up the post two days later, and presented his credentials to ASEAN secretary-general Le Luong Minh on October 1.
What can we expect from him?
Australia’s establishment of a permanent mission to ASEAN is a welcome step in its relations with Southeast Asia, which is home to over 600 million people and some of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Australia is ASEAN’s oldest dialogue partner and will celebrate 60 years of relations with the grouping next year. It becomes the fifth country to post a resident ambassador to the secretariat, following Japan, the United States, China, and South Korea, in that order.
Merrifield will be responsible for deepening political and economic ties between Canberra and the regional organization, including charting the next steps for the ASEAN-Australia Comprehensive Partnership. He will also oversee the implementation of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Area, which aims to increase economic cooperation and reduce tariffs between the 12 members.