Australia to pass on IORA chair to Indonesia

Julie Bishop takes morning run before attending Indian Ocean Rim Association meetings in Padang, West Sumatra, Indonesia, 23 October 2015 Image copyright EPA
Image caption Julie Bishop took a morning run in Padang, amid haze caused by caused by fires in Indonesia

Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop will hand on the chair of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) to Indonesia at a meeting in West Sumatra.

IORA consists of 20 coastal states bordering the Indian Ocean and has been chaired by Australia since 2013.

Trade, maritime safety and fisheries management are expected to be on the agenda of Friday's meeting.

Ms Bishop has also scheduled bilateral talks with her Indonesian counterpart Retno Marsudi.

Correspondents say another topic likely to be discussed at the talks is smoke from illegal forest burning in Indonesia that has blighted the air across much of South East Asia for several weeks.

The haze generated by the fires is damaging to the environment and to people's health, and also threaten wildlife.

In a statement before leaving for the talks in Padang, Ms Bishop said Australia had made the "blue economy" the primary focus for regional co-operation - hosting workshops and funding collaborative activities in aquaculture, fisheries, ocean forecasting and climate adaption.

"Australia introduced women's economic empowerment as an IORA priority, working through the International Trade Centre in Geneva to help women who own small businesses to build their export competitiveness.

"We sponsored the IORA search and rescue agreement, in the wake of the MH370 disaster, and convened forums facilitating greater engagement by the business community in IORA. "

Ms Bishop said Friday's meeting was "an important opportunity to progress these initiatives and promote Australia's growing strategic and economic engagement in the Indian Ocean region".

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