Prime Minister Julia Gillard says Australia wants to see a code of conduct for resolving disputes over the South China Sea.
Territorial disputes over the South China Sea have overshadowed the East Asia Summit in Cambodia's capital Phnom Penh, where Ms Gillard is meeting regional leaders.
She has already spoken to Japan's prime minister, Yoshihiko Noda, and China's leader, Wen Jiabao.
China has been reluctant to commit to starting formal talks on a legally binding code of conduct over the sea.
Ms Gillard says Australia does not take sides in the territorial disputes but argues they have to be resolved peacefully.
"We believe it is in everybody's interest that issues in the South China Sea are managed in a peaceful way in accordance with international law; that's Australia's perspective," she said.
"We do believe that a code of conduct would assist with making sure that any issues in the South China Sea, any conduct there, could be managed in accordance with the code, that is, that the rules and manner of responses would be predictable and knowable.
"That's Australia's position.
It's been one of long standing and it's one we'll continue to argue for." Ms Gillard says it is important to Australia that the issue is resolved.
"We are talking about an area of the world that our shipping needs to go through to take our goods to the world," she said.
During her meeting with Mr Wen, Ms Gillard presented the Chinese leader with a photo of former Labor prime minister Gough Whitlam meeting China's chairman Mao Zedong in 1973.
The gift, signed by Mr Whitlam, is to mark the 40th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two nations.
It is likely to be the last meeting between Ms Gillard and Mr Wen before China's new administration comes in next year.
Free trade Ms Gillard also says Australia will take any opportunity to push for free trade in the region.
United States president Barack Obama this morning launched the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which involves Canada, Mexico as well as countries on the western side of the Pacific.
Ms Gillard says Mr Obama is being ambitious about its scope and he wants the deal in place by October next year.
Trade Minister Craig Emerson, who is also in Phnom Penh, said Mr Obama seemed set to use his second term in office to push for the deal.
"The president of the United States was very enthusiastic and highly ambitious for the Trans-Pacific Partnership," he said.
"As a second-term president of the United States, it is clear that he wants to get this deal done and, indeed, he wants it to be a high-quality, truly liberalising agreement.
"The importance of that is that it creates more jobs and better jobs in the region and beyond." Australia is also involved in another push to remove regional trade barriers.
Ms Gillard says Australia is keen to be a part of any group that can reduce tariffs and smash trade barriers.
"It makes sense to be involved in both and to be maximising our efforts in both," she said.
Malaria During a speech at the summit, Ms Gillard promised $1 million for more work to combat malaria in the region.
She also emphasised that Australia had recently promised $100 million over four years to help cut death rates.
The leaders at the summit will make a declaration committing to a regional response to the growing threat of drug-resistant malaria.
Ms Gillard says Australia is supporting a regional alliance to fight the problem.
"Malaria is a disease which disproportionately affects the poor," she said.
"In fact, in 2010 it was estimated 42,000 people in our region of the world died from malaria.
Disturbingly, we are seeing the emergence of drug-resistant strains of malaria." Ms Gillard has also promised $50 million to crack down on human trafficking.
The money will go towards helping investigators and prosecutors catch people who are exploiting others and force them into work or prostitution.
Cambodia is one of seven South East Asian nations to benefit from the funding.
"Trafficking in persons is a dreadful evil where people are forced into exploitative labour situations, and tragically, young people in particular are forced into prostitution," Ms Gillard said.
"The program I am announcing today will enable us to work with a number of our neighbours to reduce trafficking in people."