Association of Southeast Asian Nations

Flag Emblem
Motto: "One Vision, One Identity, One Community"[1]
Anthem: "The ASEAN Way"
6°12′S 106°49′E / 6.200°S 106.817°E / -6.200; 106.817
Working language English[2]
Official languages
of contracting states
   Chairman Philippines Rodrigo Duterte
   Secretary General Vietnam Le Luong Minh[3]
   Bangkok Declaration 8 August 1967 
   Charter 16 December 2008 
   Total 4,435,618[4] km2
1,712,602 sq mi
   2013 estimate 625 million[4]
   Density 141/km2
365/sq mi
GDP (PPP) estimate
   Total US$7.6 trillion[5]
   Per capita US$12,160[5]
GDP (nominal) 2015 estimate
   Total US$2.8 trillion[5]
   Per capita US$4,160[5]
HDI (2014)Increase 0.673b
Time zone ASEAN (UTC+6:30 to +9)
a. Address: Jalan Sisingamangaraja No.70A, South Jakarta.[6]
b. Calculated using UNDP data from member states.
ASEAN members' flags in Jakarta

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations[7] (ASEAN /ˈɑːsi.ɑːn/ AH-see-ahn,[8] /ˈɑːzi.ɑːn/ AH-zee-ahn)[9][10] is a regional organisation comprising ten Southeast Asian states which promotes intergovernmental cooperation and facilitates economic integration amongst its members. Since its formation on August 8, 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand,[11] the organisation's membership has expanded to include Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar (Burma), and Vietnam. Its principal aims include accelerating economic growth, social progress, and sociocultural evolution among its members, alongside the protection of regional stability and the provision of a mechanism for member countries to resolve differences peacefully.[12][13]

ASEAN covers a land area of 4.4 million square kilometres, 3% of the total land area of Earth. ASEAN territorial waters cover an area about three times larger than its land counterpart. Member countries have a combined population of approximately 625 million people, 8.8% of the world's population. In 2015, the organisation's combined nominal GDP had grown to more than US$2.8 trillion. If ASEAN were a single entity, it would rank as the sixth largest economy in the world, behind the USA, China, Japan, Germany and the UK.[5] ASEAN shares land borders with India, China, Bangladesh, East Timor, and Papua New Guinea, and maritime borders with India, China, and Australia. Both East Timor and Papua New Guinea are backed by certain ASEAN members for their membership in the organization.


As set out in the ASEAN Declaration, the aims and purposes of ASEAN are:[14]


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ASEAN was preceded by an organization formed in 1961 called the Association of Southeast Asia (ASA), a group consisting of the Philippines, Malaysia, and Thailand. ASEAN itself was created on 8 August 1967, when the foreign ministers of five countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand, signed the ASEAN Declaration, more commonly known as the Bangkok Declaration.

The creation of ASEAN was motivated by a common fear of communism,[16] and a thirst for economic development.

ASEAN grew when Brunei Darussalam became its sixth member on 7 January 1984, barely a week after gaining independence.[17]

Expansion and further integration

Maldives Bangladesh Bhutan Nepal Sri Lanka India Myanmar Thailand Cambodia Laos Vietnam Brunei Indonesia Malaysia Philippines Singapore Afghanistan Pakistan Turkmenistan Iran Azerbaijan Kazakhstan Kyrgyzstan Tajikistan Uzbekistan China Russia Turkey Japan Mongolia South Korea Bahrain Kuwait Oman Qatar Saudi Arabia United Arab Emirates South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation Mekong–Ganga Cooperation Association of Southeast Asian Nations Shanghai Cooperation Organisation Turkic Council Economic Cooperation Organization Gulf Cooperation Council Asia Cooperation Dialogue
A clickable Euler diagram showing the relationships between various Asian regional organisations vde

ASEAN achieved greater cohesion in the mid-1970s following the changed balance of power in Southeast Asia after the end of the Vietnam War. The region's dynamic economic growth during the 1970s strengthened the organization, enabling ASEAN to adopt a unified response to Vietnam's invasion of Cambodia in 1979. ASEAN's first summit meeting, held in Bali, Indonesia in 1976, resulted in an agreement on several industrial projects and the signing of a Treaty of Amity and Cooperation, and a Declaration of Concord. The end of the Cold War between the United States and the Soviet Union at the end of the 1980s allowed ASEAN countries to exercise greater political independence in the region, and in the 1990s ASEAN emerged as a leading voice on regional trade and security issues.[18]

On 28 July 1995, Vietnam became ASEAN's seventh member.[19] Laos and Myanmar (Burma) joined two years later on 23 July 1997.[20] Cambodia was to have joined at the same time as Laos and Burma, but its entry was delayed due to the country's internal political struggle. It later joined on 30 April 1999, following the stabilization of its government.[20][21]

In 1990, Malaysia proposed the creation of an East Asia Economic Caucus[22] composed of the members of ASEAN as well as the People's Republic of China, Japan, and South Korea, with the intention of counterbalancing the growing influence of the United States in Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) and in the Asian region as a whole.[23][24] However, the proposal failed because of heavy opposition from the US and Japan.[23][25] Member states continued to work for further integration, and ASEAN Plus Three was created in 1997.

In 1992, the Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) scheme was adopted as a schedule for phasing out tariffs with the goal to increase the "region's competitive advantage as a production base geared for the world market". This law would act as the framework for the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA). AFTA is an agreement by member nations concerning local manufacturing in ASEAN countries. The AFTA agreement was signed on 28 January 1992 in Singapore.[26]

After the East Asian Financial Crisis of 1997, a revival of the Malaysian proposal, known as the Chiang Mai Initiative, was put forward in Chiang Mai, Thailand. It called for better integration of the economies of ASEAN as well as the ASEAN Plus Three countries, China, Japan, and South Korea.

The bloc also focused on peace and stability in the region. On 15 December 1995, the Southeast Asian Nuclear-Weapon-Free Zone Treaty was signed with the intention of turning Southeast Asia into a nuclear-weapon-free zone. The treaty took effect on 28 March 1997 after all but one of the member states had ratified it. It became fully effective on 21 June 2001 after the Philippines ratified it, effectively banning all nuclear weapons in the region.[27]


Main article: ASEAN Charter
The Secretariat of ASEAN at Jalan Sisingamangaraja No.70A, South Jakarta, Indonesia

On 15 December 2008, the members of ASEAN met in the Indonesian capital of Jakarta to launch a charter, signed in November 2007, with the aim of moving closer to "an EU-style community".[28] The charter turned ASEAN into a legal entity and aimed to create a single free-trade area for the region encompassing 500 million people. President of Indonesia Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono stated: "This is a momentous development when ASEAN is consolidating, integrating, and transforming itself into a community. It is achieved while ASEAN seeks a more vigorous role in Asian and global affairs at a time when the international system is experiencing a seismic shift". Referring to climate change and economic upheaval, he concluded: "Southeast Asia is no longer the bitterly divided, war-torn region it was in the 1960s and 1970s".

The 2008 global financial crisis was seen as being a threat to the goals envisioned by the charter,[29] and also set forth the idea of a proposed human rights body to be discussed at a future summit in February 2009. This proposition caused controversy, as the body would not have the power to impose sanctions or punish countries which violated citizens' rights and would therefore be limited in effectiveness.[30] The body was established later in 2009 as the ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR). In November 2012, the commission adopted the ASEAN Human Rights Declaration.[31]


The 'ASEAN Way' refers to a methodology or approach to solving issues that respects the cultural norms of Southeast Asia. Masilamani and Peterson summarise it as:

A working process or style that is informal and personal. Policymakers constantly utilize compromise, consensus, and consultation in the informal decision-making process... it above all prioritizes a consensus-based, non-conflictual way of addressing problems. Quiet diplomacy allows ASEAN leaders to communicate without bringing the discussions into the public view. Members avoid embarrassment that may lead to further conflict.[32]

It has been said that the merits of the ASEAN Way might "be usefully applied to global conflict management". But this can be only applied in ASEAN regional countries because due to living way style of these people do not need to see in eye to eye for their conflicts to sort out. They do all this by only respect for each other. contradictory to it, this way is not acceptable for entire world major conflicts. because of different mindset and level of tension [33]:pp113-118

Critics object claiming that the ASEAN Way's emphasis on consultation, consensus, and non-interference, forces the organisation to adopt only those policies which satisfy the lowest common denominator. Decision making by consensus requires members to see eye-to-eye before ASEAN can move forward on an issue. Members may not have a common conception of the meaning of the ASEAN Way. Myanmar, Cambodia, and Laos emphasise non-interference while older member countries focus on co-operation and co-ordination. These differences hinder efforts to find common solutions to particular issues, but also make it difficult to determine when collective action is appropriate in a given situation.[34]:161-163

ASEAN Plus Three

The leaders of each country felt the need to further integrate the nations in the region. Beginning in 1997, the bloc started creating organisations with the intention of achieving this goal. "ASEAN Plus Three" was the first of these and was created to improve existing ties with the People's Republic of China, Japan, and South Korea. This was followed by the even larger East Asia Summit (EAS), which included ASEAN Plus Three countries as well as India, Australia, New Zealand, the United States, and Russia. This new group acted as a prerequisite for the planned East Asia Community which was supposedly patterned after the now-defunct European Community. The ASEAN Eminent Persons Group was created to study the possible successes and failures of this policy as well as the possibility of drafting an ASEAN Charter.

In 2006, ASEAN was given observer status at the United Nations General Assembly.[35] In response, the organisation awarded the status of "dialogue partner" to the UN.[36]

ASEAN Plus Six

Asean became Asean Plus Six with additional countries: Australia, New Zealand and India. And nowadays, there are a new free trade area and it is called as Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), based on 16 countries of ASEAN plus six. RCEP allows the member to protect local sectors and gives more times to comply the aim for developed country members.[37]


Selection of GDP PPP data (top 10 countries and blocks) in no particular order


ASEAN is built on three pillars:[7] the ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC),[38] the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC),[39] and the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC).[40]

ASEAN sought economic integration by creating the AEC by the end of 2015. This established a common market.[41] The average economic growth of ASEAN's member nations during 1989–2009 was between 3.8% and 7%. This economic growth was greater than the average growth of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), which was 2.8%.[42]

The ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA), which was established on 28 January 1992,[26] includes a Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) to promote the free flow of goods between member states.[41] When the AFTA agreement was originally signed, ASEAN had only six members: Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Vietnam joined in 1995, Laos and Burma in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999. The newcomers have not fully met AFTA's obligations, but they are officially considered part of the AFTA as they were required to sign the agreement upon entry into ASEAN, and were given longer time frames in which to meet AFTA's tariff reduction obligations.[43]

The next steps are to create a: single market and production base, a competitive economic region, a region of equitable economic development, and a region that is fully integrated into the global economy.

Since 2007, ASEAN countries have gradually lowered their import duties to member nations. The target is zero import duties by 2016.[44]

In February 2016, President Obama initiated the inaugural US-ASEAN Summit at Sunnylands for closer engagement with ASEAN, as China's economic and trade growth have dimmed. The territorial disputes in the South China Sea were also discussed. However, in a final joint statement, the Sunnylands Declaration did not allude to the South China Sea by name, instead calling for: "respect for each nation's sovereignty and for international law". Analysts believe the wording indicated divides within the group on how to respond to China's maritime strategy.[45][46]

ASEAN countries have many economic zones (industrial parks, eco-industrial parks, special economic zones, technology parks, and innovation districts). UNIDO Viet Nam (United Nations Industrial Development Organization) has compiled in 2015 a list of economic zones in the ASEAN Economic Community in a report titled "Economic Zones in the ASEAN" written by Arnault Morisson.

Internal market

By the end of 2015, ASEAN plans to establish a common market based upon the four freedoms. The single market will ensure the free flow of goods, services, skilled labour, and capital.

Until the end of 2010, intra-ASEAN trade was still low. Trade involved mainly exports to countries outside the region, with the exception of Laos and Myanmar, whose foreign trade was ASEAN-oriented, with 80% and 50% respectively of their exports going to other ASEAN countries.[47]

In 2009, realised foreign direct investment (FDI) was US$37.9 billion and increased two-fold in 2010 to US$75.8 billion. 22% of FDI came from the European Union, followed by ASEAN countries (16%), and by Japan and the USA.

The ASEAN Framework Agreement on Trade in Services (AFAS) was adopted at the ASEAN Summit in Bangkok in December 1995.[48] Under AFAS, ASEAN member states enter into successive rounds of negotiations to liberalise trade in services with the aim of submitting increasingly higher levels of commitment. At present, ASEAN has concluded seven packages of commitments under AFAS.[49]

Free flow of skilled labour

Mutual Recognition Agreements (MRAs) have been agreed upon by ASEAN for eight professions: physicians, dentists, nurses, architects, engineers, accountants, surveyors, and tourism professionals. Individuals in these professions will be free to work in any ASEAN nation after the AEC goes into effect on 31 December 2015.[50] Applicants must be licensed and recognised professionals in these fields in their home countries. They can move to other ASEAN countries to practice, but they must pass that country's licensing test. In Thailand, licensing tests will be in the Thai language. In addition, one cannot be an independent practitioner. Any foreign professional intending to work must collaborate with a local business. Given these hurdles, it is unlikely that there will be significant migrations of professionals in the near-term.[51] A Chulalongkorn University study predicts that more developed countries stand to benefit the most from the free flow of professionals.[52]

Free trade

Free trade initiatives in ASEAN are spearheaded by the implementation of the ASEAN Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA) and the Agreement on Customs. These agreements are supported by work done by several sector bodies to plan and to execute free trade measures, guided by the provisions and the requirements of ATIGA and the Agreement on Customs. The progress being made by these sector bodies forms a backbone for achieving the targets of the AEC Blueprint and establishing the ASEAN Economic Community by the end of 2015.[53]

The year 2007 was the 40th anniversary of ASEAN's formation. It also marked 30 years of diplomatic relations with the USA.[54] On 26 August 2007, ASEAN stated that it aims to complete all of its free trade agreements with China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand by 2013. This is in line with the start of the ASEAN Economic Community by 2015.[55][56] In November 2007, ASEAN members signed the ASEAN Charter, a constitution governing relations among ASEAN members and establishing ASEAN itself as an international legal entity.[57] During the same year, the Cebu Declaration on East Asian Energy Security was signed (15 January 2007) by ASEAN and the other members of the EAS (Australia, The People's Republic of China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea), which pursues energy security by finding energy alternatives to conventional fuels.[58]

On 27 February 2009, a free trade agreement (FTA) with the ASEAN regional bloc of ten countries and Australia, and its close partner New Zealand was signed. It is believed that this FTA would boost combined GDP across the twelve countries by more than US$48 billion over the period between 2000 and 2020.[59][60] ASEAN members, together with the group's six major trading partners (Australia, China, India, Japan, New Zealand, South Korea), began the first round of negotiations on 26–28 February 2013, in Bali, Indonesia on the establishment of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.[61]

ASEAN six majors

Six majors refers to the six largest economies in the area that are many times larger than the remaining four ASEAN countries:

Country Population
(in millions)
GDP (Nominal 2016)
(billions of US dollars)
GDP (Nominal Per Capita)
(US dollars)
GDP (PPP 2016)
(billions of US dollars)
GDP (PPP Per Capita)
(US dollars)
 Indonesia 260.6 $940,953 $3,610 $3,027,827 $11,618
 Thailand 68.1 $390,592 $5,777 $1,152,421 $16,922
 Philippines 103.3 $311,687 $3,017 $793,193 $7,678
 Malaysia 30.8 $302,748 $9,890 $859,881 $27,918
 Singapore 5.6 $292,642 $53,209 $484,951 $86,598
 Vietnam 95.3 $200,493 $2,103 $592,848 $6,220

ASEAN Capital Markets Forum (ACMF)

The ACMF is a collaboration among the seven stock exchanges of Malaysia, Vietnam (2 exchanges), Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, and Singapore. It includes 70% of the transaction values of the seven ASEAN stock exchanges.[64] Its objective is the integration of ASEAN stock exchanges so as to compete with international exchanges.

Development gap

ASEAN members by
Human Development Index
Country HDI (2014)
 Singapore 0.912 very high
 Brunei 0.856 very high
 Malaysia 0.779 high
 Thailand 0.726 high
 Indonesia 0.684 medium
 ASEAN 0.673 medium
 Philippines 0.668 medium
 Vietnam 0.666 medium
 Laos 0.575 medium
 Cambodia 0.555 medium
 Myanmar 0.536 low

When Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar, and Cambodia joined ASEAN in the late 1990s, concerns were raised about a gap in average per capita GDP between older and newer members. In response, the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) was formed by ASEAN as a regional integration policy with the goal of bridging this developmental divide, which, in addition to disparities in per capita GDP, is manifested by disparities in dimensions of human development such as life expectancy and literacy rates. Other than the IAI, other programmes for the development of the Mekong Basin—where all four newer ASEAN members are located—that tend to focus on infrastructure development were enacted. In general, ASEAN (with the notable exception of Singapore) does not have the financial resources to extend substantial grants or loans to the new members. Therefore, it usually leaves the financing of these infrastructure projects to international financial institutions and to developed countries. Nevertheless, it mobilised funding from these institutions and countries, and from the ASEAN-6 (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Brunei Darussalam, Singapore, and Thailand) themselves, for areas where the development gap needs to be bridged through the IAI programme. Other programmes intended for the development of the ASEAN-4 take advantage of the geographical proximity of the CLMV (Cambodia-Laos-Myanmar-Vietnam) countries and tend to focus on infrastructure development in areas like transport, tourism, and power transmission.[66]

Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)

RCEP consists of all ten ASEAN countries plus six countries (China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, India, and New Zealand) which have trade agreements with ASEAN countries. RCEP covers 45% of the world's population and about a third of the world's total GDP. For example, 60% of New Zealand's exports are to RCEP countries. RCEP is an extension of ASEAN plus three, and then ASEAN plus six.[67][68][69]

Monetary union

The concept of an Asian Currency Unit (ACU) started in the middle of the nineties, prior to the 1997 Asian financial crisis.[70] It is a proposed basket of Asian currencies, similar to the European Currency Unit, which was the precursor of the Euro. The Asian Development Bank is responsible for exploring the feasibility and construction of the basket.[70][71]

Since the ACU is being considered to be a precursor to a common currency in the future, it has a dynamic outlook of the region.[72] The overall goal of a common currency is to contribute to the financial stability of a regional economy, including price stability. It means lower cost of cross-border business through the elimination of currency risk for the members of the monetary union. Greater flows of intra-regional trade would put pressure on prices, resulting in cheaper goods and services. Individuals benefit not only from the lowering of prices, they save by not having to change money when travelling within the union, by being able to compare prices more readily, and by the reduced cost of transferring money across borders. However, there are conditions for a common currency: the intensity of intra-regional trade and the convergence of macroeconomic conditions. Substantial intra-ASEAN trade and economic integration is an incentive for a monetary union. Intra-ASEAN trade is growing, partly as a result of the ASEAN Free Trade Area (AFTA) and the ASEAN Economic Community.

However, some obstacles remain. ASEAN currently trades more with other countries (80%) than among its member countries (20%). Therefore, ASEAN economies are more concerned about currency stability against major international currencies, like the US dollar. On macroeconomic conditions, ASEAN member countries have different levels of economic development, capacity, and priorities that translate into different levels of interest and readiness. Monetary integration however implies less control over national monetary and fiscal policy to stimulate the economy. Therefore, greater convergence in macroeconomic conditions is being enacted to improve conditions and confidence in a common currency.[73] On the other hand, there are also constraints on the adoption of one currency, such as the following: diversity in the level of economic development across countries, weaknesses in the financial sectors of many countries, inadequacy of regional-level resource pooling mechanisms and institutions required for forming and managing a currency union, and lack of political preconditions for monetary co-operation and a common currency.[74]

Free-trade agreements

ASEAN has concluded free trade agreements with China (expecting bilateral trade of $500 billion by 2015),[75] Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand, and India.[76] ASEAN-India bilateral trade crossed the US$70 billion target in 2012 (target was to reach the level only by 2015). The agreement with People's Republic of China created the ASEAN–China Free Trade Area (ACFTA), which went into full effect on 1 January 2010. In addition, ASEAN is currently negotiating a free trade agreement with the European Union.[76] The Republic of China (Taiwan) has also expressed interest in an agreement with ASEAN but needs to overcome diplomatic objections from China.[77]

Treaty of Amity & Cooperation

The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) in South-East Asia, signed at the First ASEAN Summit on 24 February 1976, declared that in their relations with one another, the High Contracting Parties should be guided by the following fundamental principles:

From CMI to AMRO

Due to the Asian financial crisis of 1997 to 1998, and the long and difficult negotiations with the International Monetary Fund, ASEAN+3 agreed to set up a mainly bilateral currency swap scheme known as the 2000 Chiang Mai Initiative (CMI) in anticipation of another financial crisis in the future. In 2006 they agreed to meld the CMI with multilateralisation and call it CMIM. On 3 May 2009, they agreed to make a currency pool consisting of contributions: US$38.4 billion each by China and Japan, US$19.2 billion by South Korea, and US$24 billion from all ASEAN members, totalling US$120 billion.[78] A key component has also been added recently, with the establishment of a surveillance unit.[79]

The ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic and Research Office (AMRO) started operations in Singapore in May 2011.[80] It performs a key regional surveillance function of the US$120 billion Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation (CMIM) currency swap facility.[81]

Some analysts think that the sum of US$120 billion is relatively small (covering only about 20% of needs), so co-ordination or help from the IMF is still needed.[82] On 3 May 2012, ASEAN+3 finance ministers agreed to double emergency reserve funds to US$240 billion.[83]

Single aviation market

The ASEAN Single Aviation Market (ASEAN-SAM), is the region's aviation policy geared towards the development of a unified and single aviation market in Southeast Asia. The aviation policy was proposed by the ASEAN Air Transport Working Group, supported by the ASEAN Senior Transport Officials Meeting, and endorsed by the ASEAN Transport Ministers.[84] The ASEAN-SAM is expected to liberalise air travel between member-states in the ASEAN region, allowing ASEAN airlines to benefit directly from the growth in air travel, and also free up tourism, trade, investment, and service flows between member states.[84][85] Since 1 December 2008, restrictions on the third and fourth freedoms of the air between capital cities of member states for air passenger services have been removed,[86] while from 1 January 2009, full liberalisation of air freight services in the region took effect.[84][85] On 1 January 2011, full liberalisation on fifth freedom traffic rights between all capital cities took effect.[87] The ASEAN Single Aviation Market policy supersedes existing unilateral, bilateral, and multilateral air services agreements among member states which are inconsistent with its provisions.


With the institutionalisation of visa-free travel between ASEAN member states, intra-ASEAN travel has boomed, a sign that endeavours to form an ASEAN community may bear fruit in years to come. In 2010, 47% or 34 million out of 73 million tourists in ASEAN member-states were from other ASEAN countries.[88]

ASEAN co-operation in tourism was formalised in 1976, following formation of the Sub-Committee on Tourism (SCOT) under the ASEAN Committee on Trade and Tourism. The 1st ASEAN Tourism Forum was held on 18–26 October 1981 in Kuala Lumpur. In 1986, ASEAN Promotional Chapters for Tourism (APCT) were established in Hong Kong, West Germany, the United Kingdom, Australia/New Zealand, Japan, and North America.[89]

Tourism has been one of the key growth sectors in ASEAN and has proven resilient amid global economic challenges. The wide array of tourist attractions across the region drew 81 million tourists to ASEAN in 2011, up by 30% compared to 62 million tourists in 2007. As of 2012, tourism was estimated to account for 4.6% of ASEAN GDP—10.9% when taking into account all indirect contributions. It directly employed 9.3 million people, or 3.2% of total employment, and indirectly supported some 25 million jobs.[90] In addition, the sector accounted for an estimated 8% of total capital investment in the region.[91]

In January 2012, ASEAN tourism ministers called for the development of a marketing strategy. The strategy represents the consensus of ASEAN National Tourism Organisations (NTOs) on marketing directions for ASEAN moving forward to 2015.[92]

In the 2013 Travel and Tourism Competitiveness Index (TTCI) report, Singapore placed 1st, Malaysia placed 8th, Thailand placed 9th, Indonesia placed 12th, Brunei placed 13th, Vietnam placed 16th, Philippines placed 17th, and Cambodia placed 20th as the top destinations of travellers in the Asia Pacific region.[93]

Foreign affairs and summits

ASEAN identity

Royal Thai Embassy, Helsinki, flying its own national flag as well as ASEAN's flag

ASEAN's planned integration of its ten member nations has challenged its citizens to embrace a regional identity. The call for ASEAN identity delivers a challenge to construct dynamic institutions and foster sufficient amounts of social capital. The underlying assumption is that the creation of a regional identity is of special interest to ASEAN and the intent of the 2020 Vision policy document was to reassert the belief in a regional framework designed as an action plan related to human development and civic empowerment. Accordingly, these assumptions will be the basis for recommendations and strategies in developing a participatory regional identity.[94]

ASEAN summits

A billboard in Jakarta welcoming delegates for the 2011 ASEAN Summit

The organisation holds meetings, known as ASEAN Summits, where heads of government of each member meet to discuss and resolve regional issues, as well as to conduct other meetings with countries outside the bloc to promote external relations.

The first ASEAN summit was held in Bali in 1976. Its third meeting was in Manila in 1987 and during this meeting, it was decided that the leaders would meet every five years.[95] The fourth meeting was held in Singapore in 1992 where the leaders decided to meet more frequently, every three years.[95] In 2001, it was decided to meet annually to address urgent issues affecting the region. Member nations were assigned to be the summit host in alphabetical order except in the case of Burma which dropped its 2006 hosting rights in 2004 due to pressure from the United States and the European Union.[96]

In December 2008, the ASEAN Charter came into force and with it, the ASEAN Summit will be held twice a year.

The formal summit meets for three days. The typical agenda is as follows:

ASEAN Formal Summits
No. Date Country Host Host leader
1st 23–24 February 1976  Indonesia Bali Suharto
2nd 4–5 August 1977  Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Hussein Onn
3rd 14–15 December 1987  Philippines Manila Corazon Aquino
4th 27‒29 January 1992  Singapore Singapore Goh Chok Tong
5th 14‒15 December 1995  Thailand Bangkok Banharn Silpa-archa
6th 15‒16 December 1998  Vietnam Hanoi Phan Văn Khải
7th 5‒6 November 2001  Brunei Bandar Seri Begawan Hassanal Bolkiah
8th 4‒5 November 2002  Cambodia Phnom Penh Hun Sen
9th 7‒8 October 2003  Indonesia Bali Megawati Soekarnoputri
10th 29‒30 November 2004  Laos Vientiane Bounnhang Vorachith
11th 12‒14 December 2005  Malaysia Kuala Lumpur Abdullah Ahmad Badawi
12th 11‒14 January 20071  Philippines2 Cebu Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo
13th 18‒22 November 2007  Singapore Singapore Lee Hsien Loong
14th3 27 February–1 March 2009  Thailand Cha Am & Hua Hin Abhisit Vejjajiva
10–11 April 2009 Pattaya
15th 23−25 October 2009 Cha Am & Hua Hin
16th 8–9 April 2010  Vietnam Hanoi Nguyễn Tấn Dũng
17th 28–31 October 2010
18th 7–8 May 2011  Indonesia4 Jakarta Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono
19th 14–19 November 2011 Bali
20th 3–4 April 2012  Cambodia Phnom Penh Hun Sen
21st 17–20 November 2012
22nd 24–25 April 2013  Brunei Bandar Seri Begawan Hassanal Bolkiah
23rd 9–10 October 2013
24th 10–11 May 2014  Myanmar Nay Pyi Taw Thein Sein
25th 10–12 November 2014
26th 26‒27 April 2015  Malaysia Kuala Lumpur & Langkawi Najib Tun Razak
27th 18–22 November 2015 Kuala Lumpur
28th 6–8 September 2016  Laos Vientiane Thongloun Sisoulith
1 Postponed from 10‒14 December 2006 due to Typhoon Utor (Seniang).
2 hosted the summit because Burma backed out due to enormous pressure from US and EU
3 This summit consisted of two parts.
The first part was moved from 12‒17 December 2008 due to the 2008 Thai political crisis.
The second part was aborted on 11 April due to protesters entering the summit venue.
4  Indonesia hosted twice in a row by swapping years with  Brunei, as it will play host to APEC (and the possibility of hosting the G20 summit which ultimately fell to Russia) in 2013.

During the fifth summit in Bangkok, the leaders decided to meet "informally" between each formal summit.[95]

East Asia Summit

Main article: East Asia Summit
Participants of the East Asia Summit
  ASEAN Plus Three
  ASEAN Plus Six

The East Asia Summit (EAS) is a pan-Asian forum held annually by the leaders of eighteen countries in the East Asian region, with ASEAN in a leadership position. Membership was initially all ten members of ASEAN plus China, Japan, South Korea, India, Australia, and New Zealand, but was expanded to include the United States and Russia at the Sixth EAS in 2011.

The first summit was held in Kuala Lumpur on 14 December 2005, and subsequent meetings have been held after the annual ASEAN Leaders' Meeting. The summit has discussed issues including trade, energy, and security and the summit has a role in regional community building.

Commemorative summit

Main article: ASEAN Free Trade Area

A commemorative summit is a summit hosted by a non-ASEAN country to mark a milestone anniversary of the establishment of relations between ASEAN and the host country. The host country invites the heads of government of ASEAN member countries to discuss future co-operation and partnership.

Regional Forum

ASEAN full members
ASEAN observers
ASEAN Plus Three
East Asia Summit
ASEAN Regional Forum

The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) is a formal, official, multilateral, dialogue in the Asia Pacific region. As of July 2007, it consists of twenty-seven participants. ARF's objectives are to foster dialogue and consultation, and to promote confidence-building and preventive diplomacy in the region.[102] The ARF met for the first time in 1994. The current participants in the ARF are: all ASEAN members, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, Mongolia, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Russia, East Timor, the United States, and Sri Lanka.[103]

Taiwan has been excluded since the establishment of the ARF, and issues regarding the Taiwan Strait are neither discussed at ARF meetings nor stated in the ARF Chairman's Statements.

Other meetings

Aside from the ones above, other regular meetings are also held.[12] These include the annual ASEAN Ministerial Meeting[104] as well as other smaller committees.[105] Meetings focus mostly on specific topics, such as defence or the environment,[106] and are attended by ministers, instead of heads of government.

Mass media

ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI)

ASEAN member states promote co-operation in information to help build an ASEAN identity. One of the main bodies in ASEAN co-operation in information is the ASEAN Committee on Culture and Information (COCI). Established in 1978, its mission is to promote effective co-operation in the fields of information, as well as culture, through its various projects and activities. The COCI includes representatives from national institutions like the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministries of Culture and Information, national radio and television networks, museums, archives and libraries, among others. Together, they meet once a year to formulate and agree on projects to fulfil their mission.[109]

ASEAN Media Cooperation

ASEAN Media Cooperation (AMC) sets digital television standards and policies in preparation for broadcasters to transition from analogue to digital broadcasting. This collaboration was conceptualised during the 11th ASEAN Ministers Responsible for Information (AMRI) Conference in Malaysia on 1 March 2012 where a consensus declared that both new and traditional media were keys to connecting ASEAN peoples and bridging cultural gaps in the region.[110]

Several key initiatives under the AMC include:[111]

ASEAN Community 2015

For nearly two decades, the ASEAN was composed of only five countries, its 8 August 1967 founders: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Other southeast Asian countries joined at different times: Brunei (1984), Vietnam (1995), Laos and Myanmar (1997), and Cambodia (1999).

Beginning in 1997, heads of each member state adopted the ASEAN Vision 2020 during ASEAN's 30th anniversary meeting held in Kuala Lumpur. This vision, as a means for the realisation of a single ASEAN community, sees Southeast Asia becoming a group of nations which are: "outward looking, living in peace, stability and propsperity".[116] Included in ASEAN Vision 2020 were provisions on: peace and stability, being nuclear-free, closer economic integration, human development, sustainable development, cultural heritage, being drug-free, environment, among others. The Vision also aimed to: "see an outward-looking ASEAN playing a pivotal role in the international fora, and advancing ASEAN's common interests".[117] Such vision was formalised and made comprehensive through the Bali Concord II in 2003. Three major pillars of a single ASEAN community were originally established: (1) ASEAN Security Community, (2) ASEAN Economic Community and (3) ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community.[118] The ASEAN Community, initially planned to commence by 2020, was accelerated to begin by 31 December 2015.[119] This was decided upon by heads of member states during the 12th ASEAN Summit in Cebu in 2007.[120]

On 20 November 2007, the ASEAN Charter was signed in Singapore, forty years after the founding of ASEAN. Also concurrently signed was the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) Blueprint. This was to establish stronger rules-based norms and values shared among all member states. The charter was later ratified in 2008.[121] To full embody the three Bali Concord II pillars as part of the 2015 integration, blueprints for ASEAN Political-Security Community (APSC) and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community (ASCC) were subsequently adopted in 2009 in Cha-Am, Thailand.[122]

ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint

ASEAN leaders sign the declaration of the ASEAN Economic Community during the 27th ASEAN Summit in Kuala Lumpur, 2015

The ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) is now generally referred to as "AEC 2015" since its original implementation date was brought forward from 2020 to 31 December 2015. As one of the three pillars of the ASEAN, it aims to "implement economic integration initiatives" to create a single market across ASEAN nations. On 20 November 2007, during the 13th ASEAN Summit in Singapore, its blueprint, which serves as a master plan guiding the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community 2015, was adopted.[123]

The ASEAN Economic Community is the goal of regional economic integration by 2015. Its characteristics include: (1) a single market and production base, (2) a highly competitive economic region, (3) a region of fair economic development, and (4) a region fully integrated into the global economy. The areas of co-operation include human resources development; recognition of professional qualifications; closer consultation on macroeconomic and financial policies; trade financing measures; enhanced infrastructure and communications connectivity; development of electronic transactions through e-ASEAN; integrating industries across the region to promote regional sourcing; and enhancing private sector involvement. Through the free movement of skilled labour, goods, services and investment, ASEAN will rise globally as one market with each member gaining from each other's strengths, thus increasing its competitiveness and opportunities for development.[124]

The AEC is the embodiment of the ASEAN's vision of: "...a stable, prosperous and highly competitive ASEAN economic region in which there is a free flow of goods, services, investment and a freer flow of capital, equitable economic development and reduced poverty and socio-economic disparities".[125]

The formulation of an AEC Blueprint established the members' commitment to a common goal as well as ensuring compliance with stated objectives and timelines. The AEC Blueprint lays out the overall vision as well as the goals, implementing plans and strategies (actions), as well as the strategic schedule (timeline) for achieving the establishment of the AEC by end-2015.[125]

ASEAN will officially declare the establishment of an ASEAN Economic Community by end-December 2015. For ASEAN economies and citizens, it will be business as usual because the key agreements and regulations that will govern the business and economic relationships under the AEC are already in place and operational.[125]

Reinforcing ASEAN relations

The conduct of the 2nd BIMP-EAGA and IMT-GT Trade Fair and Business Leaders Conference on 22–26 October 2014 in Davao City, Philippines, signified the renewed commitment of the four member countries namely, Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines (BIMP) to further the cause of the East ASEAN Growth Area (EAGA) co-operation as a model for the 2015 ASEAN Integration. During the Conference, Deputy Secretary General of ASEAN for the ASEAN Economic Community, Dr. Lim Hong Hin, said that the convergence of the BIMP-EAGA and Indonesia Malaysia Thailand – Growth Triangle (IMT-GT) will amplify the subregions’ full potential and maximise its initial gain towards greater engagement in the larger ASEAN community. The vision of the BIMP-EAGA initiative is to realise socially acceptable and sustainable economic development, and the full participation of the subregion in the ASEAN development process. BIMP-EAGA was proposed in 1992 by then Philippine President Fidel V. Ramos as a major economic initiative in ASEAN. The idea of expanding the economic co-operation among the border areas of Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia, Malaysia, and the Philippines was supported by the leaders of the three countries which eventually led to the creation of BIMP-EAGA launched on 24 March 1994 in Davao City, Mindanao, Philippines. The subregion covers a land-area of 1.54 million square kilometres and a population of 70 million.[126]

The improved regional-subregional collaborations will spur trade, investment, and small and medium-sized enterprise (SME) development through enhanced backward linkages, production system, and forward linkages. The convergence will also facilitate the completion of region wide infrastructure projects such as the Sumatra Port Development, Melaka-Pekan Baru Power Interconnection, and Sumatra Toll Roads Project. The subregions’ convergence will create synergy in transport facilitation by forging the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS) Cross Border Trade Arrangement and BIMP-EAGA Cross Border Arrangement, promote clustering and branding through collaborative tourism promotion, tailored agro-based industries strategies, and addressing environmental issues. The greater co-ordination among the subregions, maximising synergy with the full participation of the stakeholders will ensure equitable economic benefits of the ASEAN countries facing the challenge of globalisation.[127]

2020 ASEAN Banking Integration Framework

As the flow of goods, services, investment, capital, and skilled labour between countries is liberalised with the ASEAN Economic Integration in 2015, the need arises for ASEAN banking institutions to accommodate and expand their services to a greater intra-ASEAN market. While the ASEAN financial integration is not going to take effect until 2020, experts from the financial services industry have already forecast a shaky economic transition, especially for smaller players in the banking and financial services industry.

Two separate reports by Standard & Poor's entitled ASEAN Financial Integration: The Long Road to Bank Consolidation and The Philippines’ Banking System: The Good, the Bad and the Ambivalent respectively, outline the challenges ASEAN financial institutions are facing as they prepare for the 2020 banking integration. The Philippines, with its overcrowded banking sector, for example, is among the ASEAN-member countries who are forecast to feel the most pressure as the integration welcomes tighter competition with the entry of bigger, more established foreign banks.[128] To lessen the impact of this consolidation, countries with banking sectors considered smaller by global standards must expand regionally. S&P in a follow up report recently cited the Philippines for: "shoring up its network bases and building up capital ahead of the banking integration – playing defence and strengthening their domestic networks".[128]

Roadmap for ASEAN financial integration

The Roadmap for the Integration of ASEAN in Finance is the latest regional initiative, which aims to strengthen regional self-help and support mechanisms. The implementation of the roadmap will contribute to the realisation of the ASEAN Economic Community that was launched by the ASEAN leaders in October 2003 in Bali. The AEC is the end-goal of economic integration as outlined in the ASEAN Vision 2020 and the Bali Concord II to establish a single market and production base, characterised by the free movement of goods, services, investment, and a freer flow of capital. The AEC will also facilitate the movement of business professionals, skilled labour, and talent within the region. As in the EU, adoption of an ASEAN common currency, when conditions are ripe, could be the final stage of the ASEAN Economic Community. Under the roadmap, approaches and milestones have been identified in areas deemed crucial to financial and monetary integration, namely: (a) capital market development, (b) capital account liberalisation, (c) financial services liberalisation, and (d) ASEAN currency co-operation. Capital market development entails promoting institutional capacity, including the legal and regulatory framework, as well as the facilitation of greater cross-border collaboration, linkages, and harmonisation between capital markets in the region. Orderly capital account liberalisation will be promoted with adequate safeguards against volatility and systemic risks. To expedite the process of financial services liberalisation, ASEAN has agreed on a positive list modality and adopted milestones to facilitate negotiations. Currency co-operation would involve exploration of possible currency arrangements, including an ASEAN currency payment system for trade in local goods to reduce the demand for US dollars and to help promote stability of regional currencies, such as by settling intra-ASEAN trade using regional currencies.[73]

While in the offing of an ASEAN common currency, the leaders of the member-states of ASEAN agreed in November 1999 to create the establishment of currency swaps, and repurchase agreements, as a credit line against future financial shocks. In May 2000, the finance minister of the ASEAN agreed through the "Chiang Mai Initiative" to plan for closer monetary and financial co-operation.[129] The "Chiang Mai Initiative" or CMI, named after the City of Chiang Mai in Thailand, has two components: an expanded ASEAN Swap Arrangement, and a network of bilateral swap arrangements among ASEAN countries, China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea. The ASEAN Swap Arrangement or ASA preceded the regional financial crisis. ASA was originally established by the ASEAN central bank and monetary authorities of the five founding members of ASEAN with a view to help countries meet temporary liquidity problems. An expanded ASA now includes all ten ASEAN countries with an expanded facility of US$1 billion. In recognition of the economic interdependence of East Asia, which has a combined foreign exchange reserves amounting to about US$1 trillion, a network of bilateral swap arrangements and repurchase agreements among ASEAN countries, China, Japan and the Republic of Korea has been agreed upon. The supplementary facility aims to provide temporary financing for members which may be in balance-of-payments difficulties. In 200, 16 bilateral swap arrangements (BSAs) have been successfully concluded with a combined amount of about US$35.5 billion.[130] The original CMI was signed on 9 December 2009 which took effect on 20 March 2014, while the amended version, the multilateralisation of CMI (CMIM), was on 17 July 2014. CMIM is a multilateral currency swap arrangement with a total size of US$240 billion, governed by a single contractual agreement, while the CMI is a network of bilateral swap arrangements among the "Plus Three" and ASEAN countries' authorities. In addition, an independent regional surveillance unit called the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) was established to monitor and analyse regional economies, and to support the CMIM decision-making process.[130] The amendments will effectively allow access of the ASEAN+3 member countries and Hong Kong to an enhanced CMIM package, which includes, among others, the doubling of the fund size from US$120 billion to US$240 billion, an increase in the level of access not linked to an International Monetary Fund program from 20%–30%, and the introduction of a crisis prevention facility. These amendments are expected to fortify CMIM as the region's financial safety net in the event of any potential or actual liquidity difficulty.[131]

The ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) will serve as the independent regional surveillance unit of the CMIM. The establishment of AMRO will ensure timely monitoring and analysis of the ASEAN+3 economies, which will in turn aid in the early detection of risks, swift implementation of remedial actions, and effective decision-making of the CMIM. In particular, the AMRO will, during peace time, conduct annual consultations with individual member economies and, on this basis, prepare quarterly consolidated reports on the macroeconomic assessment of the ASEAN+3 region and individual member countries. On the other hand, the AMRO will, during crisis time, prepare recommendations on any swap request based on its macroeconomic analysis of the swap requesting member and monitor the use and impact of funds once any swap request is approved. AMRO was officially incorporated as a company limited by guarantee in Singapore on 20 April 2011 and its office is at the Monetary Authority of Singapore complex in Singapore. Governance of AMRO is being exercised by the Executive Committee (EC) and its operational direction by the Advisory Panel (AP). AMRO is currently headed by Dr Yoichi Nemoto of Japan, who is serving his second 2-year term until 26 May 2016.[130] Stability in the financial system is a precondition to maintain the momentum of ASEAN economic integration. In turn, the more ASEAN economies become integrated, the more feasible it is to adopt an ASEAN single currency, which is expected to reinforce even further stability and integration in Southeast Asia.[73]

Food security

ASEAN member nations recognise the importance of strengthening food security to maintain stability and prosperity in the region. The World Food Summit of 1996 defined food security as existing: "when all people at all times have access to sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life".[132]

Part of the aim for ASEAN integration is to achieve food security collectively via trade in rice and maize. Trade facilitation measures and the harmonisation/equivalency of food regulation and control standards will reduce the cost of trade in food products. While specialisation and revealed comparative and competitive indices point to complementarities between trade patterns among the ASEAN member countries, intra-ASEAN trade in agriculture is quite small. However, integration could address this problem.[133] The MARKET project will provide flexible and demand-driven support to the ASEAN Secretariat, while bringing more private-sector and civil-society input into regional agriculture policy dialogue. By building an environment that reduces barriers to trade, ASEAN trade will increase, thereby decreasing the risk of another food price crisis.[134]

As ASEAN moves towards an integrated community in 2015 and beyond, food security should be an integral part of the ASEAN community building agenda and deserves more attention.[135]

Reception and Criticisms

ASEAN's integration plan has raised concerns. In particular, meeting the 2015 deadline has been questioned. Business and economy experts who attended the Lippo-UPH Dialogue in Naypyidaw cited unresolved issues relating to aviation, agriculture, and human resources.[136] Some panellists, among them, Kishore Mahbubani, warned against high expectations at the onset. He stated:

Please do not expect a big bang event in 2015 where everything is going to happen overnight when the ASEAN Economic Community comes into being. We've made progress in some areas and unfortunately regressed in some areas.[137]

Some panellists enumerated other matters to be dealt with for a successful launch. Among them were the communications issues involving the 600 million citizens living in the region, creating a heightened level of understanding in the business sector, current visa arrangements, demand for specific skills, banking connections, and economic differences between member-nations. Former Philippine National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) Secretary General Romulo A. Virola, said in 2012 that the Philippines does not appear to be ready to benefit from ASEAN integration due to its "wobbly" economic performance compared to other ASEAN member countries. According to Virola, the Philippines continues to lag behind in terms of employment rate, tourism, life expectancy, and cellular subscriptions.[138] Nestor Tan, head of BDO Unibank Inc., said that while some businesses see the Asian Economic Blueprint (AEC) as an opportunity, the integration would be more of a threat to local firms. Tan added that protecting the Philippines' agricultural and financial services sectors, as well as the labour sector, would be necessary for the implementation of AEC by 2015.[139] Standard & Poor's also believed that banks in the Philippines are not yet prepared for the tougher competition that would result from the integration of Southeast Asian economies. In one of its latest publications, S&P said banks in the country, although profitable and stable, operate on a much smaller scale than their counterparts in the region.[139]

The US Chamber of Commerce has highlighted the widespread concern that the much-anticipated AEC could not be launched by the end-2015 deadline.[140] In January 2014, former ASEAN Secretary-General Rodolfo C. Severino, wrote: "while ASEAN should not be condemned for its members' failure to make good on their commitments, any failure to deliver will likely lead to a loss of credibility and could mean that member countries fall further behind in the global competition for export markets and foreign direct investment (FDI)".[141] This is not the first time that AEC faces a probable delay. In 2012, the commencement of the AEC was postponed to 31 December 2015 from the original plan of 1 January 2015. Despite ASEAN Secretary-General Surin Pitsuwan's firm reassurance that: "[t]here will be no more delays and that all ten ASEAN countries will participate", even the most fervent proponents of AEC are beginning to worry about the increasingly diminishing chance of delivering AEC on time as December 2015 nears.[142]

An article published by Vietnam News echoed some of the challenges and opportunities that Vietnam faces in preparation for the AEC. The article said that the deputy head of the Import-Export Department under the Ministry of Industry and Trade, Tran Thanh Hai, was concerned about local enterprises' lack of knowledge of the AEC. It was said that 80% of local enterprises surveyed acknowledged that they have little information about the interests and challenges available for them in the ASEAN market. The article also noted that the general secretary of the Vietnam Steel Association, Chu Duc Khai, said that most the local steel making enterprises lack information about doing business in the ASEAN market, they have not had a chance to study the ASEAN market, and have only exported small amounts of steel to ASEAN countries. Another challenge for Vietnam, the article cited, is the need to compete with other countries in the ASEAN market to export raw products since the country had mainly exported raw products.[143]

The Asian Development Bank also has doubts about Cambodia's ability to meet the AEC deadline in 2015. The leading economist of ADB, Jayant Menon, said that Cambodia needs to speed up its customs reform and to press ahead with automating processes to reduce trade costs and minimise the opportunities for corruption and be ready for the implementation of its National Single Window by 2015.[144]

ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint

During the 14th ASEAN Summit held 26 February to 1 March 2009, the ASEAN heads of state/governments adopted the ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint (APSC).[145] This document is aimed at creating a robust political-security environment within ASEAN, with programs and activities outlined to establish the APSC by 2015. The document is based on the principles and purposes of the ASEAN charter, the ASEAN Security Community Plan of Action, the Vientiane Action Programme, and other relevant decisions.

In essence, the APSC aims to create a community that portrays the following characteristics: a rules-based community of shared values and norms; a cohesive, peaceful, stable and resilient region with a shared responsibility toward comprehensive security; and a dynamic and outward-looking region in an increasingly integrated and interdependent world.

ASEAN Defence Industry Collaboration

The ASEAN Defence Industry Collaboration (ADIC) was proposed at the 4th ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting on 11 May 2010 in Hanoi.[146] The emergence of this concept was triggered by the fact that the majority of the ASEAN member states are regular importers of defence and security equipment. One of the purposes of this concept is to reduce defence imports from non-ASEAN countries by half (i.e., from US$25 billion down to US$12.5 billion a year) and to further develop the defence industry in the region.[147]

The concept was formally adopted during the 5th ASEAN Defence Ministers' Meeting (ADMM) on 19 May 2011, in Jakarta, Indonesia,[148] in line with the ADMM agreement to enhance security co-operation in the following areas: maritime security, humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, counter-terrorism, and military medicine. Its goal points toward actions that will enhance security in each of the ASEAN member states.[149][150]

The main focus of the concept is to industrially and technologically boost the security capability of the ASEAN, consistent with the principles of flexibility and non-binding and voluntary participation among the ASEAN member states.[151][152] The concept revolves around education and capability building programmes to develop the skills and capabilities of manpower, sharing in the production of capital for defence equipment, components, and spares, and the provision of repair and maintenance services to address all the defence and security needs of each ASEAN country. It also aims to develop the defence trade in the region by encouraging ASEAN member states to participate in the intra-ASEAN defence trade and support trade shows and exhibitions.[146]

ADIC aims to establish a strong defence industry relying on the local capabilities of each ASEAN member state, and limit annual procurement from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs) outside the region.[146] Countries like the USA, Germany, Russia, France, Italy, UK, China, South Korea, Israel, and the Netherlands are among the major suppliers to ASEAN.[153]

Military expenditures in ASEAN reached US$35.5 billion in 2013 (excluding Brunei and Myanmar), which surpassed the 2004 figure (US$14.4 billion) by 147% and is expected to exceed US$40 billion by 2016.[154] Factors affecting the increase in military budget are economic growth, ageing equipment, and the plan to strengthen the establishment of the defence industry in the region.[155]

There are challenges to the defence collaboration effort in the ASEAN; the unequal level of capabilities among ASEAN member states in the field of defence industry, and the lack of established defence trade among them.[149] Prior to the adoption of the ADIC concept, the status of the defence industry base in each of the ASEAN member states was at disparate level.[149] Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Thailand are among the top ASEAN member states with an established defence industry base. But, even these four countries possess different levels of capacity, while the remaining member states like the Philippines, Lao PDR, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Cambodia have yet to develop and enhance their capabilities in this aspect.[146][149]

Of the ten ASEAN member states, Singapore and Indonesia are among the most competitive players in the defence industry. Indonesia is the only ASEAN member state recognised as one of the top 100 global defence suppliers from 2010-2013.[156][157] ASEAN member states purchase virtually no defence products from within ASEAN. Singapore purchases defence products from Germany, France, and Israel, but none from any of the ASEAN member states. Malaysia purchased only 0.49% from ASEAN, Indonesia 0.1%, and Thailand 8.02%.[149]

ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint

It was also during the 14th ASEAN Summit that the member governments of ASEAN adopted the ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint (ASCC).[158] The ASCC envisions an: "ASEAN Community that is people-centered and socially responsible with a view to achieving enduring solidarity and unity among the nations and peoples of ASEAN by forging a common identity and building a caring and sharing society which is inclusive and harmonious where the well-being, livelihood, and welfare of the peoples are enhanced". Among its focus areas are: human development, social welfare and protection, social justice and rights, ensuring environmental sustainability, building the ASEAN identity, and narrowing the development gap.

The AEC Scorecard

To track the progress of the AEC, the AEC Scorecard, a compliance tool was developed based on the EU Internal Market Scorecard, and was adopted by ASEAN.[142] This regional economic scorecard is the only scorecard in effect[159] and is expected to serve as an unbiased assessment tool to measure the extent of integration among its members, and the economic health of the region. It is expected to provide relevant information about regional priorities and in this way foster productive, inclusive, and sustainable growth. Moreover, scores create incentives for improvement by highlighting what is working and what is not.[160]

The AEC Scorecard is also a compliance tool that makes it possible to monitor the implementation of ASEAN agreements, and the achievement of milestones indicated in the AEC Strategic Schedule. The Scorecard outlines specific actions that must be undertaken by ASEAN collectively, and by its member states individually, to establish an AEC by 2015.[160]

To date, two official scorecards have been published, one in 2010,[161] and the other in 2012.[162] According to the AEC Scorecard 2012, the implementation rates of AEC's four primary objectives: (a) single market and production base; (b) competitive economic region; (c) equitable economic development; and (d) integration into the global economy were 65.9%, 67.9%, 66.7%, and 85.7%, respectively, with 187 out of 277 measures being fully implemented by 2011.[142]

The AEC Scorecard is purely quantitative. It only examines whether an ASEAN member state has performed the AEC task or not. The more "yes" answers, the higher the score.[159]

While Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand have eliminated 99.65% of their tariff lines, Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, and Vietnam have decreased tariffs on 98.86% of their lines to the 0-5% tariff range in 2010, and are projected to eliminate tariffs on these goods by 2015, with the ability to do so for a few import duty lines until 2018.[163]

According to Lim Hng Kiang, Singapore's Minister for Trade and Industry, ASEAN was already the seventh largest economy in the world, and the third largest in Asia in 2013, estimated at US$2.3 trillion. A recent study by Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited has projected that five of the top fifteen manufacturing locations in the world will be in ASEAN by 2018. Furthermore, by 2050, ASEAN is also expected to be the fourth-largest economy in the world (after the European Union, the US, and China).[163]

The AEC envisions the free flow of overseas labour. However, receiving countries may require would-be workers to take licensing examinations in those countries regardless of whether or not the worker has a professional license from their home country.[164]

Singapore is the major ASEAN destination for skilled migrants from other ASEAN countries, mostly from Malaysia and the Philippines. Total employment in Singapore doubled between 1992 and 2008 from 1.5 million to three million, and the number of foreign workers almost tripled, from fewer than 400,000 to almost 1.1 million. High-skilled foreign talents (customer service, nursing, engineering, IT) earn at least US$2,000 a month and with a credential (usually a college degree) receive S Passes, employment passes, including an EP-1 for those earning more than US$7,000 a month; EP-2 for those earning US$3,500—7,000 a month; and EP-3 for those earning US$2,500–3,500 a month.[165]

In the recent years, Singapore has been slowly cutting down the number of foreign workers to challenge companies to upgrade their hiring criteria and offer more jobs to local residents. The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned that the Singapore policy of reducing the number of foreign workers could retard the country's economic growth and lower its competitiveness.[166]

Narrowing the Development Gap

Narrowing the Development Gap (NDG) is ASEAN's framework for addressing disparities among, and within, member-states where pockets of underdevelopment exist. Under NDG, ASEAN has continued co-ordinating closely with other subregional co-operation frameworks in the region (e.g., BIMP-EAGA, IMT-GT, GMS, Mekong programmes), viewing them as "equal partners in the development of regional production and distribution networks" in the AEC, and as a platform to "mainstream social development issues in developing and implementing projects," in the context of the ASCC.[167]

The six-year IAI Work Plans have been developed to assist the CLMV countries as well as ASEAN's other sub-regions to ensure that the economic wheels of their economies move at an accelerated pace. IAI Work Plan I was implemented from 2002 to 2008, prior to the development of the Roadmap for an ASEAN Community (2009-2015). IAI Work Plan II (2009-2015) supports the goals of the ASEAN Community and is composed of 182 prescribed actions, which includes studies, training programmes, and policy implementation support, conducted through projects supported by ASEAN-6 countries, and ASEAN's Dialogue partners and external parties. The IAI Work Plan is patterned after and supports the key programme areas in the three ASEAN Community Blueprints: ASEAN Political-Security Community Blueprint, ASEAN Economic Community Blueprint, and ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community Blueprint.

The IAI Task Force, composed of representatives of the Committee of Permanent Representatives and its working group from all ten ASEAN member states, is in charge of providing general advice and policy guidelines and directions in the design and implementation of the IAI Work Plan. All ten ASEAN member-states are represented in the IAI Task Force, with the task force chaired by representatives of the four CLMV countries. Chairmanship is rotated annually in alphabetical order by country name.

The ASEAN Secretariat, in particular through the IAI and NDG Division, supports the implementation and management of the IAI Work Plan and coordinates activities related to sub-regional frameworks. This includes servicing meetings, assisting in the formulation, implementation, monitoring and reporting of projects, resource mobilisation, and overall operational co-ordination among various IAI&NDG-related stakeholders. The Division works closely with the Dialogue Partners, and international agencies, to develop strategies and programmes to assist in promoting and implementing IAI and NDG activities in ASEAN.[167]

ASEAN Communication Master Plan

ASEAN foreign ministers launched the ASEAN Communication Master Plan (ACPM) on 11 November 2014.[168]

The ACPM provides a framework for communicating the character, structure, and overall vision of ASEAN and the ASEAN community to key audiences within the region and globally.[169] The plan seeks to demonstrate the relevance and benefits of the ASEAN through fact-based and compelling communications, recognising that the ASEAN community is unique and different from other country integration models.

ASEAN security blueprint

The ASEAN Convention on Counter-Terrorism (ACCT) serves as a framework for regional co-operation to counter, prevent, and suppress terrorism and deepen counter-terrorism co-operation.[170]

ACCT was signed by ASEAN leaders in 2007. The sixth ASEAN member state, Brunei, ratified it on 28 April 2011 and on 27 May 2011, the convention came into force. Malaysia became the tenth member state to ratify ACCT on 11 January 2013.[170]

At the 23rd ASEAN Summit in November 2013, ASEAN Leaders took the decision to develop a Post-2015 Vision, and thus, got the High Level Task Force (HLTF) which consists of ten high-level Representatives from all ASEAN Member States. The Vision was adopted at the 27th ASEAN Summit in November 2015 in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. ASEAN Community revises and renews its Vision in the term of ten years to provide a framework for continuous development and further integration of the community.

ASEAN Community Vision 2025

The terms in the Vision are divided into mainly four subcategories: ASEAN Political-Security Community, ASEAN Economic Community, ASEAN Socio-Cultural Community, and Moving Forward. ASEAN Political-Security issues are covered under article 7 and 8 of the Vision. Article 7 generally states the overall aspiration of the community aiming to achieve a united, inclusive and resilient community. It also puts human and enviroenmental security at the center of its aspirations. Deepening engagement with both internal Members and eternal parties are also stressed to contribute the international peace, security and stability.[171]

The final part of the Vision, under “Moving Forward” subcategory, implies the acknowledgement of the weakness of the institution capacity to process and coordinate ASEAN work. Strengthening ASEAN Secretariat and other ASEAN Organs and Bodies is desired. There is also a call for greater level of ASEAN institutional presence at the national, regional and international levels.


Haze over Borneo, 2006

At the turn of the 21st century, ASEAN began to discuss environmental agreements. These included the signing of the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution in 2002 as an attempt to control haze pollution in Southeast Asia.[177] Unfortunately, this was unsuccessful due to the outbreaks of haze in 2005, 2006, 2009, 2013, and 2015. As of 2015, thirteen years after signing the ASEAN Agreement on Transboundary Haze Pollution, the situation with respect to the long term issue of Southeast Asian haze has not been changed for 50% of the ASEAN member states, and still remains as a crisis every two years during summer and fall.[178][179][180]

Yet other serious issues like the dumping of trash from foreign nations such as Japan and Canada to ASEAN has yet to be discussed. In 2015, tons of trash labelled as plastics for recycling, was shipped from Canada to Manila; an issue that has yet to be resolved.[181]


While high performing Asian economies and the six oldest ASEAN members have invested heavily in public education at the primary and secondary levels, tertiary education has been left largely to the private sector.[182] Tertiary education in Southeast Asia is, in general, relatively weak in terms of technological capacity and integration such as in credit transfer schemes. Singapore is highly focused on innovation while the rest of the region lags behind.[183] In most cases, universities are focused on teaching and service to government rather than academic research. Universities in Southeast Asia, both in terms of academic salaries and research infrastructure (libraries, laboratories), tend to be poorly supported financially. Moreover, regional academic journals cater to their local audiences and respond less to international standards which makes universal or regional benchmarking difficult.[184]

Governments have a vested interest in investing in education and other aspects of human capital infrastructure, especially rapidly developing nations such as those within ASEAN. In the short run, investment spending directly supports aggregate demand and growth. In the longer term, investments in physical infrastructure, productivity enhancements, and provision of education and health services determine the potential for growth.[185]

Educational integration

To enhance regional co-operation in education, ASEAN education ministers have agreed four priorities for education: (1) Promoting ASEAN awareness among ASEAN citizens, particularly youth; (2) Strengthening ASEAN identity through education; (3) Building ASEAN human resources in the field of education; and (4) Strengthening the ASEAN University Network.[186]

At the 11th ASEAN Summit in December 2005, ASEAN leaders set new directions for regional education collaboration when they welcomed the decision of the ASEAN education ministers to convene meetings on a regular basis. The annual ASEAN Education Ministers Meeting oversees ASEAN co-operation efforts on education at the ministerial level. With regard to implementation, programmes, and activities are carried out by the ASEAN Senior Officials on Education (SOM-ED). SOM-ED also manages co-operation on higher education through the ASEAN University Network (AUN).[187]

ASEAN university network

The ASEAN University Network (AUN) is a consortium of Southeast Asian tertiary institutions of which thirty currently belong as participating universities.[188] Originally founded in November 1995 by eleven universities within the member states,[189] the AUN was established to:[186]

Southeast Asia Engineering Education Development Network Project

The Southeast Asia Engineering Education Development Network (SEED-Net) Project, was established as an autonomous sub-network of the ASEAN University Network (AUN) in April 2001. SEED-Net is aimed at promoting human resource development in engineering in ASEAN. The network consists of twenty-six member institutions selected by higher education ministries of each ASEAN member state, and eleven supporting Japanese universities selected by the Japanese government. This network is mainly supported by the Japanese government through the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and partially supported by the ASEAN Foundation. SEED-Net activities are implemented by the SEED-Net secretariat with the support of the JICA Project for SEED-Net now based at Chulalongkorn University.

ASEAN Scholarship

The ASEAN Scholarship is a scholarship programme offered by Singapore to the nine other member states for secondary school, junior college, and university education. It covers accommodation, food, medical benefits and accident insurance, school fees, and examination fees. Scholarship recipients, who then perform well on the GCE Advanced Level Examination, may apply for ASEAN undergraduate scholarships, which are tailored specifically to undergraduate institutions in Singapore and other ASEAN member countries.[190] Singapore has used this programme effectively to attract many of the best students from the ASEAN region over the past several years, and scholars for the most part tend to remain in Singapore to pursue undergraduate studies through the ASEAN Undergraduate Scholarship programme.[191]

Literacy rates

The table below shows literacy rates among 15- to 24-year-old youths from 10 ASEAN member states as reported to the United Nations.[192]

Country Year (most recent) Adult (15+) Literacy Rate Adult Men Adult Women Youth (15-24) Literacy Rate Youth Men Youth Women
 Brunei 2009 95% 97% 94% 100% 100% 100%
 Cambodia 2008 78% 85% 71% 87% 89% 86%
 Indonesia 2008 92% 95% 89% 99% 100% 99%
 Laos 2005 73% 82% 63% 84% 89% 79%
 Malaysia 2015 96% 95% 94% 93% 95% 96%
 Myanmar 2009 92% 95% 90% 96% 96% 95%
 Philippines 2015 98% 97% 96% 98% 98[193]% 98%
 Singapore 2009 95% 97% 92% 100% 100% 100%
 Thailand 2005 94% 96% 92% 98% 98% 98%
 Vietnam 2009 93% 95% 91% 97% 97% 96%

Culture and sport

The organisation hosts cultural activities in an attempt to further integrate the region. These include sports and educational activities as well as writing awards. Examples of these include the ASEAN Centre for Biodiversity and the ASEAN Outstanding Scientist and Technologist Award

Heritage parks

Main article: ASEAN Heritage Parks

ASEAN Heritage Parks aim to protect the region's natural treasures. There are now 37 such protected areas, including the Tubbataha Reef Marine Park and the Kinabalu National Park.[194]

Songs and music

ASEAN competitions

ASEAN Para Games logo

2030 FIFA world cup bid

In January 2011 ASEAN foreign ministers agreed to bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2030 as a single entity.[195][196]

ASEAN in Sport Games

World Class

International Olympic Committee (IOC)

Olympic Games
Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Thailand 9 8 14 31
2 Indonesia 7 12 11 30
3 Vietnam 1 3 0 4
4 Singapore 1 2 2 5
5 Malaysia 0 7 4 11
6 Philippines 0 3 7 10
Total 17 35 38 91

Overall Medal Tally by the end of 2016 Summer Olympics.

Youth Olympic Games
Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Thailand 7 5 3 15
2 Singapore 2 3 4 9
3 Vietnam 2 2 2 6
4 Malaysia 0 3 1 4
5 Indonesia 0 0 2 2
6 Cambodia 0 0 1 1
Total 11 13 13 37

Overall Medal Tally by the end of 2014 Summer Youth Olympics.

International Paralympic Committee (IPC)

Paralympic Games
Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Thailand 19 24 26 69
2 Indonesia 4 4 10 18
3 Malaysia 3 2 6 11
4 Singapore 3 2 4 9
5 Myanmar 2 3 2 7
6 Vietnam 1 1 2 4
7 Philippines 0 0 2 2
8 Laos 0 0 1 1
Total 32 36 54 122

Overall Medal Tally by the end of 2016 Summer Paralympics.

International University Sports Federation (FISU)

Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Thailand 25 25 45 95
2 Indonesia 3 3 8 14
3 Philippines 1 2 1 4
4 Vietnam 0 3 7 10
5 Malaysia 0 2 9 11
6 Singapore 0 1 0 1
Total 29 36 70 135

Overall Medal Tally by the end of 2015 Summer Universiade.

Asia Class

Olympic Council of Asia (OCA)

Asian Games
Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Thailand 121 159 232 512
2 Indonesia 91 121 199 411
3 Philippines 63 110 206 379
4 Malaysia 56 87 129 272
5 Singapore 37 54 100 191
6 Myanmar 16 28 53 97
7 Vietnam 13 55 70 138
8 Cambodia 1 2 3 6
9 Laos 0 2 8 10
10 Brunei 0 0 4 4
Total 398 618 1004 2020

Overall Medal Tally by the end of 2014 Asian Games.

Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games
Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Thailand 87 86 116 289
2 Vietnam 59 54 67 180
3 Indonesia 15 13 29 57
4 Philippines 6 12 21 39
5 Malaysia 6 12 19 37
6 Laos 4 18 30 52
7 Singapore 4 17 18 39
8 Cambodia 1 4 7 12
9 Myanmar 0 3 4 7
10 Brunei 0 2 8 10
Total 182 221 319 772

Overall Medal Tally by the end of 2013 Asian Indoor and Martial Arts Games.

Asian Beach Games
Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Thailand 94 72 61 227
2 Indonesia 39 23 44 106
3 Vietnam 11 24 26 61
4 Malaysia 3 11 14 28
5 Philippines 3 6 17 26
6 Singapore 3 0 5 8
7 Myanmar 2 6 2 10
8 Laos 2 2 9 13
9 Brunei 1 2 5 8
10 Cambodia 0 0 1 1
Total 158 146 184 488

Overall Medal Tally by the end of 2014 Asian Beach Games.

Asian Youth Games
Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Thailand 16 23 18 57
2 Singapore 14 18 21 53
3 Vietnam 5 6 2 13
4 Malaysia 4 6 8 18
5 Philippines 2 4 1 7
6 Indonesia 1 2 2 5
7 Myanmar 0 0 1 1
8 Brunei 0 0 0 0
8 Cambodia 0 0 0 0
8 Laos 0 0 0 0
Total 42 59 53 154

Overall Medal Tally by the end of 2013 Asian Youth Games.

Asian Paralympic Committee (APC)

Asian Para Games
Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Thailand 41 73 86 200
2 Malaysia 24 33 50 107
3 Vietnam 12 11 23 46
4 Indonesia 10 16 23 49
5 Singapore 1 1 8 10
6 Myanmar 1 1 6 8
7 Philippines 0 9 8 17
8 Brunei 0 2 4 6
9 Cambodia 0 0 0 0
9 Laos 0 0 0 0
Total 89 146 208 143

Overall Medal Tally by the end of 2014 Asian Para Games.

Asian Youth Para Games
Rank Nation Gold Silver Bronze Total
1 Thailand 29 27 12 68
2 Malaysia 24 29 28 81
3 Vietnam 16 4 3 23
4 Indonesia 8 5 5 18
5 Singapore 4 4 0 8
6 Myanmar 3 4 4 11
7 Philippines 1 1 5 7
8 Brunei 1 0 0 1
9 Cambodia 0 0 0 0
9 Laos 0 0 0 0
Total 86 74 57 217

Overall Medal Tally by the end of 2013 Asian Youth Para Games.


Critics have charged that ASEAN is too soft in its approach to promoting human rights and democracy, particularly in junta-led Burma.[197] Some scholars think that non-interference has hindered ASEAN efforts to handle the problems of Myanmar, human rights abuse, and haze pollution in the area. Despite global outrage at the military crack-down on unarmed protesters in Yangon, ASEAN has refused to suspend Burma as a member, and also rejects proposals for economic sanctions.[198] This has caused concern as the European Union has refused to conduct free trade negotiations at a regional level for these political reasons.[199] Some international observers view ASEAN as a "talk shop",[200] stating that the organisation is: "big on words, but small on action".[201] "ASEAN policies have proven to be mostly rhetoric, rather than actual implementation", according to Pokpong Lawansiri, a Bangkok-based independent analyst of ASEAN. "It has been noted that less than 50% of ASEAN agreements are actually implemented, while ASEAN holds more than six hundred meetings annually".[202]

The head of the International Institute of Strategic Studies – Asia, Tim Huxley, cites the diverse political systems present in the grouping, including many young states, as a barrier to far-reaching co-operation outside the economic sphere. He also asserts that, in the absence of an external threat to rally against with the end of the Cold War, ASEAN has begun to be less successful at restraining its members and resolving border disputes such as those between Burma and Thailand and Indonesia and Malaysia.[203] During the 12th ASEAN Summit in Cebu, several activist groups staged anti-globalisation protests.[204] According to the activists, the agenda of economic integration would negatively affect industries in the Philippines and would cause thousands of Filipinos to lose their jobs.[205]

There are also several territorial dispute between ASEAN members that affecting the unity between ASEAN nations such as the Cambodian–Thai border dispute (Khao Phra Wihan National Park) and the continuous claim over parts of Malaysia by certain politicians in the Philippines,[206] who also seems supporting militants raids over neighbouring country.[207][208][209] Beside that, the biggest criticism ASEAN currently facing is the tensions caused by the South China Sea dispute, which involves the following four member states: the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Brunei. China has forcefully occupied the Scarborough Shoal which was traditionally used by Filipinos as fishing grounds and is recognised by the Philippines as an integral part of its territory since the colonial era. The Philippines has been the most vocal against Chinese incursions in the dispute, even bringing its case against China to a United Nations international tribunal in the Hague, the first case filed by a nation against China. Vietnam, Japan, and most Western countries, especially the United States, have strongly supported the Philippines. Vietnam, bordered both by land and sea with China, has also been in conflict with China. This conflict focuses on the Paracel Islands, which China has forcefully occupied following the Battle of the Paracel Islands since 1974. Vietnam also claims all the Spratly Islands. Brunei, claiming only one reef, has been silent on the issue ever since it began, mostly because of its trade with China. Malaysia, a nation with deep economic ties to China, and a nation with billions in Chinese investment, has remained neutral and 'China-friendly' over the conflict. This despite China claiming various reefs and islands in the Spratlys as well as most of its territorial waters and exclusive economic zones in Borneo.

ASEAN has yet to be united in the face of China's massive reclamation activities and incursions in the South China Sea, especially when China is heavily supported by member states. Myanmar and Laos have been former 'satellite nations' of China and are still heavily influenced by China, while Singapore's population is mostly immigrant Chinese and Chinese descendants. Thailand has yet to take a concrete stand on the issue. Of the member states not yet involved in the dispute, Indonesia has supported the diplomatic approach of the Philippines many times. Indonesia's exclusive economic zone in its Natuna Islands overlaps with the so-called nine-dash line of China. Taiwan, also a claimant, has no concrete relations with any ASEAN states, but has an informal office in the Philippines. With the dispute escalating as time passes instead of being resolved multilaterally, China has only accepted bilateral talks where it has the upper hand. Vietnam, the Philippines, China, Taiwan, and even Malaysia have been building their military bases and there is great concern over the possibility of military conflict over the issue.

Corruption remains a widespread issue across the member states, as “tea money” remains an important requirement to grease business transactions and to receive public services in Southeast Asia. Following the release of the Corruption Perceptions Index 2015 by Berlin-based graft watchdog Transparency International on 27 January, its Asia Pacific director, Srirak Plipat, noted that: “if there was one common challenge to unite the Asia-Pacific region, it would be corruption”, noting that: “from campaign pledges to media coverage to civil society forums, corruption dominates the discussion. Yet despite all this talk, there’s little sign of action.”[210]

During a general meeting in 2016, ASEAN failed to include a united statement which includes the International Court ruling on the South China Sea, filed and won by the Philippines against China, due to Cambodia's rejection of the ruling being part of the official ASEAN statement. The ruling benefits the positions of Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines in their respective disputes in the South China Sea against Chinese intrusions in the region's largest waterway.

Current leaders of ASEAN

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