Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)


The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is an inter-governmental arrangement formed in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand to promote political, economic and social cooperation and regional stability. Brunei joined in 1984 and Vietnam in 1995. Laos and Burma became members in 1997 as ASEAN marked its 30th anniversary, with Cambodia becoming ASEAN’s tenth member in 1999. ASEAN’s activities are coordinated by the ASEAN Secretariat based in Jakarta.

The ASEAN Declaration, ASEAN’s founding document, sets out the principles of peace and cooperation to which ASEAN is dedicated. In 2008, ASEAN established its legal identity as an international organisation, following entry into force of the ASEAN Charter.

ASEAN aims to declare itself the ‘ASEAN Community’ by the end of 2015. This will be the culmination of a concerted process of regional integration premised on three pillars: the Political-Security Community, Economic Community and Socio-Cultural Community. Each pillar has its own blueprint, which provides a roadmap to the ASEAN Community destination as well as a means by which to measure progress.

With its combined population of 612 million and a US$2.4 trillion economy, ASEAN secures far greater influence on international issues than its members could achieve individually. This is the essence of ASEAN’s community ambition. ASEAN approaches its activities based on the principles of consultation, consensus, and cooperation, described as 'the ASEAN way'.

Australia and ASEAN

Australia became the first of ASEAN’s ten dialogue partners in 1974. At the 40th Anniversary Commemorative Summit in Burma in November 2014, Australia and ASEAN entered a Strategic Partnership, in recognition of the depth and breadth of Australia-ASEAN cooperation over many years and acknowledging the potential for still greater mutual engagement.

The transformation of Australia-ASEAN relations over the past four decades has been remarkable. As a combined economy, ASEAN represents almost 15 per cent of Australia’s total trade, with two-way trade valued at almost $100 billion in 2013-14. This is a 107-fold increase in goods trade since 1973-74, and the latest goods and services figures are more than double those of just ten years ago. The ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), which came into force in 2010, provides real commercial benefits to exporters and investors.

People-to-people ties are exceptionally robust, through education links, two-way tourist traffic and migration. According to the 2011 Australian census, over 650,000 people claimed Southeast Asian heritage.

Each year, Australia’s Foreign Minister joins with ASEAN Foreign Ministers for formal consultations in what is known as the Post-Ministerial Conference (PMC). Australia’s Trade Minister also engages regularly with ASEAN counterparts, while Australian and ASEAN leaders confirmed at their 40th Anniversary Commemorative Summit to convene regular summits in the future. This frequent and high-level engagement helps advance a range of mutual interests between ASEAN and Australia and is supported by extensive officials-level engagement. Since October 2013, Australia has a resident ambassador accredited to the ASEAN Secretariat in Jakarta.

ASEAN sits at the centre of a range of other important regional arrangements, including the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF), the East Asia Summit (EAS) and the negotiations under way for a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

ASEAN-Australia documents and links

Last Updated: 1 October 2014