Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

About 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 Myanmar 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 approaches its activities based on the principles of consultation, consensus, and cooperation, described as 'the ASEAN way'.

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

At its November 2015 Summit, ASEAN declared the ‘ASEAN Community’. This was a significant milestone in a concerted process of regional integration premised on three pillars: the Political-Security Community, Economic Community and Socio-Cultural Community.

2017 marks ASEAN’s 50th anniversary. The anniversary has been an opportunity to reflect on ASEAN’s substantial achievements - a strong and cohesive ASEAN has fostered cooperation and encouraged norms of behaviour that have laid the foundation for peace and prosperity in the region. Australia is commemorating ASEAN’s 50th anniversary with several activities throughout the year, including a reception hosted by the Governor-General on ASEAN Day (8 August) and an event co-hosted with the Philippines focused on Women’s Economic Empowerment in ASEAN.

Australia and ASEAN

Australia’s economic and security interests remain inextricably linked with the countries of Southeast Asia. With a population of around 6 37 million and a combined GDP of around US$2.5 trillion, the ASEAN region is an important partner for Australian trade and investment. In 2016, total trade with ASEAN countries amounted to over $ 93 billion, more than with the US and Japan .

Political-strategic cooperation

Australia’s bilateral engagement with the countries of Southeast Asia is strengthened by our engagement with ASEAN, the region’s premier representative grouping.

Australia became the first of ASEAN’s ten dialogue partners in 1974. At the 40th Anniversary Commemorative Summit in Myanmar in November 2014, Australia and ASEAN entered into a Strategic Partnership, in recognition of the depth and breadth of Australia-ASEAN cooperation over many years .

In 2015, Australia and ASEAN agreed  to commence biennial leaders’ summits. The first was held in Vientiane in November 2016 . 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 Minister for Trade and Investment also engages regularly with ASEAN counterparts to advance regional economic cooperation in support of Australian business interests and growth. This frequent Ministerial 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.

In March 2018, Prime Minister Turnbull will welcome ASEAN Leaders to Sydney for an unprecedented ASEAN-Australia Special Summit. The Summit is an opportunity to further strengthen Australia’s strategic partnership with ASEAN, unlock new opportunities for trade and investment, and to address shared challenges, such as terrorism and cyber security.

Economic cooperation

The declaration of the ASEAN Economic Community offers a potential avenue for Australian business to capitalise on the region’s economic dynamism. This includes attracting the large amounts of capital in the region to invest in Australia.

The ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA), complemented by our FTAs with Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand, is a pathway for Australian business to tap into ASEAN. The joint DFAT-Austrade publication ASEAN Now provides advice to Australian business on drivers of growth in the region and provides profiles on each ASEAN market. ASEAN Now updates and extends the 2015 report Why ASEAN and Why Now?

Socio-cultural ties

People-to-people ties are robust. There were over 1.3 million ASEAN visitors to Australia in 2016 and around 100,000 students from ASEAN countries enrolled to study in Australia – nearly 18% of all international students. According to the 2016 Australian census, around 860,000 respondents claimed an ASEAN country as their country of birth.

Australia’s ASEAN and Mekong program supports ASEAN’s economic integration and inclusive growth, contributing to reduced poverty and also making it cheaper, easier and fairer for Australian businesses working in ASEAN.  The aid program also works with ASEAN to counter human trafficking and support safe and legal migration.

The regional aid program also supports aid-for-trade objectives under the Australian Government’s aid policy ‘Australian aid: promoting prosperity, reducing poverty and enhancing stability’.

Last Updated: 10 November 2017

Australian Mission to ASEAN

Australian Mission to ASEAN website