Each of ASEAN Countries Should Never Walk Alone

11:42:29 AM | 8/8/2019


ASEAN was established in Bangkok, Thailand on August 8, 1967 with the singing of the ASEAN Declaration by five founding members namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand.

Cambodia is the last member joining ASEAN on April 30, 1999, making up what is today the 10 member States of ASEAN, together moving forwards with efforts to build a bloc with One Vision, One Identity, and One Community.

By collecting ASEAN through the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025, the member States are creating a network of people and infrastructure to improve the way people live, work and travel.

The Master Plan focuses on five key areas, namely (i) sustainable infrastructure, (ii) digital innovation, (iii) seamless logistics, (iv) regulatory excellence, and (v) people mobility.

ASEAN emerged as the 5th biggest economy in the world in 2017 with combined GDP of almost US$ 2.8 trillion and continued to sustain the position in 2018 with the aggregate GDP of over US$2.9 trillion in 2018.

Foreign direct investment flows to ASEAN rose from US$123 billion in 2016 to an all-time high of US$137 billion in 2017 and over US$170 in 2018.

The bloc’s overall ratio of total trade to GDP reached 93.8% in 2018, in which Singapore, Viet Nam and Malaysia have the highest rates with 215%, 199.1% and 129.7%, respectively, reflecting the fact on how the ASEAN countries are outward-looking.

Home to over 600 million population, ASEAN is generally characterized by high proportion of youth and productive working-age population.

The population below the age of 20 and within the age of 20-54 years accounted for 34.5 percent and 50.4 percent of the region's total population in 2017, respectively.

Regarding external relations, ASEAN shall develop friendly relations and mutually beneficial dialogue, cooperation and partnerships with countries and sub-regional, regional and international organizations and institutions.

In conducting ASEAN’s external relations, the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Meeting may confer on an external party the formal status of Dialogue Partner, Sectoral Dialogue Partner, Development Partner, Special Observer, Guest, or other status.

Since Australia became ASEAN’s very first dialogue partner, the status was conferred to other countries like Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, the Republic of Korea, the United States.

Meanwhile, Pakistan, Norway, Switzerland and Turkey were conferred the status of sectoral dialogues partner in 1993, 2015, 2016, and 2017, respectively.

Germany was conferred the status of development partner of ASEAN by the 49th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM) on 24 July 2016 in Vientiane, Lao PDR.

Collectively, ASEAN member countries have established free trade areas with Australia and New Zealand, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, and Hong Kong, China. They are also joining talks on a Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership involving six partners namely China, the Republic of Korea, Japan, India, Australia and New Zealand in order to broaden and deepen the engagement among parties and to enhance parties’ participation in economic development of the region.

Indeed, through historical upheavals, ASEAN has turned Southeast Asia from confrontation to dialogue, from suspicion to co-operation, from division to solidarity.

ASEAN is now making efforts to build a united community and it could only be successful should the bloc be able to sustain the centrality and solidarity, particularly in issues related to peace and security.