ASEAN, 10 Southeast Asia countries and a regional importance

Founded on 8 August 1967, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is a regional organization for economic, political and cultural cooperation and counts ten South-East Asian countries among its members.

In reconciling respect for national sovereignties with the need for a climate of confidence conducive to economic development, ASEAN has been a source of stability for the young Member States, a forum for negotiations and an instrument for recognition at regional level, notably vis-à-vis neighbouring China.

Map: Member States of ASEAN

Asia-Europe cooperation

Europe has been an ASEAN partner since 1977 and the European Union has signed partnership agreements since 1980. This cooperation concerns security and policy, economic and socio-cultural issues. Since 1996, the Asia-Europe Meeting, an informal inter-regional forum, has brought together ASEAN Plus 3 and other invited countries and the 28 countries of the European Union. Lastly, in 2007, a new step forward was taken with the signature of the Nuremberg Declaration on an EU-ASEAN Enhanced Partnership, which established a five-year plan for enhancement actions.

France, ASEAN partner

France, a founding country of the European Union, identifies with the spirit of ASEAN to which it has always lent its support. For example, France fully shares the values of the Treaty of Amity and Co-operation in Southeast Asia and was one the of the first non-Southeast Asian countries to sign it.

In addition, France has established security agreements to shore up the construction of ASEAN with many countries in the region including China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam. It supports ASEAN’s efforts to build regional security architecture and takes part in the ASEAN Regional Forum as a member of the European Union.

ASEAN: origins and development

Solidarity, economic development and common interests

The Bangkok Declaration signed by the five founding States (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand) is the reference text for ASEAN. This document affirms the shared ideals of peace, freedom and social justice. It also lays down the main principles of solidarity among its members, economic cooperation, the desire to promote growth and the existence of common interests. While it was signed in the midst of the Vietnam War, it likewise ensures the commitment to the political status quo in Southeast Asia.

Neutrality and non-interference

In 1967, the founders planned to allow all Southeast Asian countries endorsing ASEAN aims, principles and objectives to become members, which was a way of not closing the door to broader cooperation in Pacific Asia.

In 1971, with the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia, ASEAN affirmed–against a backdrop of the Cold War–its neutrality and its independence vis-à-vis external powers and the principle of non-interference in the domestic affairs of member countries. This position would make it possible to rise above power mentalities and not be cut off from its Communist neighbours (Cambodia, Laos and the recently united Vietnam). It would also show its relevance when Vietnam invaded Cambodia, which was under the rule of the Khmer Rouge.

An interlocutor at an international level

With the joining of Brunei in 1984 (one week after declaring its independence), Vietnam in 1995, Laos and Burma in 1997, then Cambodia in 1999, the number of ASEAN Member States would reach ten.

It has become a recognized trade interlocutor for major powers in, for example, Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), which brings together countries of the Pacific: ASEAN, European Union, Japan, Canada and New Zealand.

The 1997 crisis that particular hit Southeast Asia hard managed to convince everyone of the importance of pursuing and enhancing regional cooperation within the organization.

ASEAN Plus 3 (ASEAN + China, Japan and South Korea) has made great strides in this regard creating a free-trade area for ASEAN and China as well as conditions for stronger representation in discussions with the World Trade Organization.

Key Figures
  • 10 Southeast Asia countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Burma, Cambodia
  • 620 million people
  • A GDP of US$ 2.4 trillion
  • The European Union is ASEAN’s second leading trade partner after China and ASEAN itself.
  • EU-ASEAN trade: US$ 229.7 billion in 2016

For more information, visit the the website of ASEAN

Updated: 16.10.2017