ASEAN TAC: A Key to Regional Cooperation

The Treaty of Amity and Cooperation (TAC) is a foundational treaty by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to establish a code of conduct to govern inter-State relations in Southeast Asia. It was signed in 1976 by the founding members of ASEAN: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. The treaty embodies universal principles of peaceful coexistence and friendly cooperation among States in Southeast Asia and beyond. It also provides a mechanism for the peaceful settlement of disputes or differences among its signatories.

Since its inception, the TAC has been amended three times to allow for accession by States outside Southeast Asia as well as regional organisations whose members are sovereign States. As of August 2022, there are 49 High Contracting Parties to the TAC, including major powers such as China, India, Japan, Russia, the United States, and the European Union. The TAC has become a key instrument for ASEAN to engage with external partners and promote regional peace and stability.

In 2022, three new countries joined the TAC: South Africa, Colombia, and Cuba. These countries hope to broaden their collaboration with ASEAN through various sectors and industries. South Africa is only the third African country to be a signatory after Egypt and Morocco. It is eager to tap into ASEAN’s burgeoning middle-class and forge partnerships with ASEAN through the African Continental Free Trade Area Agreement (AFCFTA). Colombia and Cuba are the first Latin American countries to join the TAC. They seek to enhance their economic and political ties with ASEAN and its dialogue partners.

The accession of these three countries reflects the growing importance and relevance of ASEAN and the TAC in the global arena. It also demonstrates the commitment of these countries to uphold the principles and values enshrined in the TAC. By joining the TAC, these countries have expressed their willingness to cooperate with ASEAN and contribute to regional peace and prosperity.

Indonesia, as the chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is coordinating with Saudi Arabia, Panama, and Spain to sign the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) this year.

The accession of Saudi Arabia, Panama, and Spain to the TAC would be a significant development for ASEAN. It would represent a growing commitment to ASEAN by these three countries, and it would help to promote peace, stability, and prosperity in Southeast Asia.

Indonesia is currently discussing the readiness of Saudi Arabia, Panama, and Spain to sign the treaty. The high-ranking officials at ASEAN are expected to be able to complete the accession in 2023.