Does ASEAN Still Matter?

Asian-Pacific nations are globally-significant players in the fields of trade, economic development, and humanitarian aid. However, most people still think of Asia as a single entity rather than as a collection of distinct regions with their own characteristics, cultures, and interests. Of course nothing could be further from the truth.

This article will explain what ASEAN is, its history and purpose, member countries, economic partnerships with non-member states and other organizations and if it matters after so much in the world has changed over the last several years.

What is ASEAN?

ASEAN is the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. It is a regional intergovernmental organization whose members are the Southeast Asian countries. It was formed in 1967 by the five Southeast Asian countries, namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Later, Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam joined ASEAN. ASEAN aims to foster regional economic integration through an economic partnership promoting sustainable economic development, social progress, cultural and creative development, and the rule of law. ASEAN also aims to promote regional peace, security and stability. ASEAN is an organization with a geographical focus on Southeast Asia, which is also the name given to the region found between the Indian Ocean and the Pacific Ocean. It is bordered by the countries of China, Mongolia, Russia, India, and Pakistan.

ASEAN’s history and purpose

The idea of forming a Southeast Asian organization can be traced back to the late 1950s. There were concerns among Asian countries that they were not getting their fair share of attention from the rest of the world, and that they could not rely on Western countries to promote their interests. However, the idea of forming a formal organization did not become a reality until a meeting of foreign ministers from Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand in Bangkok in May 1967. The five countries signed an agreement to establish the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), an organization that would promote regional economic cooperation, the movement towards non-communist societies, and the concept of a cooperative and less confrontational Asia. The ASEAN founders hoped that the new organization would promote development, maintain regional peace and security, and improve the regional response to international issues.

Member Countries

ASEAN has ten member countries. The first five were Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Later, Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam joined ASEAN. The member countries are divided into two categories – the core group and the dialogue partners. The core group includes Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, and Thailand. These four countries are the original members of ASEAN. They are also the most economically developed countries in the region and have the strongest economies. The dialogue partners are the less economically developed countries that have been invited to join the organization. They include Brunei, Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam.

Economic Partnerships with Non-Member States

ASEAN was formed in 1967, and the first five members were Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. Later, ASEAN signed economic partnerships (EPs) with 12 countries. The countries include Afghanistan, Australia, Bangladesh, India, Iran, Japan, New Zealand, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka, and Myanmar. These economic partnerships are essentially a framework for cooperation between ASEAN and the other countries. They are an ASEAN initiative to promote the free flow of goods and services, investment, and the movement of skilled labor across the borders within the region. The EPs include a wide range of provisions such as trade in goods and services, investment, and the movement of skilled labor.

ASEAN Initiatives: The Way Forward 2025

The Way Forward 2025 is an ASEAN initiative that began in 2010. It was designed to help ASEAN achieve its Vision 2025 by addressing the issues of youth and employment, connectivity, and sustainability. The initiative has 5 goals: – To create more and better jobs- To increase regional connectivity- To create sustainable growth- To increase regional integration- To improve the quality of life The initiative has 9 priority areas, such as maritime safety and security, energy, environment and climate change, SMEs and entrepreneurship, digital economy, food and nutrition security, health, science and technology, and culture. The initiative has 14 members: Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Vietnam, Australia, New Zealand, and Australia.

China-ASEAN Relations

China has emerged as the most prominent player in Asia. It is a major economic and political power, and it is also the most populous country in the world. Its growing influence in the Asia Pacific region is of great importance and interest to other countries in the region, including ASEAN. ASEAN is a loose regional organization that does not have a formal or strong relationship with China. The relationship between ASEAN and China, therefore, is referred to as a “partnership” rather than as a “relationship”. The relationship between these two important regional players, therefore, is very significant and critical for the future of the Asia Pacific region.


ASEAN members are diverse and bring their own distinct interests and characteristics to the organization. This is both an advantage and a challenge for ASEAN. It is an advantage because it allows ASEAN members to work together on issues of common interest at the regional level. It is a challenge because it makes it difficult for ASEAN to establish a strong and coherent organization and to agree on policies and strategies. However, with continued effort and cooperation, ASEAN could prove to be a powerful force in the global economy. In a nutshell YES ASEAN still matter and in fact may play a more significant regional and global role in the future than they have in the past.