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Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)

Australia and ASEAN

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. We entered into a Strategic Partnership in 2014 and agreed to commence biennial leaders' summits in 2015, with the first of these held in Vientiane in November 2016. Learn some key facts about ASEAN in Why ASEAN matters: key facts.

In March 2018, Prime Minister Turnbull welcomed ASEAN Leaders to Sydney for the ASEAN-Australia Special Summit. Learn more about Australia's engagement with ASEAN in Why ASEAN matters: our mutual cooperation.

Australia's economic and security interests remain inextricably linked with the countries of Southeast Asia. Australia and ASEAN signed a Memorandum of Understanding on Cooperation to Counter International Terrorism at the Special Summit. Learn more about Australia's work with ASEAN to address common security challenges in Why ASEAN matters: our shared security.

In 2017, Australia's trade with ASEAN countries grew by 9 per cent over 2016 to reach $105 billion, which is greater than our two-way trade with Japan and the United States. Our strong trade links are supported by our regional and bilateral free trade agreements that act as pathways for Australian business to tap into ASEAN and the ASEAN Economic Community.

We have a range of products to help Australian businesses learn about trade and investment opportunities in ASEAN. An updated joint DFAT-Austrade publication 'ASEAN Now' released in 2017 is complemented by an ASEAN focused edition of DFAT's Business Envoy released in June 2018. Learn more about trade and investment, including the ASEAN-Australia Digital Trade Standards joint initiative announced at the Special Summit in Why ASEAN matters: our shared prosperity.

Australia has strong connections to the people of Southeast Asia, including through migration, education exchanges and tourism. Learn more about people-to-people links with ASEAN in Why ASEAN matters: our shared connections.

Australia is a long-standing supporter of development and poverty reduction in ASEAN. Complementing the work of our bilateral programs, our regional aid program aligns with aid-for-trade objectives under the Australian Government's policy 'Australian aid: promoting prosperity, reducing poverty and enhancing stability'. The aid program also works with ASEAN to counter human trafficking and support safe and legal migration. Learn more about our ASEAN and Mekong program.


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 marked ASEAN's 50th anniversary. The anniversary was 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 commemorated 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.

ASEAN-Australia documents and links

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