ASEAN + 3 + 6 = ?
ASEAN stands for Association of Southeast Asian Nations and consists of ten member states including Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam. The aim of its creation was to improve economic, sociocultural and political cooperation and to balance political conflicts between these countries. But what exactly is ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6? And what purpose do they have?
In 1967 the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was established by five countries; namely Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand. The main purpose of ASEAN was to stimulate economic growth, social progress and cultural, technical as well as educational development through mutually beneficial collaboration and cooperation among the member states. With its slogan “One Vision, One Identity, One Community” a harmonic coexistence including supporting regional peace and stability was promoted. Over the course of time Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, and Myanmar became members of the Association and with Cambodia joining in the year 1999 ASEAN consists now of ten member states.
ASEAN+3 and ASEAN+6
China, Japan, and the Republic of Korea are the countries which represent the “3” in ASEAN+3, which was established in 1999. Its goal was to strengthen and deepen the cooperation in East Asia even further. The main objectives and principles are written down in the Joint Statement. In the year 2007 a second Joint Statement “Building on the Foundations of ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation” was accepted, which states that ASEAN+3 continues to support ASEAN in building an East Asian community. Furthermore, the ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation Work Plan (2007-2017) was developed in order to enhance the East Asia cooperation. Ten years later, at the end of the Cooperation Work Plan (2017), ASEAN+3 was proclaimed to have a crucial role for peace, stability, and prosperity in the East Asian region. Moreover, ASEAN+3 agreed to be a continued essential partner of the ASEAN Community Vision 2025.
Besides what we already know now, ASEAN+6 includes the ASEAN+3 member states as well as Australia, India, and New Zealand. This formation was inspired by the European Union and shaped the basis for the envisioned East Asian community.
Switzerland became a Sectorial Dialogue Partner in the year 2016 and celebrated its 5th Anniversary of this valued Partnership in August 2021. Southeast Asia’s importance in global affairs is continuously growing and with Switzerland joining the Sectorial Dialogue, the country is able to intensify the cooperation with Southeast Asia and expand its ties with the Asia-Pacific region. There are four defined priority fields for a cooperation between ASEAN and Switzerland: human security, vocational education and training, climate change and social forestry, as well as disaster management and risk reduction. The countries support each other during challenging periods which was emphasised in a speech of the Vietnamese Ambassador on the 1st of September 2021:
“Vietnam has been profoundly thankful for the Swiss timely donations of Covid-19 medical equipment such as oxygen machines, Covid-19 test kits, masks and with total value of 5 million USD. Delivered on the occasion of the visit, the Emergency Aid package sent a clear message of solidarity and empathy to the Vietnamese people, in line with the spirit of “A friend in need is a friend indeed.””
- Mrs. Le Linh Lan, Vietnamese Ambassador on the celebration of the 50th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between Vietnam and Switzerland on 1st September 2021
ARIC (n.d.). Association of Southeast Asian Nations Plus Three (ASEAN+3) cooperation on energy, transport, and information & communications technology. ASIA REGIONAL INTEGRATION CENTER. https://aric.adb.org/initiative/association-of-southeast-asian-nations-plus-three-cooperation-on-energy-transport-and-information-communications-technology
ASEAN (n.d.). The Founding of ASEAN. Association of Southeast Asian Nations. https://asean.org/about-asean/the-founding-of-asean/
ASEAN plus three (n.d.). History. ASEAN plus three. https://aseanplusthree.asean.org/about-apt/history/
Federal Department of Foreign Affairs FDFA (2021, August 19). Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). EDA. https://www.eda.admin.ch/eda/en/fdfa/foreign-policy/international-organizations/asean.html
Toh, M. H. (2009, May 15). ASEAN+6 as a step towards an Asian Economic Community. Eastasiaforum. https://www.eastasiaforum.org/2009/05/15/asean6-as-a-step-towards-an-asian-economic-community/