India is a member of ASEAN

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The Southeast Asian regional organization Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), founded in 1967, is of particular importance here. The Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), on the other hand, has enabled a trans-Asian economic dialogue between the countries of the Pacific region since 1989. In 1994 the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) - a predominantly security policy dialogue framework at foreign ministerial level - was created.

Since 1997, the region's three largest economies - China, Japan and South Korea - have also been more strongly represented in multilateral regional structures through ASEAN + 3. With the first East Asia Summit (EAS) with the participation of ASEAN + 3 as well as Australia, New Zealand and India, a further body was established in 2005, which from 2011 will also include the USA and Russia.

In addition, there are the regional organizations of South Asia, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), the Pacific, the Pacific Islands Forum (PIF) and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) of Central Asia, supraregional dialogue forums such as the Euro-Asian ASEM (Asia- Europe Meeting) as well as various sub-regional associations such as the association of Mekongan residents in the Mekong River Commission (MRC).

Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN)

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) was founded in 1967 and has grown to include ten member states (Brunei, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam). Time and again, ASEAN had to adjust to changing international constellations in the Asian region and reaffirm its inner cohesion by referring to central values. These include the unanimity requirement for decisions and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of the member states. The affirmation of the so-called ASEAN centrality and the commitment to multilateral, rule-based international cooperation form a counterweight to the increasing rival ambitions of the great powers in the region.

The ASEAN Charter, which came into force on December 15, 2008, has given ASEAN cooperation impetus, above all in the areas of politics and security as well as culture and society. The charter forms the basis for the further development of the ASEAN community and gives ASEAN legal personality. It also contains the ASEAN states' commitment to the rule of law, democracy and good governance and provides for the formation of a human rights body.

One focus of ASEAN cooperation is on economic integration. In November 2015, the member states announced the establishment of the Asean Economic Community (AEC). This resolution is seen as the starting shot on the way to a single market with free movement of goods and capital and free movement of workers, which is to be achieved by the end of 2025. At the same time, negotiations are being held on a comprehensive regional economic partnership, the “Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership” (RCEP), which the ten ASEAN member states want to conclude with six states with which the ASEAN alliance has already agreed free trade agreements.

The establishment of a body of permanent representatives of the ASEAN countries in Jakarta is an important step towards a more institutionalized cooperation. It has also become possible for third countries to accredit ambassadors to ASEAN. For Germany, this function is carried out by the German ambassador to Indonesia.

Official website:


ASEAN + 3 describes the regional dialogue framework between the ten ASEAN states and the three East Asian countries China, Japan and South Korea. The ASEAN + 3 forum was launched in the late 1990s in response to the Asian financial crisis and acts mainly in the areas of economic, trade and financial policy, but also in environmental and health issues. The multilateral cooperation of ASEAN + 3 has also found expression in a number of agreements. Among other things, there are ASEAN free trade agreements with China, Japan and South Korea.

Overview on the ASEAN website: ASEAN + 3

East Asia Summit (EAS)

Since 2005, 16 heads of state and government from the ten ASEAN countries as well as China, Japan, South Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India have met at the East Asia Summit. Since the EAS summit in 2011, the USA and Russia have also participated as full members of the EAS process. The importance of the EAS, where security policy issues and “soft issues” are discussed, is growing steadily. The EAS is complementary to the Asia-Pacific Economic Community APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation), which is primarily focused on economic and financial issues.

Overview on the ASEAN website: East Asia Summit

Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM)

The "Asia-Europe Meeting" is an interregional discussion forum that is used for multilateral exchange between Europe and Asia in the fields of politics, economy and culture. In 2016 ASEM celebrated its 20th anniversary.

Founded in 1996 on the initiative of Singapore and France, ASEM has grown from originally 26 to 53 members today: On the European side, these are all 28 EU member states, the EU, Switzerland and Norway; on the Asian side there are China, Japan, India, South Korea, Brunei, Indonesia, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, the ASEAN Secretariat, Pakistan, Australia, New Zealand, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Russia and Kazakhstan.

ASEM is a kind of permanent conference in which the partners can discuss all topics, exchange experiences, build trust and maintain partnerships. ASEM is a network without a secretariat, as permanent structures there are two coordinators each: On the European side, the European External Action Service and the incumbent EU Presidency. On the Asian side, one ASEAN state and one non-ASEAN state each act as a representative of the North / East / South Asia Group NESA.

The ASEM summit and the ASEM foreign ministerial conference alternate every two years. The ASEM summit was last held in Brussels in 2018, and the foreign ministers' conference in Naypyitaw in 2017. All ASEM meetings are listed on the official ASEM website:

Official website: Asia-Europe Meeting

ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF)

The ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) was founded in 1994 by decision of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers. ARF deals with security issues and is the only institutionalized security policy discussion forum in the Asia-Pacific region. In addition to the ten ASEAN member states, 16 countries are currently participating: Australia, Bangladesh, China, India, Japan, Canada, Mongolia, New Zealand, North Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Russian Federation, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Timor Leste, the USA and the EU. For the EU, the ARF is the important forum in Asia / Pacific to promote its security policy concepts and to develop confidence-building and preventive diplomacy.

Official website: ASEAN Regional Forum

South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC)

The South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) was founded in 1985 by Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Afghanistan has been the eighth member since 2007. The EU, along with China, Japan, South Korea and the USA, was represented as an observer for the first time at the 2007 SAARC summit in New Delhi. SAARC itself has been an observer at the United Nations since December 2004.

SAARC focuses on economic and trade issues. A milestone in regional cooperation on an economic level was achieved with the agreement to create a free trade area, the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), which came into force in 2006. SAFTA has been ratified by all member states. The SAARC action program refers to cooperation in seven key areas, including agriculture and rural development, environment and forestry, human resources development and transportation.

Official website: SAARC

Pacific Islands Forum (PIF)

The Pacific Island Forum (PIF) was founded in 1971 as the "South Pacific Forum" in Wellington (New Zealand) and renamed the Pacific Island Forum in 2000. As a regional political organization in the Pacific, the PIF currently has 18 members (Australia, New Zealand, Cook Islands, Fiji, Kiribati, Marshal Islands, Micronesia, Nauru, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Western Samoa, Tonga, Tuvalu, Vanuatu, French -Polynesia and New Caledonia), Timor-Leste and Tokelau have observer status. In addition, the PIF has 18 so-called Post-Forum dialogue partners (Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, India, China, Japan, South Korea, Cuba, EU, France, Italy, Great Britain, Spain and Turkey), including Germany since 2016 . Due to rising sea levels, changes in earth and sea temperatures, new precipitation patterns and extreme weather events, the PIF countries are one of the regions on earth most threatened by climate change.

Official website: Pacific Islands Forum

Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO)

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) emerged in 2001 from the "Shanghai 5" founded in 1996. The original five members China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Russian Federation and Tajikistan were joined by Uzbekistan in 2001 and India and Pakistan in 2017. Mongolia, Iran and Afghanistan have observer status, Belarus, Sri Lanka and Turkey are "dialogue partners". Turkmenistan is not a member of the SCO, citing “permanent neutrality”, but takes part in the summits as a special guest. The SCO has had observer status at the United Nations since 2004. There are also cooperation agreements with the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

The original focus of the SCO was security cooperation in the border regions of the member states. The SCO's current priorities include stability in the region, the fight against terrorism and questions of energy security. This is now being supplemented by selected economic and trade issues. In addition, members of the SCO have carried out joint military maneuvers several times in recent years.

Official website: Shanghai Cooperation Organization

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC)

Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) was established in 1989 on the initiative of Australia. APEC aims to strengthen economic growth on both sides of the Pacific by dismantling tariffs and other trade barriers ("Bogor Goals", adopted at the summit in Bogor / Indonesia in 1994). At the 15th summit in Sydney in 2007, the issue of climate protection was added to the APEC agenda. The summit on November 18, 2018 in Port Moresby ended - for the first time in the history of APEC - without a joint final declaration. The reasons were on the one hand the trade dispute between the USA and China and their different assessments of the future role of the WTO, and on the other hand the criticism of the USA and others of China's advance in the Pacific.

The summit meetings at the head of state and government level take place annually and include the participation of business leaders. APEC currently has 21 "Member Economies": Australia, Brunei, Chile, China, Indonesia, Japan, Hong Kong, Canada, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Philippines, the Russian Federation, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand, USA and Vietnam. The APEC comprises almost 40 percent of the world's population. Together they generate around 55 percent of world GDP and do around 45 percent of world trade.

Official website: Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation