Why is Indonesia in ASEAN

Japan and ASEAN: for peace and prosperity in Asia

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which consists of ten countries, and Japan have maintained cooperative relationships for peace and stability as well as development and prosperity in the Asian region for more than 30 years. The 13th Japan-ASEAN Summit took place in Hanoi at the end of October last year. This article looks at the importance and role of ASEAN, with a focus on the cooperative ties with Japan.


The ASEAN within the everyday life of the people in Japan

In the everyday life of the people in Japan, ASEAN form an institution that is closely linked to Japan. The cuisine of the various Southeast Asian countries, such as Thai cuisine, has a firm place in the food culture of the Japanese today, and imports from the ASEAN region also make up a large proportion of products such as fresh fruit or fruit products (canned). But numerous other everyday items, electrical household appliances and auto parts are also produced in ASEAN countries such as Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam. These countries thus fulfill an important function as “factory locations” for Japanese manufacturers. At the same time, countries like Indonesia and Brunei also play a major role as energy suppliers of natural gas or crude oil.


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Lively exchange of people and cultures

ASEAN is also very popular as a holiday destination for the Japanese. Every year around 3.7 million Japanese tourists travel to the wonderful vacation spots and world heritage sites in the countries of this region. But even in ASEAN, young people in particular are big fans of Japanese pop culture such as anime and J-pop. Large numbers of people are learning Japanese in Indonesia, Thailand or Vietnam, and the number of students from these countries who come to Japan to study is steadily increasing.



Unexpectedly long history of exchanges with ASEAN

Japan and the ASEAN region have long been linked by sea routes. At the beginning of the Edo period in the early 17th century there was a real Japanese settlement in the Thai city of Ayutthaya, but there were also settlements or places in Vietnam, Cambodia or the Philippines where numerous Japanese lived. The most famous historical figures who were closely related to the region of today's ASEAN are Prince Takayama Ukon, who converted to Christianity, who ended his life in Manila, and Yamada Nagamasa, who worked in Ayutthaya. But even after Japan had closed itself off from abroad during the Edo period, the exchange between the Dutch colony of Indonesia and the Dutch trading post Dejima near Nagasaki continued. For example, the potato, which originally came from Latin America (in Japanese today jagaimo) via Jakarta (Jagatara) as jagatara imo got to Japan.



Foundation and current form of ASEAN

The countries that later became members of ASEAN, with the exception of Thailand, which was the only country able to retain its independence, were under the colonial rule of Great Britain, France and the Netherlands until the 20th century. During the Second World War they were occupied by Japan and only gained their independence after the end of the war. On the occasion of the Vietnam War, they began to strengthen regional cooperation among each other in the 1960s. With the "Bangkok Declaration" in 1967 ASEAN was brought into being. The five states of Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, the Philippines and Malaysia were founding members. After Brunei became a member in 1984, the number of members of this association of states increased rapidly and today it consists of ten states. As an institution of regional cooperation, ASEAN does not yet come close to the states of the EU or NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) with regard to GDP, but with its more than 570 million people it is far ahead of these economic areas. In the past ten years, ASEAN has also recorded high economic growth, and with its potential as an “outwardly open growth center” for the world, it is the focus of the international community's attention.


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Japan and ASEAN (1): Beginning of the cooperative relationship as the first “dialogue partner”

After the war, Japan provided the independent members of ASEAN with extensive support in establishing their state systems, including through official development aid (ODA). In 1977 the then Prime Minister Takeo Fukuda introduced the three foreign policy principles relating to ASEAN (known as the "Fukuda Doctrine") during a visit to the Philippine capital Manila: (1) Japan's renunciation of the status of a major military power, (2) the pursuit of Relations with ASEAN “heart to heart” and (3) Japan and ASEAN as equal partners. At the same time, Japan held a Japan-ASEAN summit that year before the other industrialized countries. In 1978 a meeting of the foreign ministers of Japan and ASEAN took place, so that Japan was the first "dialogue partner" with regard to the design of cooperative relations with ASEAN.




Japan and ASEAN (2): Irreplaceable Economic Partners

Japan and ASEAN also have close ties as economic partners. For Japan, ASEAN, along with China, the United States and the EU, are an important trading partner, but Japan is also one of the leading trading partners in this region for ASEAN. As an investor for ASEAN, Japan ranks second after the EU, so Japan and ASEAN are irreplaceable economic partners for each other. To further liberalize trade and investment, Japan signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Singapore for the first time in 2002. Further bilateral EPAs followed with Indonesia, Thailand, Brunei and the Philippines. In 2008, the Japan-ASEAN Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP) came into force, which aims to further promote trade and investment between the two sides and expand cooperation.




Japan ASEAN Center (Promotion of Trade, Investment and Tourism)

This center is an international institution founded in Tokyo in 1981 by the then member states of ASEAN and Japan. To promote exports from ASEAN to Japan and to promote investment and tourism between Japan and ASEAN, the center organizes a wide range of activities and events, including exhibitions with products from ASEAN, trade talks, seminars, workshops, sending and inviting delegations, Training of human resources, cultural events, issuing of publications or information offers. The premises on the Ginza have their own exhibition areas that are open to the public at any time. More information at https://www.asean.or.jp/ja/



Japan and ASEAN (3): Working together for peace and stability in the Asia-Pacific region

The realization of a prosperous, stable and at the same time open to the outside world Asia-Pacific region is also essential for the security and prosperity of Japan. For this it is important that Japan, on the basis of firm Japanese-American relations, promotes an active policy on Asia in order to be able to achieve peace and stability within Asia as well as sustainable growth. In order to maintain peace and stability in the region, Japan strongly participates in forums for regional cooperation in East Asia, such as the East Asia Summit (EAS), ASEAN + 3, cooperation between Japan and ASEAN, and cooperation between Japan , China and South Korea. In addition, Japan is also active in forums that include countries outside the region, such as APEC, the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) or the Asia-Europe Summit (ASEM), and is committed to expanding cooperation between the Regions.


Japan's support for the further integration of ASEAN

Japan is ASEAN's largest donor of development aid and works with member states in a wide range of areas, ranging from building social infrastructure to restoring cultural sites. In recent years Japan has been particularly committed to building infrastructure in regions (including, for example, the Mekong region with Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam) that have so far been underdeveloped, as well as training humane people Resources to eliminate regional differences within ASEAN. In 2005, the then Prime Minister Koizumi announced support for Japan within the framework of the “Japan-ASEAN Integration Fund” (JAIF), which has since supported a wide range of activities in areas such as disaster prevention, infectious diseases and the fight against terrorism. The aim is to form an ASEAN community and, as a further goal in the future, to work together and expand a network for the realization of the vision of an East Asian community announced by Japan. In order to put cooperation within Asia on a solid and secure basis, the then Prime Minister Abe presented the “Youth Exchange Program for Asia in the 21st Century” (JENESYS) at the East Asia Summit in January 2007. As part of this program, young people from the ASEAN countries are invited to Japan, while at the same time young Japanese are sent to the individual member countries of ASEAN.


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For the creation of an ASEAN community by 2015

By 2015, ASEAN is striving to form an “ASEAN community” based on the three pillars “political and security community”, “economic community” and “social and cultural community”. It was initially planned to be implemented by 2020, but in view of increasing global competition with countries such as India and China, regional integration picked up speed. In 2003, the “Vientiane Action Program” indicated concrete steps for the implementation of an ASEAN community, and the “ASEAN Charter”, which came into force in 2008, included an expansion of the ASEAN organs and a more transparent design of the processes in terms of decision-making and decision making is proposed.


Japan-ASEAN partnership for new growth in Asia: Strengthening togetherness

The most important task with a view to shaping an ASEAN community is to strengthen togetherness. The "physical togetherness" in the form of transport routes, information transfer or energy networks, the "togetherness with a view to systems" such as the liberalization of trade, investments and services and finally the "togetherness between people" in the context of tourism, education or culture form the three aspects of a master plan for strengthening togetherness in the region, which was presented at the 17th ASEAN summit in October 2010. With regard to this commitment, there is also the possibility for Japan to make a contribution, namely within the framework of the new growth strategy propagated by Japan in the form of the promotion of infrastructure packages for abroad. Japan believes that "a united ASEAN will become the hub of regional cooperation and that this is of great importance for the stability and prosperity of Japan, ASEAN and all of East Asia." Comprehensive support for strengthening togetherness.




Note: This article was published on October 18, 2010 as the 64th episode of the information series “Understanding the international situation!” On the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Japan. He was made for News from Japan translated into German.




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