Organisational Structure

ASEAN+3 itself is not a legalized entity. It exists through a multi-level web of meetings and informal normative documents such as the ASEAN+3 Cooperation Workplan.

The most senior body in the ASEAN+3 process is the ASEAN+3 Summit, which consists of the members’ heads of state and meets annually, usually following the ASEAN Summit. Under the Summit are a series of ministerial meetings that bring together the relevant ministers from each country to discuss cooperation across:

  • Foreign affairs
  • Economics
  • Finance
  • Energy
  • Environment
  • Agriculture and Forestry
  • Telecommunications and Information Technology
  • Tourism
  • Labour
  • Health
  • Culture and the Arts
  • Social welfare and Development
  • Youth
  • Science and Technology

A senior officials’ meeting, establishing more specialized working groups and expert consultation meetings to progress the objectives of the ASEAN+3 Cooperation Workplan, supports each ministerial meeting.

Some meetings deal with transnational issues that do not fall directly under a single ministerial body’s purview, these include the ASEAN+3 Committee on Disaster Management and the ASEAN+3 Senior Officials Meeting on Rural Development and Poverty.

A full list of the various meetings may be found here1.

Supporting this diverse range of meetings are the “ASEAN+1” dialogues between each of the East Asian countries and ASEAN. These have a similar structure but work toward (and have achieved) legally binding trade agreements.

Finally there are also regular, informal meetings between the East Asian countries working towards the creation of a China-Japan-Korea trade agreement, and discussions on how the cooperative initiatives agreed to in ATP will be carried out and developmental projects distributed.

This informal, non-legalized and multi-channel organizational structure has led some commentators to refer to the ATP model as “governance without government”.2 The political agreements rely on members’ good faith and their representatives’ understanding of one another rather than the enforcement of a set of rules and regulations. This approach has meant that progress can only be made when common ground can be found among all the members, but also allows flexibility in implementation, enabling each member to act according to its capabilities at a given point in time.

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