Executive Summary

ASEAN Plus Three (ASEAN+3) is a transnational forum with many economic items on its agenda, and which has been working towards an East Asian regional trade agreement for many years.

Largely recognised as having been established in 1999, membership consists of the ten ASEAN countries together with three East Asian countries – China, Japan, and Korea. Each of the East Asian countries has bilateral trade agreements with ASEAN, which provide the legal framework around which the ASEAN+3 dialogue revolves.

Combined, the members of ASEAN+3 represent nearly 30% of the world’s population, 24% of its GDP and just under 53% of global trade flows. The fact that many of its members are crucial players in global value chains means ASEAN+3 is disproportionately important to world trade. Like ASEAN itself, ASEAN+3 is very diverse in terms of the level of development of its members. Its poorest member, Cambodia, enjoys less than 2% of the GDP per capita of its wealthiest member, Korea.

Due to the recommendations of a series of studies, and frustrated efforts in the East Asia Summit, the ASEAN+3 nations now focus their efforts on establishing the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) that aims to be more inclusive than ASEAN+3, yet more practically workable than the East Asia Summit. 

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