ASEAN Plus Three (APT): Where are We Now?

The ASEAN Plus Three (APT) is a cooperative framework composed of the ten ASEAN Member States (AMS), the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Japan, and the Republic of Korea (ROK), which was established in December 1997. Since then, the APT framework developed into the primary means of fostering East Asian Cooperation, with a long-term objective of establishing an East Asian Community with ASEAN leading the effort.

The APT has evolved into one of the most comprehensive cooperation frameworks in the region. Its cooperation spans a wide range of areas, including political security, trade and investment, finance, energy, tourism, agriculture and forestry, environment, education, health, culture and arts, among others. This broad scope of cooperation not only demonstrates the APT’s versatility but also its significant impact on various aspects of the region’s development.

The APT, in its continuous operation, has achieved an impressive 40 Summit level activities and 255 Ministerial level activities over a span of 26 years. Notably, in August 2024, the most recent ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation Work Plan was established, serving as a significant guide to further enhance the cooperation between ASEAN and the East Asian countries involved. These achievements underscore the APT’s commitment to fostering East Asian Cooperation and its role in shaping the region’s future.

Furthermore, the achievements of the APT include the following:

Economic Integration

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Economic integration under the APT increased trade and investment flows between ASEAN, China, Japan, and South Korea. This integration is facilitated by numerous bilateral and multilateral agreements, such as the ASEAN-China Free Trade Area (ACFTA), the ASEAN-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership (AJCEP), and the ASEAN-Korea Free Trade Area (AKFTA). These agreements have reduced tariffs and trade barriers, making trade more cost-effective and boosting trade volumes. Sectoral cooperation in electronics, automotive, textiles, and agriculture has led to integrated supply chains, enhancing production and distribution efficiency. Furthermore, the digital economy and e-commerce cooperation have flourished through harmonized regulations and improved digital infrastructure.

Investment in regional infrastructure, including transport networks and logistics, has improved connectivity, reducing transit times for goods and facilitating trade. Notable projects under the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) and China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) have exemplified these efforts.

APT countries have also become significant foreign direct investment (FDI) sources for ASEAN, particularly in manufacturing, technology, real estate, and finance. Favorable business environments created through policy reforms and investment incentives have driven these investments. Joint ventures and strategic alliances have facilitated technology transfer, skill development, and innovation, leading to regional production hubs. Cross-border mergers and acquisitions have also increased, leveraging market opportunities within the APT region. Additionally, investments in education and training have enhanced workforce quality, attracting further investments.

Financial Stability

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The APT framework has also enhanced financial cooperation and stability in East Asia through mechanisms such as the Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralization (CMIM) and the ASEAN Plus Three Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO). These initiatives have been crucial in fostering a resilient financial environment that addresses immediate liquidity crises and long-term economic stability.

The CMIM, a testament to the collaborative efforts of the finance ministries and central banks of the ASEAN member countries, China, Japan, and South Korea, was established in 2010. Its primary goal is to provide a financial safety net for the region by offering a pool of funds that member countries can draw upon in times of financial distress. This arrangement was born out of the lessons learned from the 1997 Asian financial crisis, which highlighted the need for a regional mechanism to prevent and mitigate such crises in the future.

The CMIM helps stabilize member countries’ economies during financial turbulence by offering liquidity support. For instance, if a country faces a sudden outflow of capital or a sharp devaluation of its currency, it can access CMIM funds to stabilize its financial system. This reduces the risk of contagion effects where financial instability in one country spreads to others in the region. The presence of the CMIM also boosts investor confidence, as it signals the region’s preparedness to handle financial shocks.

Disaster Management and Food Security

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Initiatives such as the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR) are pivotal in disaster management and food security efforts, fostering regional collaboration and resilience against natural disasters and food crises.

APTERR, established in 2011, is a mechanism designed to ensure regional food security, particularly during natural disasters or unexpected food shortages. Its primary objective is to maintain a reserve of rice that can be rapidly mobilized to address food emergencies. This initiative is critical given that rice is a staple food for many countries in the region, and its availability is crucial for food security and social stability.

In a disaster, such as a typhoon, earthquake, or flood, APTERR facilitates the quick distribution of rice to affected areas, ensuring that populations have access to essential food supplies. This rapid response capability is crucial for preventing food shortages from escalating into more severe humanitarian crises. APTERR helps stabilize affected communities and supports their recovery efforts by providing immediate relief.

Overall, the APT framework has evolved into a comprehensive and dynamic platform for regional cooperation, significantly advancing economic integration, financial stability, disaster management, and food security. Undeniably, with collaborative efforts and strategic initiatives, the APT has strengthened ties between ASEAN and the East Asian countries, creating a resilient and interconnected region poised for sustainable growth and development. With all things considered, there is an utmost need for all ASEAN stakeholders to uphold the APT framework and its mechanisms to realize the ASEAN Community Vision.


The ASEAN Secretariat. (n.d.). About ASEAN +3.

The ASEAN Secretariat. (2022, August 4). ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation Work Plan 2023-2027.

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