©2018 by polity.

  • Alex Wok

Australia and ASEAN

In March 2018, representatives from Southeast Asia travelled even further southeast towards Australia to celebrate the success of Australia-ASEAN relations. The then-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hosted the inaugural Australia-ASEAN Special Summit in Sydney and expressed national interests in strengthening relations by helping combat terrorism in the Asia-Pacific region and maintaining trade. In 2016, trade between Australia and ASEAN countries had reached over AU$100 billion; Australia had accumulated greater amounts by strengthening trade links compared to other allies of ASEAN, including Japan and the United States. The Australian government had therefore figured it was time to acknowledge the contribution of decades of co-operation with its neighbours.

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is currently one of the fastest developing regional organisations in the world. ASEAN was formed on 8 August 1967 by five Southeast Asian states: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Over the second half of the 20th Century, Brunei, Vietnam, Laos, Myanmar and Cambodia joined the Association. The context of ASEAN’s creation and growth is nothing short of intriguing. The group rose from the ashes of the Vietnam War and the Cold War, where countries sought to contain political tensions and uphold peace and stability in the region. Today, the region focuses on the fields of politics, economics and culture, and finds allies in neighbouring nations, including China, Japan, Australia and India. Australia currently has the status of an ASEAN Community partner.

Having celebrated its 50th year of existence, would ASEAN do well to have a new member? Moreover, would a membership in the ASEAN club be beneficial for Australia? It is important to consider the implications of Australia’s hypothetical membership in ASEAN through a political, diplomatic, economic and socio-cultural lens.


Should Australia join ASEAN?

read more:

  1. Australian Strategic Policy Institute, ‘Why Australia should join ASEAN'

  2. The Guardian, ‘Indonesia says it would be a ‘good idea’ for Australia to join ASEAN’.

  3. East Asia Forum, ‘Mr Turnbull dabbles at the edge of strategic clarity in Japan’.

  4. Australian Financial Review, ‘Parag Khanna’s ‘The Future is Asian’ on Australia’s Asianising society’.

  5. The New Daily (Australia), ‘ASEAN summit: Tim Fischer says it’s time for Australian membership’.

  6. Lowy Institute, ‘ASEAN-Australia relations: The suitable status quo’.

  7. Asian Correspondent, ‘Could Australia join ASEAN?’.

  8. The Guardian, ‘Australia warned against ‘dancing with dictators’ at ASEAN summit in Sydney’.

  9. Sydney Morning Herald, ‘Friends but never a member: why Australia will not join ASEAN’.