Regional alliance formed in Bangkok in 1967 to promote regional peace, social and cultural development, and economic growth. It took over the non-military role of the Southeast Asia Treaty Organization in 1975. Its ten members are Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, and Thailand (the five founding members), Brunei (from 1984), Vietnam (from 1995), Laos and Myanmar (from 1997), and Cambodia (from 1999). Its members' heads of government meet annually in an ASEAN summit to discuss and resolve regional issues. The headquarters are in Jakarta, Indonesia, and the secretary general (from 2013) is Le Luong Minh, from Vietnam.
ASEAN has been successful in achieving peace. Its members pledge to rely exclusively on peaceful processes to settle intra-regional differences and there have been no armed confrontations between member states. To build on this, ASEAN Leaders have established an ASEAN Security Community (ASC) to ensure that countries in the region live at peace with each other and with the world. In 1994 ASEAN established the ASEAN Regional Forum (ARF) as an informal channel for discussing security issues in the Asia–Pacific region and to promote preventive diplomacy. In addition to ASEAN members, the ARF includes Australia, Canada, China, the European Union (EU), India, Japan, Mongolia, New Zealand, North Korea, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, the Russian Federation, South Korea, and the USA. In 1995, ASEAN heads of government signed a declaration prohibiting the possessions, manufacture, and acquisition of nuclear weapons in the region.
The ASEAN region has a population of about 560 million (2006), a total area of 4.5 million square kilometres, a combined gross domestic product (GDP) of almost $1,100 billion, and a total trade of about $1,400 billion. Trade has been growing within the region as a result of ASEAN initiatives to encourage freer movements of goods and peoples. In 1992, member states signed an agreement to establish an ASEAN free-trade area (AFTA). Developed in stages, it was in place as of 2008, and the elimination of tariff and non-tariff barriers among member countries was expected to promote greater economic efficiency, productivity, and competitiveness.
In the case of ASEAN's six founding members, tariffs on 60% of products have zero tariffs and 39% of products have tariffs of 5% or less. For the newer member countries, tariffs on about 81% of their inclusion list are within the 0–5% range. The longer-term aim is to form an ASEAN Economic Community, with a single market and production base.
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