Major International Groupings of South East Asia
South East Asia is divided into two broad parts viz. Maritime South East Asia and Mainland South East Asia. Maritime South East Asia comprises Indonesia, parts of Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, East Timor, Brunei, Cocos Islands and Christmas Island. Mainland South East Asia or Indochina comprises of Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam and West Malaysia. Various International groupings for economic and political cooperation involving the South East Asian Countries are as follows:
Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is comprised of Indonesia, Singapore, Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei, Thailand, Cambodia, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Vietnam. At present, ASEAN is giving highest priority to the process of economic integration within and outside the group. ASEAN has signed six trade agreements with its neighbours viz. China, South Korea, Japan, Australia, New Zealand and India.
Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is a forum for 21 Pacific Rim member economies and it promotes free trade in Asia-Pacific region. All the members of ASEAN except Burma, Cambodia and Laos are its members along with other Pacific Rim countries. India is not a member of APEC and has applied for the same in past.
ASEAN +3 comprises 10 members of ASEAN along with China, South Korea and Japan. ASEAN+3 cooperation began in December 1997 and mainly focuses on energy security, natural gas development, oil market studies, oil stockpiling, and renewable energy.
East Asia Summit
East Asia Summit (EAS) is a grouping of 18 countries in the East Asian, Southeast Asian and South Asian regions. Its members include 10 ASEAN members along with India, China, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, the Republic of Korea, United States and Russia.
Mekong Ganga Cooperation
India and the five Mekong region countries – Cambodia, Lao Peoples Democratic Republic, Myanmar, Vietnam and Thailand make the Mekong – Ganga Cooperation. Its establishment stressed on 4 areas of cooperation viz. tourism, culture, education, and transportation linkage, in the direction to bolster foundation for future trade and investment cooperation among the region.
Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP)
RCEP involves the integration of the ASEAN’s FTAs with non-ASEAN Asian economies. It would aim to consolidate the FTAs that ASEAN has with Australia, New Zealand, China, India, Japan and Korea. The consolidation would result in the ASEAN connecting to the rest of the major Asian economies in a ‘hub and spoke’ economic framework with ASEAN as the hub. Negotiations’ are still going on.
Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP)
On October 5, 2015, an agreement was reached among the twelve Pacific Rim countries in the form of largest trade liberalization pact since WTO. TPP is still in proposed state and would come into force when each of the 12 members ratifies it. These 12 members are Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States and Vietnam. Notably, China is not a member of this organization.
Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) is an international organization comprising Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal as member countries. It focuses on economic, cultural cooperation, environment and disaster management, public health, people-to-people contact, poverty alleviation, counter-terrorism and transnational crime and climate change.