Introduction The ASEAN Plus Three (APT) cooperation process began in December 1997 with the convening of an Informal Summit among the Leaders of ASEAN and China, Japan and the ROK at the sidelines of the Second ASEAN Informal Summit in Malaysia. The APT Summit was institutionalised in 1999 when the Leaders issued a Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation at the Third APT Summit in Manila. The Joint Statement for the first time determined the main objectives, principles and further directions of APT countries cooperation. In the Joint Statement, the APT Leaders resolved to strengthen and deepen East Asia cooperation at various levels and in various areas, particularly in economic and social, political and other fields.
2. Eight years later, at the 11th APT Summit in 2007 in Singapore, the Second Joint Statement on East Asia Cooperation called “Building on the Foundations of ASEAN Plus Three Cooperation‟ was adopted. The Statement reaffirmed that the ASEAN Plus Three Process would remain as the main vehicle towards the longterm goal of building an East Asian community, with ASEAN as the driving force. The APT Cooperation Work Plan (2007-2017), formulated to serve as the master plan to enhance APT cooperation in a comprehensive and mutually beneficial manner for the next ten years, was endorsed.
3. Since then the APT framework has become an important element for fostering East Asian regionalism. The APT cooperation has broadened and deepened to cover a wide range of areas of political and security; transnational crime; economic; finance; tourism; agriculture and forestry; energy; minerals; small and medium-sized enterprises; environment; rural development and poverty eradication; social welfare; youth; women; civil service; labour; culture and arts; information and media; education; science, technology, and innovation; and public health. The APT process has also developed into a full-fledged cooperation framework with 67 mechanisms (1 summit, 15 ministerial, 20 Senior Officials, 1 ASEAN CPR Plus Three, 2 Director-General, 23 technical level meetings and 5 other track meetings) coordinating APT cooperation.
4. A mid-term review of the APT Cooperation Work Plan (2007-2017) was conducted in 2013 based on which the APT Cooperation Work Plan was revised with the new timeframe of 2013 – 2017. The revised Work Plan was adopted by the 16th APT Summit held on 10 October 2013 in Bandar Seri Begawan.
5. The current Work Plan (2013-2017) will expire by end-2017, and the new Work Plan is being prepared.
6. Against the backdrop of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, at the APT Summit in December 1998, the East Asia Vision Group (EAVG) I was launched. East Asian nations then felt the need to mutually cooperate in overcoming the crisis, which served as a momentum to recognize an East Asian identity.
7. The EAVG I final report titled “East Asia community of Peace, Prosperity and Progress”, which was submitted to the APT Summit in 2001, laid a solid groundwork for the future direction of East Asian regional cooperation. The EAVG I wished to inspire East Asian peoples and governments to work towards building an “East Asian community” that will address the region’s future challenges and advance mutual understanding and trust.
8. One decade after the EAVG submitted its report, the EAVG II was established in 2011 to take stock of the APT cooperation activities and evaluated how these activities have contributed to developing the APT cooperation and community-building in East Asia. Based upon the stocktaking, the EAVG II studied the future direction of the APT cooperation mechanism, and also prepared a new vision for regional cooperation and community building. The EAVG II Report was submitted to the 15th APT Commemorative Summit in Phnom Penh on 19 November 2012.
9. At the 19th APT Summit held on 7 September 2016, the Leaders stressed the importance of APT cooperation in maintaining and promoting peace, stability and development in East Asian region. They also agreed to further strengthen cooperation in both traditional and non-traditional security issues such as terrorism and violent extremism, transnational crime, cyber security, maritime security, climate change, disaster management, sustainable water resource management, food security, energy security, and pandemic diseases and trade-related building.
10. Cooperation on non-traditional security matters is undertaken under the purview of the APT Ministerial Meeting on Transnational Crime (AMMTC+3) and the APT Senior Officials Meeting on Transnational Crime (SOMTC+3). The SOMTC+3 has been discussing counter-terrorism and transnational crime-related components in the APT Work Plan (2013-2017) as well as joint programmes on capacity building to combat transnational crime within APT countries.
Economic and Finance Cooperation
11. ASEAN’s trade with the Plus Three Countries retained its momentum despites challenges derived from uncertainties in the global economy. Total trade between ASEAN and the Plus Three countries in 2015 amounted to USD 708.6 billion which accounted for 31.1 per cent of ASEAN’s total trade. In the same year, the total foreign direct investment (FDI) flows from the Plus Three countries into ASEAN reached USD 31 billion, accounting for 26 per cent of total FDI inflow to ASEAN.1
12. In order to strengthen economic cooperation among the APT countries, the East Asia Business Council (EABC) which was established in April 2004 in Kuala Lumpur continues to strengthen cooperation among the private sector and entrepreneurs of the East Asia countries. The EABC launched the East Asia Business Exchange (EABEX) Portal at the 5th East Asia Business Forum on 18 June 2013 in Tianjin, China.
13. Progress on finance and monetary cooperation has been steady under the umbrella of ASEAN+3 Finance Ministers'