ASEAN is a conglomeration of 10 southeast Asian countries that was founded in 1967 in Bangkok, Thailand for regional cooperation in sphere of economy as well as was also formed for promoting the spirit for fraternity and cultural development.
When it was first founded in 1967, five countries had come together to establish it. They were Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Over the years, ASEAN have grown to a 10 member countries- all belonging to countries in southeast Asia namely Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam.
The group became ASEAN Plus Three when it was further joined by East Asian countries namely China, Japan and South Korea and later became ASEAN Plus Six when the east Asian countries as well as India, New Zealand and Australia joined the bloc.
In 2020, ASEAN along with its Plus Five members have decided to establish a free trade agreement amongst the countries under Regional Cooperation For Economic Partnership (RCEP). While ASEAN Plus Six have worked for trade growth and ease in travelling among the member countries, India have opted out of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) citing concerns that India may be a dumping ground for imports.
ASEAN is predicted to be the fourth largest economy by 2050. At present, its economy is estimated at 2.6 trillion USD-making it to the seventh position in 2014. With a total population of 622 million, it is said to have the third largest labour force after China and India.
Despite trading with China that is estimated at 443.6 million USD, South China Sea territorial dispute remained a bone of contention between ASEAN and China. And while the impending RCEP is being touted as the world’s largest economic bloc when it becomes effective in 2020, India have decided to opt out of RCEP as its present trade deficit with ASEAN and partner countries is said to be 105 billion USD.