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ASEAN-Japan Relations, stronger as it celebrates 50th Year of Friendship and Cooperation

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Next generation scholars discuss future prospects of ASEAN and Japan relations 

The Japan Foundation (JF) is pleased to announce that it will host an international symposium to commemorate the 50th anniversary of ASEANJapan Friendship and Cooperation. Titled “ASEAN-Japan Relations: Entering a New Stage toward a Global Partnership,” the symposium will take place on Thursday, March 16, 2023 in Tokyo. 

Thirteen distinguished experts from Southeast Asia will visit Japan for this special occasion. Among them is Dr. Marty Natalegawa, former Indonesian Foreign Minister, who played a pivotal role in the formation of ASEAN’s own regional cooperation concept, the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP). Also attending is Ms. Susan Afan, President of the Ramon Magsaysay Award Foundation, which hosts the renowned award known as the “Nobel Prize of Asia.” These knowledgeable individuals will join Japanese experts in a series of discussions about new ASEAN-Japan relations for the next half-century. 

The relationship between ASEAN and Japan began with the ASEAN-Japan Forum on Synthetic Rubber 

established in November 1973, and has since achieved remarkable development and deepening on the basis of the “heart-to-heart partnership” originating from the Fukuda Doctrine in 1977. The trade volume between ASEAN countries and Japan has grown to exceed 24 trillion yen (in 2021), accounting for about 15% of Japan’s total trade. In addition, the movement of people between the two sides has increased dramatically to about 9.4 million people (in 2019). On the other hand, both ASEAN and Japan are faced with the urgent need to further promote international cooperation for the next 50 years to deal with common global challenges such as the destabilization of the international order due to disturbances such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, climate change and natural disasters, as well as efforts to address economic disparities in each country and to tackle mutual distrust in society. In this symposium, former Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa will deliver a keynote speech, discussing the past and future of ASEANJapan relations in a comprehensive manner. Then, three panels will follow in the fields of politics, economy and society, and culture, where experts in each field will examine the current situation and challenges, and consider future prospects. 

The symposium will be an excellent opportunity for participants to exchange views and reflect on the achievements and challenges of the past 50 years of ASEAN-Japan relations. By fostering a deeper understanding of each other’s perspectives and interests, the symposium aims to contribute to a stronger and more dynamic partnership between ASEAN and Japan. We look forward to welcoming our distinguished guests from Southeast Asia and engaging in fruitful discussions on these important topics. 

Panel 1 “Toward Global and Regional Peace and Stability” will discuss the ASEAN-Japan relationship in the political realm. As a common challenge in the world, political and social division is becoming more prominent in both the international and domestic spheres, and even in ASEAN, its unity and centrality are at risk. The panel will discuss the challenges that ASEAN and Japan should address in order to strengthen the rule of law, promote regional peace and stability through AOIP/FOIP (Free and Open Indo-Pacific) concepts, and build fair societies

Panel 2 “Toward a Sustainable and Prosperous Society” will consider how ASEAN countries and Japan can cooperate as capitalism’s limits are being called out, disparities are widening, and common challenges such as environmental issues and natural disasters are being faced. The panel will tackle 

international issues such as maintaining a free and fair economic order while achieving sustainable societies through discussions on community, social inclusion, ways to promote well-being utilizing technological innovation, digital transformation (DX), and green transformation (GX)Panel 3 “Toward Mutual Understanding and Trust Building” will discuss the ASEANJapan relationship in the field of cultural and people-topeople exchanges. As humans become more and more mobile and the internet becomes flooded with information on ASEAN and Japan, the panel will examine whether mutual understanding and trust-building between peoples are naturally being nurtured. Internationally active experts and practitioners born in the 1980s onwards will discuss challenges related to the understanding of ASEAN in Japan, and how to form multilayered human networks that can incorporate newer generations and a wider range of social strata.

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