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East Asia Regional


heading foldHow we are helping

2013/14 Estimated Outcome

$78.0 million

2014/15 Budget Estimate

$100.0 million


Australia is working with key regional organisations, such as the Association of South East Asian Nations [external link], the East Asia Summit (EAS) [external link] and Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation [external link], to create a strong and prosperous East Asia region. We promote economic integration through the free flow of goods and services across borders. We also respond to regional challenges, including emerging infectious diseases, human trafficking, water resources management and disaster management.

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Australia promotes economic integration in South East Asia through regional interventions to improve private sector opportunities, invest aid in infrastructure, drive international competitiveness and facilitate trade.

Australia, in partnership with the ASEAN Secretariat, will support the implementation of the ASEAN Australia New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTA) in 2014-15 by assisting developing ASEAN countries to benefit from more open trade and economic integration. Training and specialist advice will be provided to the private sector and government officials on investment, competition policy, intellectual property, rules of origin and trade in services.

Close-up of golden coloured rice grains Harvested rice (credit: CARE Australia).

We will work with the Asian Development Bank and other regional partners to reduce the cost of trade and facilitate private sector business opportunities. We will assist in streamlining border procedures; reducing the time required by customs clearances; and improving traffic rights to allow vehicles to move between countries.

Australia has taken the lead in supporting developing effective governance of APEC members through increased cross-border cooperation in education services and in progressing a new regional mechanism that promotes financial sector reform and will increase investment flows. Australian support for the APEC Public Private Partnership Centre in Indonesia will boost private financing of infrastructure and increase expertise in partnering with the private sector.

Australia will build on existing work to support youth-focussed education campaigns and advocacy efforts as well as work with regional partners to develop labour protection legislation and policy to promote safe and legal migration. Our programme will reduce exploitation of migrant workers through promotion of legal and safe migration, labour rights protection, and decent work opportunities in the Greater Mekong Sub-Region. Human trafficking is a grave abuse of human rights that destroys people’s lives.  Australia will continue its anti-human trafficking efforts with an increased focus on the differing needs and vulnerabilities of men and women, particularly as they interact with the criminal justice system.

Our support to water resources management in the Mekong Region encourages economic development that is sustainable, equitable and improves livelihoods. Australia will support the Mekong River Commission to guide planning and decision-making; strengthen social and environmental standards; and build civil society’s capacity, specifically women’s, to engage in water planning and management.

Long concrete bridge over wide river The Friendship bridge built with Australian funding and completed and opened in 1994, crossing the Mekong River and connecting Thailand to Laos (credit: DFAT).

East Asia is prone to large-scale natural disasters. We will work through the EAS to build resilience by improving regional coordination and response; with ASEAN to build the capacity of their Emergency Rapid Assessment Team; assist deployments to support and coordinate disaster response activities; and continue support of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management.

Archived details of expenditure for this program for 2013–14 can be found here.

Archived details of expenditure for DFAT’s aid program, following the Government’s announcement on 18 January 2014 to revise the aid budget, can be found here.


Results to 30 June 2013

  • Through the HIV/AIDS Asia Regional Program we distributed more than 18 million needles and four million condoms. People who inject drugs (PWIDs) and their sexual partners have accessed HIV/AIDS harm reduction and health services over 2.7 million times; including more than 34,000 referrals for methadone treatment.

Commitments 2013–14

  • With the World Organisation for Animal Health, train around 600 community animal health workers to strengthen Foot and Mouth Disease surveillance and control capacities.
  • Distribute around 3.5 million needles and syringes and 1 million condoms to people who inject drugs and their sexual partners, to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. Provide 1,400 men and women access to Methadone Maintenance Treatment (MMT)/Opioid Substitution Therapy (OST). Provide people who inject drugs and their sexual partners access to HIV/AIDS harm reduction and health services. Provide training to 1,200 police and other law and order officials on HIV/AIDS harm reduction.

Economic development

Results to 30 June 2013

  • Completed 44 activities under the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) - Australia Development Cooperation Program Phase II to promote the liberalisation of goods, services and investment.
  • Helped ASEAN developing countries implement the ASEAN Australia New Zealand Free Trade Area (AANZFTA) through 44 activities in areas including rules of origin, investment, and services, competition and intellectual property.
  • Continued to lead on an Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) structural reform initiative supporting developing economies to identify and implement domestic economic reforms.

Commitments 2013–14

  • Continue support to capacity development of ASEC, support research and provide policy advice to assist ASEAN countries in achieving ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) goals.
  • Continue training and capacity-building to assist ASEAN developing economies implement the AANZFTA.
  • Continue work under the APEC structural reform initiative, particularly on developing small and medium business enterprises.
  • Continue to improve institutional capacity of the Mekong River Commission.


Results to 30 June 2013

  • Through the Asia Regional Trafficking in Persons (ARTIP) project, we supported training for more than 8,100 police, judges and prosecutors in the detection and prosecution of trafficking in persons.
  • Between January 2011 and March 2013, investigators and police trained by ARTIP: investigated over 1,500 trafficking cases, prosecuted over 1000 cases and supported almost 4,000 victims (75 per cent female) through the legal process.
  • Through the International Labour Organization (ILO) Tripartite Action to Protect Migrants from Labour Exploitation (TRIANGLE) project, we provided advice, training and support services to over 21,000 male and female migrants and potential migrants in Cambodia, Lao PDR, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

Commitments 2013–14

  • Begin the new five-year Australia-Asia Program to Combat Trafficking in Persons, further improving regional and national criminal justice system capacity to combat human trafficking.
  • Expand the work of the ILO TRIANGLE project into Myanmar to reach around 5,000 vulnerable migrant workers (and potential migrants) with legal assistance and information, and improve national labour laws.


Results to 30 June 2013

  • Provided $1.3 million for the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response. This includes $1 million to support the establishment of the ASEAN Coordinating Centre for Humanitarian Assistance on Disaster Management and support for staff within ASEAN Secretariat to progress Australia's support for the ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response (AADMER).

Commitments 2013–14

  • In the East Asia Summit, enhance coordination on disaster response through support for a three-year disaster management initiative. This will focus on information sharing between countries, overcoming bottlenecks in responding to disasters and promoting collaboration between countries.

Achieving Sustainable Growth in East Asia—ERIA Research Project Report 2010–28

The studies in this volume address the major causes of the build-up of current account surpluses in the East Asian region, commonly referred to as the problem of "global imbalances". We note that the external surpluses are matched by domestic imbalances of savings and investment. There are broadly two types of policies available to the countries on the surplus side of the global imbalances - changes to the domestic economy to give different savings-investment outcomes and changes to relative prices between home-produced and foreign-produced good. Adjustment cannot and should not, however, come only from one side of the imbalance equation. We do not explicitly address the policies that might help the deficit side but look at the policies that would benefit both the Asian surplus economies themselves and help address global imbalances.

Read the report on the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia website [external link].

ASEAN +1 FTAS and Global Value Chains in East Asia—ERIA Research Project Report 2010–29

ASEAN economies as a group have signed free trade agreements with China, Japan, Korea, India and Australia/New Zealand. There is now an interest in forming a larger regional agreement, for a couple of reasons. The first is that the gains from integration are greater across wider areas with deeper coverage - there is also an interest in deepening the commitments to integration. The second reason is that there is a concern that the proliferation of trade agreements adds to the costs of decision-making in international business. A new wider economic agreement could be constructed in a new set of negotiations, but the track that is preferred by ASEAN is to build up from the '+1' agreements into a new 'ASEAN++' structure. There are advantages in this approach given the degree of common membership of the agreements under consideration. There is also a significant risk that any attempt to adopt a top-down approach based on a new region-wide agreement could add yet another agreement to the existing 'noodle bowl' and possibly one which is less liberal, given the difficulty of reaching agreement across the larger number of participants. The focus in this project is on the principles that might be applied in this circumstance and for these purposes. The decision was made to concentrate on trade facilitation, rules of origin, services and investment.

Read the report on the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia website [external link].

Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) – Australia Development Cooperation Program Phase II

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-Australia Development Cooperation Program Phase II supports regional economic integration across ASEAN, including strengthening the ASEAN Secretariat’s capacity to provide high quality and timely economic research and policy advice on priority regional economic integration issues.

More information on ASEAN – Australia Development Cooperation Program Phase II publications [external link].

Economic benefits of trade facilitation in the Greater Mekong Subregion

Report on the economic benefits of trade and transport facilitation in the Greater Mekong Subregion.

Read the report

EcoHealth Emerging Infectious Diseases Research Initiative (EcoEID) in Southeast Asia and China

In 2010, the International Development Research Centre, the Canadian International Development Agency through the Global Health Research Initiative, and the Australian Agency for International Development launched the EcoHealth Emerging Infectious Disease Research Initiative (EcoEID). This is a multi-million dollar research collaboration in Southeast Asia and China aiming to improve knowledge and capacities to prevent and control new and re-emerging infectious diseases that can cause a global pandemic. EcoEID supported a competitive call for research proposals. Three multi-country research projects were funded to examine how new diseases emerge and identify what can be done to prevent their spread amongst vulnerable populations.

More information on the EcoEID Research Initiative [external link]

Realised and Potential Economic Benefits of Australia’s Support to the Southeast Asia Foot and Mouth Disease Campaign

?This independent study provides an assessment of the economic benefits from the South East Asia Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD) Campaign which AusAID has supported since 1997. The study estimated that every dollar invested by AusAID in the regional FMD eradication campaign led to about US$3 dollars in economic benefit being generated.

Read the report


Where is the East Asia region?

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Key regional architecture

Diagram of the key regional architecture.
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There are a number of organisations and forums that bring together countries in the East Asia region. The Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) is the oldest, and one of the most well-known organisations in the region. It consists of 10 member countries: Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Myanmar and Cambodia. ASEAN Plus Three refers to the relationship between ASEAN countries and Japan, the People’s Republic of Korea and the People’s Republic of China.

The East Asia Summit continues to gain significance in the region. It consists of ASEAN countries, plus Japan, the People’s Republic of Korea, the People’s Republic of China, India, Australia, New Zealand, Russia and the United States of America.

Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) is the other significant forum in the region. APEC brings together most ASEAN countries (Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Brunei Darussalam, Vietnam), as well as Japan, the People’s Republic of Korea, the People’s Republic of China, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, the United States of America, Canada, Mexico, Peru, Chile, Chinese Taipei and Hong Kong (China).


heading foldWhy we give aid


Development is uneven between and within countries in East Asia. There is inequality in income, education and access to services, and gaps in infrastructure and connections between countries. More than 250 million people in East Asia live in extreme poverty on less than US$1.25 a day. In Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar around one quarter to one third of people live in absolute poverty.

Find out more about why we give aid to the East Asia region


heading foldHow we give aid

Australia provides aid to East Asia through a combination of bilateral and regional programs. To deliver our regional programs, we work with:

  • The Association of South East Asian Nations
  • The East Asia Summit
  • The Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum
  • The Mekong River Commission
  • The Asian Development Bank and the World Bank

We also work with multilateral organisations, non-government organisations and national governments.

Find out more about how we give aid to the East Asia region

Read our Aid Program Performance Report 2012–13

Read our Aid Program Performance Report 2013–14


Last reviewed: 5 November, 2014