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The Association of Southeast Asian Nations, or ASEAN, was founded on 8th August, 1967, in Bangkok, Thailand by the five original member countries, namely, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Brunei joined ASEAN in 1984. Vietnam became its seventh member in 1995. Laos and Myanmar were admitted to this association in 1997, and Cambodia in 1999. The main goals of the Association are to accelerate economic growth, social progress and cultural development; and to promote peace and stabiloity through respect for justice, and the rule of law, in the relationship between countries in the region.

ASEAN has a population of 575.5 million, accounting for about 8.7 % of the world’s population. Its total area is 4,464,322 square kilometres. It is a region of diverse culures, and people in some countries such as the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore speak English besides their own languages. According to the statistics recorded in 2007, ASEAN had a combined gross domestic product of about US$ 1282 billion. This combined GDP grew at an average rate of around 6% per year from 2003 to 2007. The economics of the member countries are diverse, although its major products include electronic goods, oil and wood. The Governments of ASEAN countries have paid special attention to trade. In 2006, the ASEAN region had a total trade of US$ 1405 billion. It has been estimated that a free trade area would be established in the region by 2020. The ASEAN leaders have also adopted the ASEAN Vision 2020, which is aimed at forging closer economic integration within the region. The Hanoi Plan of Action, adopted in 1998, serves as the first in a series of planned actions leading up to the realization of the ASEAN Vision.

Today, ASEAN economic cooperation covers many areas: trade, investment, industry, services, finance, agriculture, rural development, forestry, energy, transportation and communication, science and technology, small and medium enterprises, and tourism. ASEAN has actively worked to improve the socio-economic situation and solve problems among its member countries.