New Year Message from Secretary General




This year marks the 50th Year of ASEAN-Japan Friendship and Cooperation. It is strategically an important year, particularly for Japan because the relationship between ASEAN and Japan and the positions of both sides have changed significantly over the past 50 years.

Why are ASEAN and its Member States important partners for Japan?

One of the reasons is ASEAN’s scale of economy. ASEAN’s total regional nominal GDP in 2021 was around $3.3 trillion[i], even though it has declined from 2019 due to the impact of the pandemic. This is about 65% of Japan’s estimated GDP of 560.2 trillion yen in FY2022[ii], and if ASEAN is considered as a single country, it is the fifth largest in the world after the United States, China, Japan, and Germany.

Despite the ongoing multidimensional challenges such as soaring energy and food-related prices, concerns about a global recession, and increasing geopolitical risks, the Asian Development Bank’s projections for the Southeast Asia’s GDP growth rate forecast are 5.5% in 2022 and 4.7% in 2023[iii], and ASEAN is expected to maintain high potential as the world’s growth center. Such steady economic growth has resulted in the formation of a large middle class with strong purchasing power, and ASEAN is rapidly transforming from a former production base to an attractive dynamic market for Japan.

Another reason is the upwardly mobile population. About half of the population in the ASEAN region is under the age of 30[iv]. Many young people in ASEAN are well versed in digital technologies for collecting needed information as well as connecting with others, and they have the tendency to migrate to urban areas. In this context, technology-based start-ups have sprung up in recent years, and this is also a factor in significantly boosting foreign direct investment in ASEAN[v].

In addition, ASEAN is geographically central to the Indo-Pacific region, which is the centre stage of global competition in the 21st century. The geopolitical importance of ASEAN to Japan and the world will continue to grow in the future.

Looking ahead to the next 50 years of ASEAN and Japan, while parochial selfishness and hegemonism are becoming apparent globally, the ASEAN Japan Centre will carefully attend to the voices of those who may not be able to benefit from new economic development, and we will make sincere efforts to fulfil our role to support ASEAN-Japan’s partnership as”equal partners” that empathizes people-centred, inclusiveness, and sustainability as well as respects the diversity of people, and brings about positive changes for the people in ASEAN and Japan.

Kunihiko Hirabayashi
Secretary General
ASEAN-Japan Centre

ASEAN-Japan Centre has created the AJC 5.0, which serves as a mid-term strategic plan for 2022-2025.
Read AJC5.0 here

[i] IMF data 1 US$=JPY109.75, 2021 Average

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