Since the 1997 Asian Financial Crisis, the ASEAN+3 economies have been diligent in enhancing regional financial cooperation. Subsequently, the ASEAN+3 Finance Process was formed, with tangible achievements such as the establishment of ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO), Chiang Mai Initiative Multilateralisation (CMIM), and the Asian Bond Market Initiative (ABMI).

In the same spirit of strengthening policy dialogue, coordination, and collaboration on common macroeconomic and financial issues, AMRO and 20 regional institutions and think-tanks across ASEAN+3 came together this September to launch a new initiative called the ASEAN+3 Finance Think-tank Network (AFTN).

The creation of the AFTN demonstrates the region’s strong commitment to act promptly and firmly together to address emerging challenges by harnessing diverse expertise across the ASEAN+3 region through win-win collaboration.

Driving collective efforts

Securing ASEAN+3 macroeconomic and financial resilience and stability is a global public good and AMRO’s mandate. This task appears daunting in our increasingly complex world; where escalating regional debt challenges and rising geopolitical tensions intersect with high interest rates, global supply chain reconfiguration, high commodity prices, and lower growth rates. The world also faces evolving structural challenges such as climate change, digitalization, and population aging.

Against this backdrop, overcoming these interconnected challenges cannot be the work of a single economy or institution alone. Safeguarding the region’s resilience and stability calls for broader and deeper cooperation.

The AFTN, initiated by AMRO and strongly backed by our member authorities, will serve as a robust platform for discussion, cooperation, and knowledge exchange, focusing on issues that affect financial stability and economic resilience in ASEAN+3. The network provides a great opportunity for its members to better leverage the rich expertise already available in the region to cope with the evolving challenges toward the region’s common interest.

Sparking regional solutions

The initiatives under the ASEAN+3 Finance Process have always been based on the concept of being “of the region, by the region, for the region”. Likewise, all the 21 founding institutions and think tanks are based in the region, each with a profound understanding of and unique insights into local or regional developments. As a group, the AFTN will unlock wider access to the resources of individual members and enable more collaboration to address regional or country-specific issues.

As the founding members start to work more closely together, the AFTN plans to carry out joint research, knowledge sharing, and capacity building, with the aim of providing in-depth analyses and policy proposals to ASEAN+3 policymakers.

AMRO will organize regular seminars with AFTN members on selected region-wide topics and put forward insightful recommendations and solutions tailored to the ASEAN+3 region and economies. The inaugural AFTN Seminar will be held in June 2024 with a theme on aging, “Dawn of a New Age in the ASEAN+3?. We look forward to the active participation of all partners and stakeholders across the region.

Enabling win-win cooperation

Thanks to these various modes of cooperation, the AFTN will bring about many opportunities for both AMRO and other AFTN members, with significant potential value-add to ASEAN+3 economies and the region.

One of the major benefits would be AFTN’s contribution to the customization of AMRO’s country surveillance work. Since the start of this year, AMRO has intensified its interactions with the AFTN members during our Annual Consultation Visits to member economies. Several roundtables and seminars were co-organized to exchange insights and knowledge on local economic issues. The feedback from the participants had been very encouraging.

AFTN members would also enjoy greater exposure and visibility through more active and frequent participation in outreach activities. We hope that this will serve to promote the regional voice on various strategic economic issues and contribute to the regional and global policy agenda.

Looking ahead, I am confident that with great collaboration among the AFTN partners and strong support from ASEAN+3 members, the AFTN will play a significant role in safeguarding regional macroeconomic and financial resilience and stability.

One plus one is greater than two“. The AFTN has 21 participating institutions. When the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, it is exciting to imagine the potential synergy when the 21 “ones” come together.