GCC and ASEAN strengthen economic cooperation and sustainable development

GCC and ASEAN strengthen economic cooperation and sustainable development

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Riyadh Summit issued a joint statement in the closing of the summit.

The Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) member states and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) share common bonds, including their strategic locations, economic progress, fostering international investment partnerships, cultural development, and the promotion of international peace and stability.

The statement focuses on:

1. Join efforts to promote peace, security, stability and prosperity, through mutual respect and cooperation between countries and regions to achieve development and progress and maintain the rules-based international order based on adherence to international law, the UN Charter, including the principles of good neighborliness, respect for the independence, sovereignty, equality, territorial integrity, non-interference in their internal affairs, and refraining from the use of force, or the threat of use of force, and settlement of differences or disputes by peaceful means.

2. Undertake consultations and explore cooperation on specific areas of common interest to implement the four priority areas of ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific (AOIP), namely maritime cooperation, connectivity, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), and economic and other possible areas of cooperation, where appropriate.

3. Recognise the importance of oceans and seas as the key factors in driving growth and prosperity of the region and reaffirm the importance of maintaining and promoting peace, stability, maritime safety and security, freedom of navigation and overflight in the region, and other lawful uses of the seas and unimpeded lawful maritime commerce and to promote peaceful resolutions of disputes, in accordance with universally recognised principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and the relevant standards and recommended practices by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the International Maritime Organization (IMO).

4. Strengthen ties between the two sides, at the multilateral and bilateral levels, and in global fora by pursuing opportunities for sustainable development, peace, security and stability, and to navigate global and regional challenges and risks; to ensure sustainable supply chains, transport interconnectivity and communications; to strengthen food, energy and water security; as well as to build cooperation in green and renewable energy sources and technologies, tourism infrastructure, creating business opportunities and boosting trade and investment flows. In this regard, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is going to host the first GCC-ASEAN Economic and Investment Conference in Riyadh in the 1st half of 2024.

5. Welcome the GCC-ASEAN Framework of Cooperation (2024-2028), which outlines measures and cooperation activities to be jointly undertaken by ASEAN and the GCC in the areas of common interest and for mutual benefit including political and security dialogue, trade and investment people-to-people exchanges, education, culture, tourism, media and sports.

6. Explore cooperation in preventing and combating transnational crime, cybercrime, counterterrorism and extremism.

7. Enhance trade and investment flows, by creating mutually beneficial opportunities for joint investments, consistent with the GCC-ASEAN Framework of Cooperation, with special emphasis on sustainable infrastructure, renewables, petrochemicals, agriculture, manufacturing, health care, tourism, logistics, smart cities, connectivity and digitalization.

8. Promote trade and investment relations between the GCC and ASEAN, by enhancing public-private sector engagement and business-to-business relations between both regions, using available and new physical and online platforms, trade missions, exhibitions, seminars, conferences, and dialogues between their business representatives.

9. Explore cooperation on key economic partnership priorities namely, strengthening regional market integration; sustainability and decarbonisation; digital transformation and inclusivity, including Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs), public-private sector engagement, and people-to-people ties.

10. Encourage technical assistance and capacity building for entrepreneurs and start-ups in both sides, with particular focus on women, youth, and persons with disabilities to enable them to compete regionally and globally.

11. Promote trade multilateral system, as embodied by the World Trade Organization (WTO), amidst global trade uncertainties, including disruptions in global trade markets and supply chains.

12. Welcome Saudi Arabia’s bid to host Expo 2030 in Riyadh, highlighting the importance of organizing regional and international exhibitions to reenergize economic and cultural exchanges between the Gulf and Southeast Asia regions.

13. Identify cooperation in the development of sustainable and circular agriculture and in the promotion of sustainable food production and promote trade and investment opportunities in food and agri-based industries and encourage exchange of information, sharing of experiences, research, modern technologies and best practices, as well as through conducting capacity building activities in areas such as food and halal industry development, including various standards for halal food certification.

14. Encourage the sharing of best practices and capacity building programs in the areas of transport safety, reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and transport regulations in aviation, land and maritime transport.

15. Reaffirm the positive contributions of Southeast Asian manpower in building sustainable economic growth and development in the GCC region.

16. Encourage collaboration to promote orderly, safe, regular, and responsible labour mobility, while strengthening cooperation to combat trafficking in persons in relation to recruitment practices.

17. Promote dialogue among civilisations and cultures to enhance trust, and advance mutual understanding and greater respect for diversity, thus contributing to a culture of peace.

18. Build on the two regions’ cultural diversity, openness and rich history to stress that tolerance and peaceful coexistence are among the most important values and principles for relations between nations and cultures.

19. Promote awareness of GCC and ASEAN traditions, arts, heritage and cultures, through cultural festivals, art exhibitions, film festivals, workshops, book fairs and other cultural events and activities, and through exchange of best practices and capacity building in the areas of museology, protection, conservation and restoration of cultural and historical heritage, as well as promotion of cultural creative industries.

20. Strengthen people-to-people ties through fostering mutual understanding, convening of networking and dialogue platforms, leadership training programs/workshops, student exchange programs and GCC and ASEAN sports initiatives.

21. Stress the important role that the GCC and ASEAN countries can play in hosting major sporting events, the Summit welcomed the candidacy of Saudi Arabia to host the 2034 FIFA World Cup.

22. Encourage the exploration of cooperation to promote tourism, including heritage, cruise, sustainable and eco-tourism, medical and wellness, tourism, by undertaking benchmarking activities, joint tourism investments, and strengthening capacity-building including for MSMEs.

23. Explore cooperation and information sharing on Information Communications Technology (ICT), especially in digital innovation, cybersecurity, data governance and cross-border data flows.

24. Support both regions’ efforts toward a digitally-enabled economy that is open, secure, inclusive, and sustainable, and to further leverage ICT to enable innovation and entrepreneurship, as well as new technological developments including Internet of Things, 5G Networks, Artificial Intelligence and smart cities.

25. Explore cooperation such as city-to-city partnerships between the ASEAN Smart Cities Network (ASCN) and the Smart Cities of the GCC Member States by fostering exchanges of best practices to help build cities that are resilient, innovative, well-connected, and technologically advanced.

26. Encourage diplomatic contact by promoting training activities for diplomats and explore collaboration between the GCC and ASEAN Member States’ training centers.

27. Encourage cooperation in science, technology and innovation, technology transfer and innovation models, including through policy study, capacity building, sharing expertise, joint research activity, and development on cross-sectoral areas such as health, communicable and emerging infectious diseases, environmental management, climate change adaptation and mitigation measures, agricultural technologies, alternative energy, biodiversity conservation, food processing, and advanced materials for development of value-added products.

28. Explore cooperation in human resource development, particularly in higher education and technical vocational education and training (TVET), addressing out-of-school children and youth, digital education, digital skills and 21st century skills development as well as efforts to improve the quality of education and training through initiatives such as skills training for students and youth, capacity building for teachers and education practitioners, provision of scholarships, research, and the sharing of good practices and experiences.

29. Explore cooperation to promote and protect the rights and welfare of all children, through networking and exchange of policies, knowledge and best practices, and encourage collaboration in promoting gender equality and women’s empowerment in the areas of eliminating all forms of violence against women, promoting women economic empowerment, as well as promoting the Women, Peace and Security agenda.

30. Encourage support to empower persons with disabilities and older persons through the implementation of the ASEAN Enabling Masterplan 2025: Mainstreaming the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Kuala Lumpur Declaration on Ageing: Empowering Older Persons and its regional action plan, including through sharing of knowledge and best practices, capacity building, and networking, and welcome initiatives to enhance strategies and approaches to alleviating poverty and addressing the needs of low-income households and communities, and vulnerable and marginalised groups.

31. Encourage collaboration and coordination in building strong and sustainable recovery towards enhanced prevention, preparedness, detection and response initiatives for all health hazards and threats including effectively addressing emerging and re-emerging infectious diseases, zoonotic diseases, health impacts of climate change; and exploring technical and information exchanges on digital health technology and innovation, and on regional preparedness and response to public health emergencies.

32. Welcome initiatives to enhance GCC-ASEAN connectivity through sharing of best practices, as well as co-creating connectivity projects.

33. Undertake consultations and explore cooperation on the implementation of the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) Work Plan IV (2021-2025) and GCC integration programs, including through knowledge sharing, institutional capacity building, technical assistance, and technology transfer in order to narrow the development gaps within and between ASEAN Member States, and enhance ASEAN’s competitiveness as a region to realise the goals of the ASEAN Community and advance regional integration.

34. Stress the importance and urgency of promoting joint action including through the ASEAN Centre for Climate Change and similar GCC entities in mitigating climate change and adapting to its impacts, protecting the environment and developing low carbon and clean energy technologies, such as renewables, energy efficiency and conservation, carbon abatement and removal technologies.

35. Commend commitments expressed by the GCC and ASEAN countries at COP27 and call for an active participation at COP28, aimed at the implementation of commitments made, and affirm the importance of the underlying principles of the climate agreements, including equity and common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities in the light of different national circumstances, approaches, needs, and priorities in implementing the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change and the Paris Agreement.

36. Express support for the United Arab Emirates hosting COP 28, calling for an ambitious and inclusive outcome, with nature, people, lives, and livelihoods at the heart of climate action.

37. Reaffirm commitment to the Paris Agreement and, in view of COP28, stress the importance of successfully concluding the first Global Stocktake, with an ambitious and forward-looking outcome.

38. Express interest in working together towards a sustainable, just, affordable, inclusive and orderly energy transitions in line with the Paris Agreement.

39. Welcome Qatar hosting the International Horticultural EXPO 2023.

40. Acknowledge Saudi Arabia’s Middle East Green Initiative (MGI), and its announcement to establish and host a dedicated MGI Secretariat and allocate US $2.5 billion to support MGI projects and governance.

41. Welcome the announcement by Saudi Arabia about the establishment of an international water organization based in Riyadh, as well as the UAE water initiative to address the threat of global water scarcity, calling for further decisive global action.

42. Recognise the important initiatives by ASEAN and the GCC in their respective regions and decide to undertake mutual consultations by Ministers and relevant officials with a view to establish mutual cooperation, as appropriate.



The history of the GCC-ASEAN relations dates back to March 1986 when the 18th session of the Ministerial Council decided to initiate contacts with the ASEAN. Additionally, the Council approved the opening of economic dialogues and discussions at the time on ways to enhance cooperation between them.

The significance of the relationship between the GCC countries and the ASEAN lies in their joint efforts to promote peace, prosperity, and the well-being of their respective peoples by strengthening cooperation between them.

In continuation of these efforts, the first joint ministerial meeting for the Strategic Dialogue between the GCC and the ASEAN was held in Manama in May 2009. During this meeting, a memorandum of understanding (MoU) for cooperation between the two Secretariats was signed.

At the second ministerial meeting of the Strategic Dialogue, held in Singapore in June 2010, the two sides approved an action plan that encompassed economic and cultural areas. Additionally, six specialized working teams were established in the fields of economy and trade, agricultural investment and food security, education, tourism, energy, culture, and media.

In November, the third ministerial meeting between the GCC countries and the ASEAN took place in Manama. During this meeting, the two sides emphasized the significance of upholding sovereignty and non-interference principles, based on the principles of good neighbourliness and in accordance with the fundamental bylaws of the GCC, the charters of the United Nations and the ASEAN, as well as international law.

The meeting also called for efforts to strengthen economic, cultural, and scientific partnerships with the goal of deepening and structuring their relations. It emphasized the importance of working towards global and regional peace as the foundation for progress and prosperity for people worldwide. Additionally, the GCC countries and the ASEAN countries reached a consensus to enhance cooperation and coordination in international forums on matters of mutual interest.

Both parties lauded their bilateral profound relations along with the cultural and civilizational ties that bind them. They also promoted the importance of respecting diversity, engaging in interfaith dialogues, and promoting moderation through education, culture, media, and tourism.

These factors serve as essential pillars in countering extremist activities while fostering mutual trust and understanding.

Collaboration in these areas is deemed a fundamental source of strength for both regions, bolstering their developmental models and international influence.

In September 2018, the GCC Troika held joint talks with the ASEAN on the sidelines of the United Nations General Assembly’s (UNGA) 73rd session in New York.

During the talks, they reaffirmed their commitment to enhancing relations within the framework of their common vision, in addition to exchanging viewpoints on regional and international issues, as well as shared challenges.

In September 2019, a discussion session was conducted at the United Nations headquarters in New York, involving the GCC and ASEAN countries on the sidelines of the 74th session of the UNGA.

The session reiterated the importance of open free trade, commitment to the rule of law, and the multilateral trading system based on the rules of the World Trade Organization (WTO).

To enhance the relations between the GCC countries and the ASEAN, the accession to the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) was achieved. This reaffirms the strong connections with East Asian nations and expands the framework of cooperation in various areas concerning shared interests. It also contributes to fulfilling the aspirations of all countries in achieving sustainable development goals (SDGs), promoting collective efforts, and creating new developmental and economic opportunities for everyone.

In preparation for the GCC-ASEAN Summit in October 2023, the General Secretariat of the GCC held a preparatory meeting in Riyadh last August. During this meeting, preparations were discussed, and ways to strengthen relations between the two sides were explored.

As part of the two parties’ ongoing economic collaboration, the volume of GCC-ASEAN trade reached $93.9 billion in 2019, with goods exports amounting to approximately $60.9 billion, while goods imports totalled $33 billion.

In this context, petroleum products constituted 73.1% of the overall commodity exports from GCC countries to ASEAN nations, with a value of $44.5 billion in 2019. Subsequently, plastic products and their derivatives accounted for 8.7%, equivalent to $5.3 billion, followed by gold and precious metals at 3.8%, with a total worth of $2.3 billion.

In an effort to further enhance and advance these relationships, the Kingdom’s hosting of the GCC Summit with ASEAN countries is set to take place in Riyadh on Thursday.

The summit comes in line with the vision of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques and His Royal Highness the Crown Prince to build a strategic partnership between the countries of the GCC and ASEAN. The summit aims to elevate the level of coordination between both parties on issues of mutual interest, enhance joint GCC cooperation, and activate regional and global strategic partnerships for the GCC, ultimately benefiting the citizens of the GCC countries and the region.

The convening of the GCC Summit with ASEAN in the Kingdom reflects the appreciation of the participating countries for its regional and international significance.

Moreover, it underscores the GCC-ASEAN commitment to establishing an ambitious future strategic partnership among their countries through a framework of common cooperation for the next five years and the decisions and initiatives that will result from the summit.

The importance of the GCC Summit with the ASEAN lies in its unique status as the first of its kind at the leadership level. This reflects the GCC countries’ willingness, with the Kingdom at the forefront, to establish partnerships with influential international blocs, with the aim of bolstering the global standing of the GCC.

The summit aims to adopt the framework for joint cooperation for the upcoming five years, covering the period from 2024 to 2028. This framework encompasses political, security, economic, and investment cooperation, along with collaboration in tourism, energy, food security, and agriculture, as well as social and cultural cooperation.