Essay: APTERR Framework – Promoting Food Security in the ASEAN + 3 States

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  • APTERR Framework - Promoting Food Security in the ASEAN + 3 States
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It has been recognized by the literature that the changes occurring to the climate have implications for food security. It has also been argued that an increase in the world’s temperature will negatively affect agriculture, water security, and the development of pathogens and pests. Likewise, it has been discussed by the literature that economic crises affect people’s food security. Given these challenges, it is reassuring to know that there are frameworks that seek to address climate change issues globally and regionally. Using the complex interdependence framework developed by Robert Keohane and Joseph Nye, the paper seeks to probe into how the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its three partners, i.e., China, South Korea and Japan (together ASEAN + 3), promote the availability of rice for emergency consumption through the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserves (APTERR) framework. Rice, in this paper, serves as the referent object as it is the staple food in the region. Probing the APTERR framework will help us understand how these respective states cooperate to ensure the availability of rice through this particular framework given the current issues on climate change. In this paper, a case study will be conducted in order to study how the framework addresses rice availability. The research will mainly use secondary data, consisting of public documents and existing literature on the subject matter. These data will be then subjected to a qualitative content analysis. At the end of the paper, the research aims to provide an analysis of the framework, and will be able to provide insights to further improve the initiative.

Keywords: Food Security, ASEAN + 3, APTERR, Complex Interdependence


Rice is the staple food of the ten member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its three dialogue partners, i.e. China, South Korea, and Japan (the thirteen states are collectively known as the ASEAN + 3 states). However, it has been noted that climate change and economic crises negatively affected rice prices at the global market; therefore, the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserves (APTERR) framework Regional network has been established in order to tackle rice availability in the region.

This paper, then, will attempt to provide a descriptive analysis of the framework, by trying to answer these questions: 1.) how cooperation can help resolve rice availability problems, 2.) how rice supply is affected by factors such as climate change and price volatility in the global market, 3.) how the APTERR framework works, and lastly, 4.) what are the issues and challenges the APTERR initiative has faced. The discussion of the paper will begin by discussing the objectives, definition of concepts, its scope and limitations, framework, methodology, and its significance. This will be followed by the discussion of the current issues on climate change and global financial crisis, and how regionalism can help in mitigating these issues. This will be followed next by the discussion on the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserve (APTERR) Framework, as well as its issues and challenges. The analysis of the issue will come afterwards. Lastly, the writer will provide some conclusions with regard to the paper’s discussion.

Research Objectives

This paper has three objectives. First, it seeks to contribute to the literature on food security, specifically in addressing food availability as one of its pillars by focusing on rice as the paper’s referent object. Second, the paper also likewise aims to provide some insights in order to make this particular framework work better for the citizens of the ASEAN + 3 states. And lastly, the paper hopes to promote the idea of cooperation among states in dealing with issues that occur beyond their respective borders.

Framework and Methodology

Using the complex interdependence framework of Joseph Nye and Robert Keohane, the paper seeks to probe into how the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its three dialogue partners, i.e., China, South Korea and Japan, promote the availability of rice for emergency consumption through the ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserves (APTERR) Framework. Probing the APTERR Framework will help us understand how these respective states cooperate to ensure the availability of rice through an emergency rice supply mechanism.

A case study will be conducted in order to study how the APTERR framework addresses rice availability in these respective states. In order to come up with this research, secondary data, consisting of public documents and literature review, will be used. These data, then, will be subjected to qualitative content analysis.

Scope and Limitations

While the FAO prescribed four pillars as the dimensions of food security, however, the paper’s discussion will focus on one particular pillar: food availability. As mentioned earlier in the paper, this has been done because the referent object is rice availability. Moreover, the timeframe that the study will cover as part of its scope and limitations is from 2013 up to 2016.

The paper recognizes that as part of its limitations, the data available from the APTERR Secretariat is self-published. As a result of this, the data available from the secretariat are mostly skewed in favor of the said framework. However, literature that also analyzes the framework will also be used in order to provide a balanced assessment of the APTERR framework. At the end of the paper, it hopes that it will be able to provide an analysis of the APTERR Framework.


As far as the significance of the paper is concerned, the paper is significant in academic terms in the sense that it will be able to describe how cooperation can address issues that are felt globally. It is also significant because this paper will help update the gaps in terms of the literature available on the topic at hand. And with regard to the paper’s importance to policy, the paper serves as a review of the existing framework in addressing rice availability in the East Asian region.

Food Security Challenges and the Role of Regionalism to Improve Food Security

The paper was able to identify two phenomenon occurring in the current times, which affect food availability, and food security in general: climate change and economic crises. These two phenomenon negatively affects the availability of food, and the promotion of people’s food security in general. However, these challenges to food security are global in nature, which will be highlighted by the paper later, thus necessitating a regional, and/or global response to tackle these concerns.

Definition of Food Security

Food security, as defined during the 1996 World Food Summit (WFS), is the state where “all people, at all times, have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food to meet their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life.” The Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) defined the four dimensions of food security: food availability, food accessibility, utilization, and stability. However, to specify the scope of the discussion, the paper will highlight the concept of food availability. Food availability refers to the “availability of sufficient quantities of food of appropriate quality, supplied through domestic production or imports (including food aid).” The paper focuses its discussion on food availability as the ASEAN + 3 Emergency Rice Reserves framework deals with rice availability in the East Asian Region.

Climate Change Challenging Food Security

Climate change, as a phenomenon, affects food security through the change in weather patterns such as droughts, flooding and other weather-based phenomena. Climate change is a threat for food production as it increases the temperature, which is harmful for the plants, and other sources of food.

Climate change can also be considered as an indirect result of human action, especially in terms of overpopulation, and industrialization, as they require more energy for sustenance. These human-induced activities can affect how the climate changes, and how it can make food more expensive at the global market, thereby affecting food supply. To put it bluntly, it was pointed out by the literature that climate change negatively affects food security. However, one must realize that climate change is just one factor as to why food security is challenged because there are other factors that contribute to food insecurity such as the access to land, and overpopulation.

As a regional organization, ASEAN is vulnerable from the effects of climate change issues on food security. As mentioned by Caballero-Anthony et al., citing data from the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), 63.5 million people or 10.5% of the population of the ASEAN region, are affected by food security issues.

Economic Crises and Food Security

Aside from climate change, global financial crises negatively affect how states will be able to secure food. As an example, Ching- Cheng et al. pointed out that the fluctuation of the prices of goods in the world market affect a state’s reaction. While some were able to absorb its impact, however, for others, they were not able to do so.

Even if the world is getting more interconnected, it was pointed out that food security issues are being tackled by different states independently. In order to resolve these problems, Ashley pointed out the need for good governance, both at the domestic and international level, in order to address these concerns.

Regionalism as a Response to Improve Food Security

Food security issues are multifaceted. It was mentioned in the paper that food security is affected by climate change, and the movements of food prices at the global market. It was also implied earlier that global efforts must be done in order to challenge its negative impact for the people of the world.

Scholars have pointed out that states can only do so much as far as food insecurity is concerned. For one, Crump argued that states should consider both national and global approaches in tackling food security concerns. Whereas for other scholars, they argued that states should look into the idea of cooperation at the international level, in order to resolve their respective food security issues. However, it was recognized that cooperation of states at the international level is difficult to achieve due to their differences, but nevertheless pointed out that there are incentives for cooperation among different state, which is a key in resolving food security concerns.

The literature also cautioned states that too much reliance on regional, and/or international organizations, and their policies can pose problems with regard to food security. As pointed out by Bello, countries such as the Philippines, Mexico, China, and several African states were negatively affected by the policies enacted by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Thus for him, there is a need to go back to state-centric interventions through food sovereignty.

Given the discussion above, this is where Keohane and Nye’s complex interdependence framework will come into the picture. The approach recognizes that states, despite its interests, are capable of cooperation not only with other states but also other actors in the international system such as regional institutions, and that these actors do not concern themselves much with the use of military might to resolve these issues. To further probe into how regionalism can address a particular issue of concern, this paper will look into the case of the ASEAN, together with its dialogue partners (ASEAN + X), and how the ASEAN + X tackles issues affecting the region.

As Arase pointed out, the states in East Asia (both Northeast and Southeast Asia) engage with each other through track two diplomacy, such as the ASEAN Regional Forum, the ASEAN + X, the East Asian Summit, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, together with track one. One example to highlight why cooperation matters in ASEAN was during the onslaught of the Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar. The onslaught of the Cyclone Nargis provided incentives for the rest of the members of the region to assist Myanmar with its recovery. Aside from the cyclone, the region was able to exercise cooperation among states materialized by tackling rice security in the region.

The ASEAN Plus Three Emergency Rice Reserves Framework: Discussion

While APTERR is a recent creation, its historical roots however is connected with the ASEAN Food Security Reserve Agreement that was signed by the member-states of the association in 1979. Problems arose because the member-states of the ASEAN Food Security Reserve Agreement were not able to fully utilize the mechanism to ensure food availability within their respective countries. Given these concerns on food security, the entry of East Asia into the discourse of food was welcomed by ASEAN in 2001. As a result of this event, the East Asian Emergency Rice Reserves (EAERR) was created by the East Asian states, and subsequently formalized the formation of the APTERR, which is composed of the ASEAN + 3 states.

Structure of the APTERR

In order to operationalize the framework in securing rice availability through the APTERR, there are two governance structures that operate in order to ensure that the system will work. These structures are the APTERR Council and the APTERR Secretariat respectively.

APTERR Council and APTERR Secretariat

The APTERR council, on the one hand, is mandated to make decisions as far as the release of emergency supply is concerned. The said council is composed of members coming from each member-state of the APTERR framework. The APTERR Secretariat, on the other hand, is the one mandated to ensure the everyday functions of the framework. The secretariat is also mandated to provide support to the decisions made by the Council, specifically on the implementation of the plans. The structure of the secretariat is provided below:

Figure 1. The APTERR Secretariat

Source: APTERR (

Rice Reserves under APTERR

Under the APTERR framework, there are two ways the framework can use in order to secure rice stocks from its member-states: 1.) earmarked, and 2.) stockpiled emergency rice reserves. The figure below will provide an idea how the APTERR secure its emergency rice supply:

Figure 2. APTERR Mechanism

Source: APTERR (

Earmarked rice supply is the required number of rice stock each member-country of the APTERR has to secure for the initiative. The total number of the earmarked emergency rice supply is around 787, 000 Metric Tons. The share of each member-state of the APTERR is further shown in the table below:

Table 1. Earmarked Rice Quantity for APTERR

Country Earmarked Rice Quantity (in Metric Tons)

Brunei Darussalam 3,000

Cambodia 3,000

Indonesia 12,000

Lao PDR 3,000

Malaysia 6,000

Myanmar 14,000

The Philippines 12,000

Singapore 5,000

Thailand 15,000

Vietnam 14,000

Peoples’ Republic of China 300,000

Japan 250,000

Republic of Korea 150,000

Total 787,000

Source: APTERR Agreement (2011, 15)

The member-states of the APTERR cannot easily change the number of metric tons they contribute to the APTERR, nor can they easily move the rice supply back to their respective countries after they contributed to the APTERR since each member-state needs the approval from the group before such supply must be replenished or replaced. If a member-state of the APTERR needs to augment the availability of rice within its borders, rice supply under the APTERR can be released based on forward contract (tier 1), and grants and loans (tier 2), which has to be agreed upon by the APTERR Council first.

The other rice supply covered by the APTERR framework is the stockpiled rice reserves. Stockpiled rice reserves are donated to the APTERR by the member-states either through the giving of cash or physical rice supply. Stockpiled rice reserves under the APTERR are mainly used for emergency situations, where rice availability is highly needed in these particular times.

The APTERR Framework in Ensuring Rice Availability in the Region

In order to determine how the APTERR perform as an organization composed of states, the paper will review the minutes of the official meetings. The minutes of the meetings will be analyzed afterwards in order to know how the APTERR manages the rice supply contributed by each member-state to it, and whether the said framework works in promoting rice security to the region, or not.

While the main role of the APTERR as a regional organization is to be in charge of maintaining and managing rice supply, its supplemental role, as stipulated in the fifth article of the agreement, is also to provide a mechanism for rice information exchange. The APTERR Agreement likewise provides a mechanism for the formation and operation of the APTERR Fund, a fund that seeks to support the activities and initiatives of the organization. All of these conditions pertaining to the APTERR framework were agreed upon by the member-states of the APTERR in the APTERR Council, as reported in the official minutes of its first meeting in 2013.

During the second meeting of the APTERR Council in 2014, the discussion dealt mostly with the operations of the council; what was different from the first meeting, in this regard, was the report of the representatives from Laos and the Philippines, discussing how the APTERR framework worked in their respective countries. It is noteworthy to focus on the experience of the Philippines because it was affected by Typhoon Haiyan in 2013; the representatives of the Philippines in the APTERR Council meeting reported to the body how the country was recovering from the typhoon.

Meanwhile, the deliberations during the third APTERR Council meeting in 2015 was focused on the procedural and maintenance aspect of the APTERR program, however, the minutes has also reported that the Council listened to the report made by the representatives of the Philippines about the ongoing efforts of the Philippine government, together with the help from other countries, to recover from the onslaught of the Typhoon Haiyan in 2013. The Philippine government specifically thanked the efforts of China, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan, and the APTERR for their help with regard to the stability of rice supply in the country through donation.

During the fourth meeting of the APTERR Council in 2016, it noted that Japan contributed to the success of the program. In the same meeting, Cambodia made a request for the increase of its rice stockpile, and the Philippines reported how Japan was able to help in augmenting its rice supply. The Philippines likewise mentioned in the meeting the efforts exerted by the Philippine government in the country to further improve efficiency, especially with the implementation of the APTERR programs in the country.

Aside from the activities mentioned in the official minutes, the APTERR also highlighted some of its activities that are crucial in promoting rice availability in the region. The APTERR reported that the framework was able to provide 200 MT of rice to 20,000 households in Yogyakarta, Indonesia in 2012. The APTERR was also able to provide relief to the citizens of Thailand by providing 50 MT of rice, and 31,000 cans of cooked rice in 2011. And even before the framework was fully established, the East Asian Rice Reserves framework was already able to provide rice supply to Lao PDR, the Philippines, Myanmar, Indonesia, and Cambodia since 2005.

Issues and Challenges Affecting the APTERR Framework

With regard to the APTERR Framework, there are studies identifying some of the issues that will affect rice availability in the ASEAN + 3 region in the future. The said challenges towards rice security are as follows: technical issues, financial and economic issues, and institutional issues.

As far as technical issues are concerned, there is a need for proper monitoring, as argued by Briones. He pointed out that it is costly to maintain rice supplies, and it is also harmful for the economy if the release of rice supply in the market is not in accordance with the set standards. With regard to financial issues, the concern of the APTERR is sustainability. It was pointed out that there is a need for the member-states of the APTERR to be able to make their funding sustainable, in order to make the APTERR framework operates smoothly. Lastly, with regard to institutional issues, Briones pointed out that there is a need for the APTERR to establish an “organizational capacity,” in order to make things work. Another concern for institutional issues is that the respective policies of each member-state should be able to accommodate or to support the initiatives of the APTERR as a framework.

Aside from these comments, it was also tackled that the design implemented by the APTERR reflects the nationalistic, and state-centric views of its member-states in tackling rice. Despite its state-centric orientation, the APTERR is an effort that needs to be credited as there is a semblance of cooperation among the member-states in the East Asian region. While the APTERR somehow promotes a multilateral approach in tackling rice issues, it was also pointed out that there is a need to strengthen the capacity of the APTERR, especially in its earmarked supply. Due to the densely populated countries in the region, i.e., China and Indonesia, it was argued that the APTERR will not be able to address the rice concerns in the region, if a catastrophic event will occur in these areas; this event negatively affect rice prices in the region, with an estimated increase of 7% in rice prices.

Analysis: Cooperation as a Key in Ensuring Rice Availability

There is a need to point out that states can only do so much as far as securing food to their respective citizens is concerned. As discussed in the literature, climate change and the price of food at the global market affect food security of individuals. These issues that were mentioned earlier in the paper are global in scope, and do not recognize borders. Hence, there is a need for states to go beyond their usual state-centric approaches. As discussed earlier in the paper, what individual states can do in resolving food insecurity is to cooperate with each other, in order to solve issues that affect whole of humanity.

Using the logic of complex interdependence of Nye and Keohane, the APTERR as the rice reserves framework of East Asia, both recognizes the importance of state interventions and regional cooperation in ensuring food availability. The APTERR framework recognizes that there are inputs that need to come from the member-states, specifically by saving up rice stockpile, which was stipulated in the APTERR Agreement. While there is a state-centric component, it is noteworthy to say that the states were able to go beyond their respective countries’ concerns, by cooperating in order to secure rice availability in the region through the APTERR Framework.

While it is relatively better for the ASEAN + 3 states to cooperate under the APTERR as a cooperation framework, than not to cooperate amongst themselves at all, the ASEAN + 3 states must not be complacent with the implementation of the APTERR nevertheless. As discussed earlier in this paper, there are policy recommendations that need attention, such as the increase in the earmarked supply, and the support of each member-state of the APTERR Agreement, in order to ensure its survival.

Since these issues were already identified, this research tapped into the official minutes of the APTERR Council meetings in order to assess the plans of the council to make the framework work. With regard to the plans of the APTERR Council, the paper was able to uncover that no substantive changes were tackled in these meetings. The council and the secretariat of the APTERR must recognize its perceived weakness in order to improve the implementation of the framework. Despite its shortcomings, credit must be given to the APTERR as the framework was able to provide actual support in emergencies such as the case of the Philippines, and Cambodia.

In spite of the problems as far as the implementation of the APTERR is concerned, it was noteworthy, nevertheless, for the ASEAN and its three dialogue partners, to cooperate in the issue of rice availability for the East Asian region. As argued in the paper early on, these states can only do so much on their own, and it is wise on their part to collaborate because these issues are global in scope.


The world, in the current times, are affected by issues not only limited to the purview of each state, but also these issues are becoming global in scope. The paper was able to highlight some of the issues that plague East Asian rice insecurity such as climate change and fluctuations in the market. Given that the issues are becoming borderless, cooperation, at this point in time, is highly acknowledged.

The paper was able to discuss how the APTERR framework operates, and what are the initiatives created, and implemented by the APTERR in tackling rice insecurity in the region. The paper likewise identified what are the perceived issues as far as the framework is concerned. The author hopes that policymakers in the region will ponder on the points raised in the literature, in order to cater further to the needs of the vulnerable individuals, when it comes with rice insecurity due to climate change and global financial crisis issues.

The APTERR Framework exhibits the logic of complex interdependence, as originally coined by Keohane and Nye, because while the APTERR was able to foster cooperation among states, it also promotes individual state actions in resolving rice availability problems. Nevertheless, the APTERR Framework is a commendable effort on the part of the ASEAN + 3 states in addressing rice availability in the region. Despite the framework being far from perfect, it nevertheless tried to resolve rice unavailability in the region due to the causes identified in the literature early on.


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