Essay: 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

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