1st ASEM Summit (ASEM1), March 1996, Bangkok, Thailand

The origins of the ASEM process lay in a mutual recognition, in both Asia and Europe, that the relationship between the two regions needed to be strengthened, reflecting the new global context of the 1990s, and the perspectives of the new century. In July 1994, the European Commission had already published Towards a New Strategy for Asia, stressing the importance of modernising our relationship with Asia, and of reflecting properly its political, economic and cultural significance. The Commission Communication of September 2001, entitled Europe and Asia: A Strategic Framework for Enhanced Partnerships, reaffirmed this objective.

In November 1994, Singapore and France proposed that an EU-Asia summit meeting be held, to consider how to build a new partnership between the two regions. Following Singapore's proposal, the 1st ASEM Summit (ASEM1) was held in March 1996 in Bangkok, Thailand, which marks the beginning of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM).