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Building a stronger UK-ASEAN economic relationship

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Thu, 27 Aug. 2020

Op-Ed by Natalie Black CBE, Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific

With 650 million people, and a combined GDP of US$3 trillion, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is a dynamic and important partner for the UK’s trading future.

Over the last ten years, trade between the UK and ASEAN has grown by almost 70% to just under £42 billion. In 2019 alone, trade in goods and services rose by over ten percent. The UK is one of the top 10 investors in ASEAN.

On Wednesday 26 August, the UK Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss co-chaired the UK-ASEAN Economic Dialogue with current Chair of ASEAN Economic Community Minister Tran Tuan Anh from Vietnam. The virtual dialogue marked the first formal economic engagement between ASEAN and the UK, and was attended by economic ministers and officials from the ten ASEAN member states as well as the ASEAN Secretary General Dato Lim Jock Hoi.

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Shared commitment to free trade and supply chain connectivity

At the dialogue, the UK affirmed its support for ASEAN’s economic ambitions and commitment to strengthen the region’s resilience against the impact of COVID-19.

In line with the views expressed in the Hanoi Plan of Action on Strengthening ASEAN Economic Cooperation and Supply Chain Connectivity in Response to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the UK highlighted the importance of free trade and resilient supply chains for global economic recovery as the crisis passes.

The UK has committed to working with ASEAN and the Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA) on research to help strengthen UK-ASEAN supply chains, to better understand their resilience and identify ways to further strengthen them in support of business and consumers.

Digital collaboration with an eye on the future

In June, the UK launched the first Digital Trade Network, starting in Asia Pacific. This will increase UK digital tech expertise on the ground in ASEAN, allowing us to strengthen our partnerships for the digital economy and unlock the benefits that responsible tech can deliver.

The UK Government will further deepen its digital partnership with ASEAN through a pilot – the UK-ASEAN Digital Business Challenge – which will explore how tech Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) can deliver digital solutions to some of the more challenging business issues faced in the region.

The UK will also continue to work closely with the ASEAN Business Advisory Council (ABAC) to develop a private sector regional digital trade connectivity roadmap, complementing the ASEAN Single Window programme which can lead to more facilitative trade within ASEAN and beyond.

Supporting sustainable infrastructure for growth

The UK and ASEAN agreed that the current economic climate presents an opportunity to build a greener and more sustainable global economy, in line with the objectives of the Paris Agreement in advance of COP26, hosted by the UK, next year.

The UK offered to further collaborate with ASEAN on its plans to tap into low carbon growth opportunities and to deliver sustainable and enduring infrastructure projects that boost connectivity in the region, in alignment with the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity 2025.

The start of a new partnership

ASEAN’s commitment to cohesiveness in getting through the pandemic is evident in its plans to develop a robust, holistic and pragmatic post-pandemic recovery framework.

As ASEAN celebrates its 53rd anniversary this month we recognise that its steadfast cooperation has helped support the region’s dynamic economies, and we look forward to working together in the coming years.

Yesterday’s dialogue was just the first step in strengthening the UK-ASEAN economic partnership and I look forward to deepening this relationship to open up new opportunities for UK business in this region, and showcase UK expertise in ASEAN. In November, UK representatives will join the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Hanoi in the sidelines of the 37th ASEAN Summit.

If you are a UK business interested in the growth opportunities in Southeast Asia, or a business in Southeast Asia looking to invest in the UK, please get in touch to see how we can help on DIT.APAC@fco.gov.uk.

To find out more about the first UK-ASEAN Economic Dialogue, read the joint statement here.

* ASEAN is made up of ten member states in Southeast Asia; Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.

Source: LinkedIn.

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