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THE United Kingdom has agreed to become Asean’s latest dialogue partner—the first of such cooperation with the region in 25 years.
According to its embassy in Manila, the collaboration will lead to closer ties between the UK and the bloc covering matters on trade, investments, climate change, the environment, science and technology, as well as education.
British Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab joined a virtual ceremony with Asean Foreign Ministers, where they welcomed the UK as a “dialogue partner.”
Since submitting its application in June 2020, Raab has attended two UK-Asean Ministerial Meetings, and has hosted the Asean Chair at the G7 Foreign and Development Ministers’ Meeting in May.
The UK acknowledges the Asean an influential group of 10 member-countries in the Indo-Pacific. By becoming its dialogue partner, the European country will formalize its relations with the group by attending annual foreign and economic ministers’ meetings, along with other ministerial engagements.
For the UK, a dialogue partner status puts it at the heart of the Indo-Pacific. It will work with Asean and its members on key shared challenges such as maritime security and transnational crime, boost economies through trade, and strengthen cooperation on issues such as the pandemic and climate change.
BRITISH Ambassador to the Philippines Daniel Pruce said, “I am immensely proud that the UK has been accepted as the first new Asean dialogue partner in 25 years. This will lead to more trade, better security cooperation and greater people-to-people links for [us] and Asean, alongside our strong and growing bilateral relationship with the Philippines.”
Pruce added, “Achieving this status is a key step forward in the UK’s Indo-Pacific tilt, and can only serve to help the UK and Asean member-states work even more closely together on some of the key global challenges—including climate and ‘Covid.’”
He shared that Raab has visited Southeast Asia five times since becoming foreign secretary, which demonstrates the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific, as set out in UK’s Integrated Review.
For the envoy, the announcement comes at a time of growing UK defense and security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, as the said country’s Carrier Strike Group, led by the HMS Queen Elizabeth, is in the region and has completed a series of engagements with a range of Asean partners, with further interactions planned in the coming months.
In June the UK formally launched accession negotiations with nations belonging to the CPTPP, or the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership, which is one of the largest free-trade areas in the world, accounting for 13 percent of global gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019. Four Asean states: Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei, are its members.
Safeguard of key pillars
MEANWHILE, Raab commented: “I am delighted that the UK has…formally become a dialogue partner of the Asean bloc—the first new country in 25 years…Our closer ties with Asean will help create green jobs, reinforce our security cooperation, promote tech and science partnerships, [as well as] safeguard key pillars of international law, like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea.”
According to the foreign secretary, the new agreement will also help the UK to deepen economic links with the region, which has a combined GDP of $3.2 trillion. Total trade between the UK and Asean was £32.3 billion in the four quarters up to the end of the first three months of 2021, with a huge potential to boost such trade, while creating local jobs.
For UK’s International Trade Secretary Liz Truss, this latest development shows Global Britain in action, forging stronger relationships around the world as an independent trading nation.
“Along with CPTPP accession and deals with countries like Singapore and Vietnam, this will help unlock opportunities for British businesses in a high-growth region of more than 650 million people, allowing them to expand and create jobs across the UK,” Truss stated.
The embassy also shared that the UK is already a dialogue partner of the regional policing body ASEANAPOL, or the Asean Chiefs of National Police, where the Philippines also is a member.
Other Asean dialogue partners are Australia, Canada, China, the European Union, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States.