After the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP), the UK has now joined the Association of Southeast Asian Nations as part of its foreign policy tilt towards the region.
The UK has agreed a new partnership with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), which the government said puts the country at the heart of the Indo-Pacific.
The UK’s Dialogue Partner status, which is the first ASEAN has agreed in 25 years, will lead to closer cooperation between the UK and the region on a range of issues such as trade, investment, climate change, the environment, science and technology, and education. UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab joined a virtual ceremony with ASEAN Foreign Ministers where they welcomed the UK as an ASEAN “Dialogue Partner”.
“I am delighted that the UK has, today, formally become a Dialogue Partner of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) bloc – the first new country in 25 years,” said Raab.
“This is a landmark moment in the UK’s tilt towards the Indo Pacific. Our closer ties with ASEAN will help create green jobs, reinforce our security cooperation, promote tech and science partnerships, and safeguard key pillars of international law like the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea,” he said.
India is a Sectoral Dialogue Partner of the ASEAN economic bloc and the UK submitted its application to become a Dialogue Partner in June 2020. Since then, the Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) said Raab has attended two UK-ASEAN Ministerial Meetings and hosted the ASEAN Chair at the G7 Foreign & Development Ministers meeting in May.
The FCDO described ASEAN as an influential group of 10 member countries in the Indo-Pacific and with its new status, the UK will formalise its relations with the group – including through attending annual Foreign and Economic Ministers meetings along with other ministerial engagements.
It said the UK will work with ASEAN and its members on key shared challenges such as maritime security and transnational crime, boost our economies through trade, and strengthen our cooperation on issues such Covid-19 and climate change.
The new agreement will also help the UK to deepen economic links with ASEAN, which has a combined GDP of $3.2 trillion. Total trade between the UK and ASEAN was £32.3 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2021 with huge potential to boost this trade, creating jobs at home.
“This is great news and shows Global Britain in action, forging stronger relationships around the world as an independent trading nation,” said UK International Trade Secretary Liz Truss.
"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."
In June, the UK formally launched accession negotiations with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) nations. The CPTPP is one of the largest free trade areas in the world, accounting for 13 per cent of global GDP in 2019. Four ASEAN states – Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei – are members of the CPTPP.
Raab has visited Southeast Asia five times since becoming Foreign Secretary, demonstrating the growing importance of the Indo-Pacific, as set out in the Integrated Review.
The FCDO said the ASEAN announcement comes at a time of growing UK defence and security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, as the UK’s Carrier Strike Group, led by the HMS Queen Elizabeth, is in the region and has completed a series of engagements, including with the Indian Navy.