UK-ASEAN dialogue partnership paves way for potential future trade deal – The Diplomat


Since leaving the European Union, the UK government has turned to South East Asia and its regional bloc, the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) , recognizing it as one of the world’s leading dynamic economic regions. The UK’s new partnership with ASEAN fosters an enabling environment for increased trade flows, secure supply chains, increased cross-border investment and, in general, sustainable development.

Other initiatives also aim to establish a long-term strategic program of mutual economic support in a wide range of important sectors. In light of this extensive cooperation, it begs the question whether one of its main goals is to ultimately forge a free trade agreement between the UK and ASEAN – an agreement that has eluded most. major western economies so far.

Over the past two years, the UK has embarked on a comprehensive and detailed action plan to develop economic and political relations with ASEAN. This was undertaken in several incremental steps, starting with the negotiation of EU continuity agreements with Singapore and Vietnam, which have since evolved into new, more advanced business partnerships involving digital data and services and other aspects of greater trade facilitation. The UK is also conducting trade reviews with Indonesia and Thailand to reach possible bilateral deals, while discussing Malaysia’s market access.

As part of a broader regional trade initiative, the UK has launched accession negotiations with the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership (CPTPP) trade pact, which brings together 11 Asia-Pacific countries. , including the four ASEAN states, Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia and Brunei. These states could be key players in supporting Britain’s bid to become the first country to join the CPTPP since its founding in 2018.

Perhaps a little less important on the radar has been the UK’s success in establishing an economic and political dialogue partnership with ASEAN, which was officially launched last month. The deal was notable being the first such partnership that ASEAN has concluded in a quarter of a century, following partnerships with China, India and Russia, after which the bloc froze talks on similar agreements.

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The inaugural consultation of ASEAN and UK economics ministers took place on September 15, involving Liz Truss, UK trade secretary, and Amin Liew Abdullah, Brunei finance and economics minister. Various intergovernmental talks under the auspices of the partnership will focus on establishing close cooperation on issues such as securing mutual supply chains, investment protection and cooperation, reform of international trade organizations, improving environmental protection, expanding scientific and technological cooperation and expanding educational opportunities.

“Along with membership in the CPTPP and agreements with countries like Singapore and Vietnam, these ongoing discussions will unlock opportunities for UK businesses in a high-growth region of over 650 million people,” said declared Truss at the conclusion of the first dialogue.

Two-way trade in goods and services between the UK and ASEAN amounted to over $ 52 billion in 2019, while the stock of UK foreign direct investment in the regional bloc stood at to $ 36.5 billion the same year. However, bilateral trade fell to $ 46.1 billion in 2020, under the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

In response to what is likely to be only a temporary decline in bilateral trade, the two sides affirmed their commitment to develop mutual trade relations in accordance with the principles of open, free, inclusive, transparent, rules-based multilateral cooperation. and non-discriminatory. trading system.

They also agreed to refrain from introducing unnecessary measures that could adversely affect trade in goods, services and / or investment and to ensure the transparency of all trade-related measures and that this was in accordance with their commitments to the World Trade Organization (WTO).

The two sides recognized the importance of the WTO-centric multilateral trading system to boost economic recovery in the post-pandemic period and agreed to work together for a stronger multilateral trading system. They also noted the challenges facing the WTO in reforming the organization ahead of the 12th WTO Ministerial Conference later this year.

To tackle the problems facing businesses, especially micro, small and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs), a UK-funded OECD report was launched last year to address the concerns of inventors and investors alike. intellectual property to develop an inclusive and enabling environment in ASEAN. so that intellectual property rights are protected and effectively monetized.

The research would also help realize the competition-related vision of the ASEAN Economic Community Master Plan 2025 and thus contribute to the mission of the ASEAN Secretariat to achieve a level playing field for all businesses through an effective competition policy.

Recognizing the importance of investing in sustainable and resilient infrastructure to support post-pandemic recovery, the two sides also committed to deepen collaboration on sustainable infrastructure, innovation, research and technology development in the ASEAN Connectivity Master Plan (MPAC) 2025 framework.

This will particularly focus on cooperation in the development of sustainable green infrastructure as a key focus of the development of ‘smart cities’ in the ASEAN region, a policy that the UK and Thai governments, as well as the participation of 100 British companies, have already activated. in the form of building smart cities across Thailand.

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UK and ASEAN to share information on the development of FinTech, or FinTech, in the ASEAN region, including the continuation of FinTech capacity building initiatives for managers and stakeholders ASEAN, in particular MSMEs, focusing on priority areas for ASEAN.

During the consultation of the Economy and UK ministers, both sides affirmed the need to build a greener and more sustainable global economy, in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement and in sight and beyond of COP26, which the UK will host in November 2021..

They also endorsed joint action to build momentum towards a net zero future. The UK-ASEAN Race to Zero Dialogue, which began earlier this year, will focus on non-state actors that will become net zero by 2050; while both parties will pledge to strengthen their commitment to sustainable infrastructure, including supporting MPAC 2025.

Overall, both parties will engage in accelerating energy transition efforts to ensure sustainable and low-carbon supply chains and integrate nature, biodiversity and climate into economic decision-making. To achieve these goals, they will explore possibilities for cooperation to further develop relevant international standards to facilitate these commitments.

It should be borne in mind that the UK’s new partnership with ASEAN has effectively replaced the dialogue status it had through the EU-ASEAN partnership. The speed with which the UK has renewed its agreements with ASEAN and the partnership process of deep dialogue and pledge of mutual support will underpin all UK efforts to push for a free trade agreement with the United Kingdom. ‘ASEAN, which the EU has failed to manage since negotiations with the South East The Asian bloc began in 2007. Certainly, the depth of detail and the constructive intensity with which the UK has engaged ASEAN in some sectors establishes a solid platform from which to approach a modern trade agreement with ASEAN, beyond membership of the CPTPP and other possible bilateral agreements with regional countries.


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