Britain’s Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab (Photo by Alberto PIZZOLI / AFP) (Photo by ALBERTO PIZZOLI/AFP via Getty Images)
ENGLAND has been granted “dialogue partner” status by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, UK’s Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) announced on Thursday (5), saying that the partnership is expected to lead to closer cooperation between the UK and the region on a range of issues such as trade, investment, climate change, security, and education.
Britain has been seeking the status as part of its post-Brexit policy shift to focus more on the high-growth economies of Asia and the Indo-Pacific, and away from the EU which it left in 2020.
ASEAN foreign ministers welcomed the UK foreign secretary Dominic Raab in a virtual ceremony as an ASEAN ‘Dialogue Partner’, a status which puts England at the heart of the Indo-Pacific nations, FCDO said, adding that the countries are expected to work on key shared challenges such as maritime security and transnational crime apart from boosting economies through trade, and strengthening cooperation on issues such Covid-19 and climate change.
ASEAN is an influential group of ten member countries in the Indo-Pacific including Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. The group has close diplomatic relations with other world powers including the EU, the US, India and China, and is seen by many as an important forum for discussion of geopolitical issues.
Raab said that UK is the first new country in 25 years to formally become a dialogue partner of the ASEAN bloc.
“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,” Raab said in a statement.
The new agreement will also help the UK to deepen its economic links with ASEAN countries. Total trade between the UK and ASEAN was £32.3 billion in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2021, FCDO said, adding that there is a huge potential to boost this trade while creating jobs at home.
Raab has visited Southeast Asia five times since becoming UK’s foreign secretary.
The announcement comes amid growing UK defence and security cooperation in the Indo-Pacific, as England’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 autumn.