The UK has agreed to enhance its co-operation with an economic union of 10 Southeast Asian countries as part of its post-Brexit pivot towards the Indo-Pacific region.
Britain becomes a “Dialogue Partner” of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, as it seeks closer engagement on issues including maritime security and transnational crime, trade, investment, climate change, the environment, science and technology, education and tackling Covid-19.
It’s the first agreement of its type between Asean and outside countries in 25 years.
But the economic union already has 10 ‘Dialogue Partners,’ including the EU, which the UK completely withdrew from on December 31, 2020.
The others are Australia, Canada, China, India, Japan, South Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the US.
“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,” said UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab.
UK-Asean trade amounted to £32.3 billion ($44.97bn) in the four quarters to the end of Q1 2021.
“This is great news and shows Global Britain in action, forging stronger relationships around the world as an independent trading nation,” said International Trade Secretary Liz Truss.
Global Britain is the phrase the government has used to describe its post-Brexit foreign policy.
Asean comprises Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
Mr Raab has visited Southeast Asia five times since taking on the Foreign Secretary role in July 2019 and the UK has also sought closer defence co-operation.
The UK’s Carrier Strike Group is currently in the Indo-Pacific region.