The UK Foreign Minister Visits ASEAN Looking for Trade Deals – But is Britain All at Sea Over the CPTPP?



Chris Devonshire-Ellis | ASEAN Briefing

The British Foreign Secretary, Liz Truss has been on a visit to ASEAN as she tries to boost British trade relations with Southeast Asia. The UK has trade agreements already in place with Singapore and Vietnam and has been getting closer to Thailand and Indonesia.

What London is really after though is access to the 10 members of ASEAN in total, (Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, and Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, and Vietnam). Brunei, Malaysia, and Singapore are members of the Commonwealth.

Agendas differed slightly in the meetings. the meeting in Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia’s Foreign Secretary Saifuddin Abdullah, focusing on maritime security (read: warship sales) and free trade (read access to ASEAN). The UK’s current bilateral trade with Malaysia this year will reach about £5 billion (US$6.7 billion). To put that into context, British trade with Luxembourg and Finland is higher. Clearly, a lot of work needs to be done. 

In Indonesia, Ms. Truss also met with Indonesia’s Foreign Minister, Retno Marsudi for trade and policy issues, including the situation in Myanmar, and curiously, considering it’s in a different part of Asia, Afghanistan. Although ASEAN as a bloc is an observer state to the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, now the de facto military cooperation trying to keep a lid on matters together with China, India, Russia, and Pakistan as well as the Central Asian nations of Iran, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, and Uzbekistan. 

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