MANILA – The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) and the United Kingdom have vowed to strengthen economic cooperation amid the pandemic following the first UK-Asean Economic Dialogue.
Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss and 2020 Asean Economic Community (AEC) Minister Tran Tuan Anh chaired the first UK-Asean Economic Dialogue virtually held last August 26.
The economic dialogue that aimed to boost economic recovery efforts amid the global health crisis was also attended by economic ministers and officials of the 10 Asean member states and Asean Secretary General Dato Lim Jock Hoi.
“We are committed to working together to sustain and deepen the close economic ties between Asean and the UK; mitigate the impact of Covid-19 (coronavirus disease 2019); strengthen economic resilience; and pursue sustainable economic growth that keeps markets open and transparent,” Asean and the UK said in a joint statement.
Bilateral trade between Asean and the UK amounted to £42 billion, or around USD56 billion.
“We reaffirm our commitment to free trade within the international rules-based system, noting that this is vital to economic recovery and future growth,” the joint statement read.
During the visit of UK Prime Minister’s trade envoy Richard Graham in Manila last February, he said the British government was looking forward to forging a trade agreement with Asean.
Graham also visited Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Asean Economic Community (AEC) that month.
Graham added the British government is pursuing independent trade deals as the UK transitions to leave the European Union this year.
Among the focus of the UK-Asean Economic Dialogue is strengthening digital innovation as a “central pillar of recovery” from Covid-19.
“The UK will deepen its digital partnership with Asean through its Digital Trade Network and by funding a new UK-Asean Digital Business Challenge, exploring how tech micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) can deliver solutions to tough business challenges,” the UK government committed.
The UK also said it is committed to support the region in building a greener and more sustainable global economy.
It added the UK has earmarked £15 million (USD20 million) under the Prosperity Fund Asean Low Carbon Energy Programme and £12 million (USD16 million) under the Global Green Recovery Challenge Fund to provide technical assistance to develop green financial systems and energy efficiency.
In January 2019, the £19 million (USD25 million) UK Prosperity Fund Asean Economic Reform Programme was launched to support the Asean Connectivity 2025.
In the economic dialogue, the UK said it will collaborate with Asean to deliver resilient and complex infrastructure projects to improve connectivity in the region.
“We look forward to continued cooperation to ensure that the Asean and UK support each other as we recover from this pandemic,” the joint statement said. (PNA)