ASEAN affirms its central role

At the 54th ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ Meeting (AMM-54), ASEAN agreed to establish a Dialogue Partnership with the UK. The new step continues to highlight the attractiveness of ASEAN, affirming its central role in the processes and structures of cooperation in the region. This is also a great success for the UK in its “post-Brexit” global partnership strategy.

ASEAN Foreign Ministers attend AMM-54 (Photo: VNA)
ASEAN Foreign Ministers attend AMM-54 (Photo: VNA)

Among the outstanding outcomes of the AMM-54 and related meetings, which are taking place virtually, areASEAN’s decisions to establish further partnerships and approve the proposals to join the Treaty of Amity and Cooperation in Southeast Asia (TAC) by the Netherlands, Greece, Qatar, the United Arab Emirates, Oman and Denmark. In particular, the UK has become the 11th Dialogue Partner of ASEAN and the only European country outside the European Union (EU) to have the status of being one of ASEAN’s most important partners.

The UK has time-honoured trade relations with ASEAN countries, is currently the 12th largest trading partner and the 6th largest foreign direct investor of ASEAN. More than 40% of ASEAN citizens in Europe reside in the UK and 67% of European citizens in ASEAN are from the UK; more than three million UK citizens come to ASEAN each year and over 40,000 ASEAN students are studying in the UK. These figures reflect the striking interaction between the UK and ASEAN.

In the UK’s global strategy with an aim to “regain” the country’s position after Brexit with a larger role on the global scale, the UK has affirmed its priority in Asia, especially Southeast Asia. Repeatedly expressing its wish to establish a Dialogue Partnership with ASEAN, the UK hopes to have more opportunities, contribute to domestic economic growth, and promote cooperation in the region. Right after the Brexit transition period ended in early 2020, the UK signed free trade agreements with a number of ASEAN countries and officially asked ASEAN to accept the status of a Dialogue Partner.

Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab once emphasised that with a global vision, the UK will work closely with friends in Asia. Becoming one of ASEAN’s important partners, the UK can expand cooperation in the Indo-Pacific region, from climate change to strategic stability. According to UK Ambassador to ASEAN Jon Lambe, by proposing to become a Dialogue Partner of ASEAN, the UK has affirmed its long-term commitment to Southeast Asia.

The UK’s integration goals and efforts reflect ASEAN’s economic and geopolitical importance, affirming the attractiveness of Southeast Asia and the central role of ASEAN, which has a solid foundation from the achievements of cooperation within the bloc and with partners, as well as from the success of cooperation frameworks and mechanisms initiated and led by the Association.