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Strengthening Ties: ASEAN and the UK Enhance Cooperation for a Brighter Future

by Surya Narayan
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In a three-day visit to London from November 1 to 3, ASEAN Secretary-General Kao Kim Hourn and UK officials reaffirmed their commitment to strengthening the partnership between the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and the United Kingdom. This visit marks another significant step in fostering collaboration and addressing shared challenges and opportunities.

The UK Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO) announced that the discussions during Kim Hourn’s visit centered on priority areas outlined in ASEAN’s strategies, specifically the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, and the 2022-2026 ASEAN-UK Plan of Action. These dialogues are paving the way for greater cooperation between the two regions.

Anne-Marie Trevelyan, the UK Minister for the Indo-Pacific, expressed her enthusiasm for the ASEAN-UK partnership, highlighting the boundless opportunities it offers for collaboration. Through the ASEAN-UK Plan of Action, both regions are developing programs to advance shared goals. These goals include economic reform, financial sector development, maritime sustainability, and adapting to climate change. The commitment to deepening this friendship over the years is evident and reassuring.

The UK’s relationship with ASEAN is central to its long-term commitment to a free and open Indo-Pacific. As an ASEAN dialogue partner, the UK is steadily growing its trading links with the region, reaching a value of over £46 billion a year. Additionally, the cooperation extends to critical areas such as cybersecurity and resilience, underscoring the shared commitment to a secure and prosperous Indo-Pacific.

Deputy Prime Minister Oliver Dowden, who has actively contributed to this partnership, expressed his delight in furthering this important work. He met with Deputy Secretary-General Michael Tene in Jakarta in September and continued the dialogue with Secretary-General Kao Kim Hourn in London. These engagements demonstrate the dedication of both parties to advancing their collaboration.

Kao Kim Hourn’s visit follows UK Foreign Secretary James Cleverly’s participation in the ASEAN Foreign Ministers’ meeting in Jakarta in July, where he engaged with ASEAN leaders. This participation and recognition of the UK as an ASEAN dialogue partner in 2021 further underscore the UK’s commitment to fostering cooperation and shaping the Indo-Pacific regional order.

During his visit, Secretary-General Kao Kim Hourn met with UK Deputy Prime Minister Dowden to delve deeper into the ASEAN-UK partnership. Together, they explored new opportunities for future cooperation, reinforcing the commitment to mutual growth and prosperity.

Notably, Kao Kim Hourn also participated in the UK-ASEAN Business Council (UK-ABC) private sector roundtable discussion during his visit. He expressed his appreciation for the UK-ABC’s significant contribution to strengthening economic ties between business communities in ASEAN and the UK. These ties are crucial for enhancing economic integration and addressing critical priority areas, including digital transformation, green practices, resilient supply chains, and financial services.

As ASEAN and the UK join hands to build a brighter and more prosperous future, the strong commitment and enthusiasm exhibited during this visit are indeed promising. The enhanced partnership between these two regions promises to bring about positive change, not only for the people of ASEAN and the UK but for the entire Indo-Pacific region. The road ahead is filled with potential and opportunities for mutual growth and cooperation.

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