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UK ASEAN Joint Declaration to Open New Avenues for Cooperation

The UK and ASEAN announced their joint declaration on future economic cooperation to promote principles of open, free, non-discriminatory, transparent, predictable, and stable multiple trading system. This is an extension of the historic decision for both UK and ASEAN. This is another addition to the initiatives being taken by both the groups to promote the economic recovery post the pandemic.  

Nuances of the Declaration

The statement signed by the UK and ASEAN suggested that the objectives of the Joint Declaration were to achieve 

  1. Highly Integrated and Cohesive economy, 
  2. A competitive, dynamic and innovative ASEAN 
  3. Enhanced connectivity and sectoral cooperation 
  4. Resilient, inclusive, people oriented and people centred ASEAN 
  5. A global ASEAN. 

In the wake of changing circumstances with the unstable global dynamics and after effects of the lockdowns and economic restrictions due to the pandemic, the declaration portrayed an inclusive document. The need to support and build infrastructure in the UK and even in ASEAN was addressed. The necessity of a two fold way of development was was realised. The crux was development but with a sustainable green infrastructure. Both the parties promoted that as the foundation for smart cities. Both the groups stated the importance of encouraging capacity building courses to promote the same. Understanding the need for training from the beginner level, a skill based education system was also talked about.

In order to achieve the goals, there have been many initiatives put down to help realise them.. New mechanisms intending to achieve multilateral trading systems by removing trade barriers will be adopted to achieve the same. The two also decided to encourage regulatory frameworks and relevant international standards. 

There is a major drive towards collaborating for enhancing the digital innovation and technology. A way to ensure that will be by building upon existing cyber security measures. 

Another terrain that will be emphasised upon will be the financial sector. Institutions in both the the regional groups will work towards facilitating the commercial expertise across FinTech ecosystem. An understanding to share expertise in terms of intellectual property, consumer protection, trade facilitation, inspections and certifications was expressed. The MSMEs will also be worked upon to ensure their rise in regional, national and international markets. There was also a mention of improving the systemic barriers that exist for women in trade. It was realised that women have less access to technology and thus there was a need to take additional steps to improve the situation.

Creative Economy was acknowledged as a way to recover from the backlashed of the pandemic on the economic conditions of the countries. ASEAN has a huge potential for growth in this aspect. With UK’s support , the revenue from this sector can be a big benefit.

Climate change along with sustainable development figured in the list of areas that the two groups could work on. The need for creation of more employment opportunities was realised after addressing the public health challenges. A balanced approach is the need of the hour. Countries all over the world were urged to follow the guidelines of the ASEAN Comprehensive Recovery Framework and its Implementation Plan. 

Both the groups recognised the value of collaborations between the ASEAN Business Advisory Council, Joint Business Councils and the UK-ASEAN Business Council to advance the economic integration. Both UK and the ASEAN agreed to work along the lines of the Master Plan on ASEAN Connectivity (MPAC) and achieve the set objectives by 2025. Alliances like the Digital Innovation Symposium and UK’s support to ASEAN Technical and Vocational Council, ASEAN Women Entrepreneurs Network, ASEAN Digital Integration Framework has been functional in exploring new avenues already. 

All these aspects are targeted at socio economic development through sustainable and environment friendly model. It takes into account the conventional as well as the emerging markets. 

Way Ahead

It must be noted that UK is the first new ASEAN Dialogue Partner in 25 years. The collaboration will benefit both due to the differences in approach, strength and scope of improvement. This is along the lines of UK’s willingness to expand, experiment and explore. The rise of multilateralism and regional collaboration has shown its traces in political as well as economic relationship between different blocs. The cooperation agreed upon between UK and ASEAN is along similar lines.