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DIT Media Release – ASEAN-UK Business Forum & ASEAN Business and Investment Summit


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Thu, 19 Nov. 2020

UK Ministers and leading business representatives conclude two days of ASEAN economic engagement at the sidelines of the 37th ASEAN Summit

  • UK Secretary of State for International Trade Liz Truss delivered opening remarks virtually for a panel at the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, where she emphasised the importance of the UK-ASEAN economic partnership to the UK’s future, notably in education and digital trade. 
  • UK Minister of State for Trade Policy Greg Hands MP spoke at the inaugural ASEAN-UK Business Forum about strengthening the partnership between ASEAN and the UK specifically in technology and renewable energy, as both the UK and ASEAN look to a better and greener economic recovery.

On 12th and 13th November, UK Ministers, Government officials, and UK business representatives joined ASEAN leaders virtually at two key business forums to discuss the important role of digital technology and business in ASEAN’s recovery, resilience and future growth. The ASEAN-UK Business Forum and the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit coincide with the 37th ASEAN Summit this year.

ASEAN and the digital future

ASEAN and the UK have a strong economic relationship. In the last ten years, UK-ASEAN trade has grown by almost 70% to just under £42bn. Despite the challenges presented, 2020 has proved to be a pivotal year for the UK-ASEAN relationship.

At the UK-ASEAN Economic Dialogue in August, the UK and ASEAN agreed on the importance of nurturing digital innovation to help businesses in the region find a place in the burgeoning digital economy.

At the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit in Hanoi, Vietnam, UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss delivered her opening keynote virtually for the panel on “Technology and the Future of Work in ASEAN”.

Advances in technology combined with the impact of COVID-19 will change the future of work. With the accelerated adoption of digital technology globally, she stressed the importance of cultivating highly skilled and mobile workers across all sectors.

Liz Truss, International Trade Secretary, said:

“I am proud that the UK is a visible and long-term partner to ASEAN. Our strong economic partnership has helped bilateral trade grow steadily in the past ten years to reach close to £42bn.

“2020 has been a challenging year but it has also been a year of greater UK-ASEAN partnership.

“The UK is making a decisive tilt to Indo-Pacific and I look forward to deepening our economic and digital partnership to build a better future for our countries and people.

“I would like to congratulate Vietnam for their achievements as this year’s chair of ASEAN and I look forward to collaborating with Brunei in 2021.”

Liz Truss spoke alongside other leaders ASEAN and Dialogue Partners, including H.E. Ir. H. Joko Widodo, President of Indonesia, and H.E. U Thaung Tun, Minister of Investment and Foreign Economic Relations of Myanmar.

Digital Trade at the forefront of UK-ASEAN collaboration

At the inaugural virtual ASEAN-UK Business Forum hosted by the UK-ASEAN Business Council and the ASEAN Business Advisory Council on 12 November, UK Minister of State for Trade Policy Greg Hands MP joined Deputy Secretary-General of ASEAN Dr Aladdin Rillo and spoke about digital innovation as an important catalyst for economic recovery and how ASEAN and the UK can work together on deeper trade and economic cooperation.

The Rt Hon Greg Hands MP, Minister of State for Trade Policy, Department for International Trade said:

“Digital technology is a driver of growth and productivity across the whole economy, and we have seen increased demand for tech solutions in education, healthcare, financial services, supply chains and logistics, and many other areas.

“The UK has a track record of creating more tech unicorns* than anywhere else in Europe, with 82 of these developed to date.

“There is enormous potential for ASEAN and the UK to work together on closing the digital skills gap and maximising innovative technologies.”

*(tech unicorn, a startup company valued at over $1 billion)

Her Majesty’s Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific Natalie Black CBE also spoke at the ASEAN-UK Business Forum, where she discussed the increasing pace of Southeast Asia’s digital economy during COVID-19 and the opportunities for business collaboration in the region.

Natalie Black CBE, HM Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific, said:

As reported this week, Southeast Asia has already seen 40 million new Internet users this year, compared to 100 million over four years between 2015 and 2019. UK companies are growing their presence to support this growth, with at least 216 UK tech companies and 6 UK tech unicorns already here in Southeast Asia, and there is the potential for us to do so much more together.

“The UK has launched several initiatives that will enhance digital collaboration between the UK and this dynamic region, including the Digital Trade Network, UK-ASEAN Digital Business Challenge, and the UK-Southeast Asia FinTech Series. I look forward to working with key partners across Southeast Asia on these exciting programmes.”

On 12th November, Minister Greg Hands MP also participated in a virtual signing ceremony of a letter of UK-Vietnam intent with Vice Minister Tran Quoc Khanh of Vietnam’s Ministry of Industry and Trade, to work together to establish Vietnam’s National Trade Repository (NTR).

Vietnam, as this year’s ASEAN Chair, has committed to establishing an NTR, an online portal of the laws and procedures applicable to trade with Vietnam. The NTR will feed into the overarching ASEAN Trade Repository, providing transparency of the terms of trading with the region.

The discussions between the UK and ASEAN around the 37th ASEAN Summit engagements builds on the UK-ASEAN Economic Dialogue in August 2020, co-chaired by the UK Secretary of State for International Trade, Liz Truss, with the 2020 Chair of the ASEAN Economic Community Minister Tran Tuan Anh of Vietnam, as well as the ASEAN Foreign Ministers Dialogue with the UK in September 2020, co-chaired by the Foreign Secretary, Rt Hon Dominic Raab.

2020 also marks 10 years of strategic partnership between the UK and Vietnam, and the 25th year of Vietnam in ASEAN.

For more information about the ASEAN Business and Investment Summit, click here.

For more information about the ASEAN-UK Business Forum, click here.

About the UK’s Department for International Trade (DIT)

DIT helps businesses export, drives inward and outward investment, negotiates market access and trade deals, and champions free trade. We also secure UK and global prosperity by promoting and financing international trade and investment.




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