|Rt Hon Mark Field MP, UK Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific.
Bilateral relations are extremely important and I’m delighted that the UK and Vietnam Strategic Partnership is growing. But I rarely have the opportunity to talk about the UK approach to Asia as a whole. On 14 August I made a speech in Jakarta and directly to you, I’d like to put that right.
First, a short personal story. In 1962, my parents married in Singapore. I grew up hearing their stories about life in Asia. My interest only grew stronger when I first visited this wonderful continent over twenty years ago. It was already so different from my parents’ photographs, and that change continues apace.
Quite rightly, the UK’s relationship with Asia has changed too - from that of my parents’ time, more than half a century ago, to the partnership we enjoy today, with our eyes firmly fixed on the future.
We call our approach ‘All of Asia’, and we place a deliberate emphasis on the ‘All’. As the whole world tilts towards this diverse continent, with its enormous opportunities and yet some very real challenges, it is right that we engage with all its nations and regions.
It is a continent of diversity, of energy, of economic ingenuity, and of young people, with one-third under the age of 25. Asia represents the future of this planet and I am passionate about strengthening the UK’s partnerships across the region. And as we prepare to exit the European Union we are confident that the UK will emerge stronger, be more engaged and more outward-looking than ever before. We want to be a truly Global Britain.
Our relationships with the biggest economies in Asia are of vital importance to the UK. But, the key issues of mutual interest, such as climate change, the illegal wildlife trade, technology, finance, security and research are relevant to All of Asia. This is why the UK has over 50 diplomatic missions across Asia, including in all ten members of ASEAN. And it is why we are expanding still further, by opening three new Posts in the Pacific – in Tonga, Vanuatu and Samoa.
Further, we are exploring opportunities to increase our engagement with ASEAN when we exit the EU - working in partnership for mutual benefit on areas such as education, innovation, smart cities and cyber. The UK is already the second largest investor in ASEAN countries and there is enormous scope for growth. For example, two-way trade between the UK and Vietnam increased 10% between 2016 and 2017.
On prosperity, security and our values, there is an enormous amount we are doing together, in a vast number of areas: from supporting democracy in Malaysia, and educational ventures in China, to spending up to £200 million across Asia to improve the business environment, to joint research linked to the ‘Fourth Industrial Revolution’, to standing up for regional security with our air power and ships; the list goes on.
In Vietnam we are increasing our work to support sustained and inclusive economic growth. Over the next 3 years programmes on low carbon energy, infrastructure development, promoting smarter, healthcare reform and trade will be rolled out. We are also working closely with the Vietnamese Government to reduce corruption in the private sector, economic reform and governance practices and find better ways to mobilise funding for public investment.
|Vietnam's Deputy Foreign Minister Bui Thanh Son and Rt Hon Mark Field MP, UK Minister of State for Asia and the Pacific.
Both the UK and Vietnam have a vested interest to promote and finance green and sustainable projects. Our joint work has already helped three high-tech industrial parks to move to solar energy to provide their energy. On healthcare, the UK Space Agency is using satellite technology to predict future outbreaks of dengue in Vietnam.
We’re also working with Vietnamese research institutes on sustainable use of water resources in both the Red River and Mekong deltas.
The UK is an ardent and active promoter of the International Rules Based System and multilateralism to promote peace, security and prosperity.
We actively work with our Vietnamese counterparts to promote these values through various multilateral fora including the UN, OPCW and ASEAN.
I believe this demonstrates that the UK is a credible partner for Vietnam and All of Asia. A credible security partner. A credible development partner and a credible economic partner. While the UK remains a member of the EU we continue to support the EU’s free trade negotiations with countries across the region, including the EU-Vietnam FTA.
As we prepare to exit the EU we are looking to ensure continuity for our existing EU trade deals and considering options for new bilateral trade agreements. We are also considering seeking accession to CPTPP to help support free and rules-based trade that will benefit all countries.
‘All of Asia’ recognises that Asia is the continent within which the world of the 21st Century will be forged. It is about the UK and ‘All of Asia’ working together, in a partnership of equals, on the things that matter the most to people: getting a good education, finding a decent job, having their rights respected and feeling confident that their future is secure.
It is also about finding the right innovation and technology to make lives better and that is why the UK is looking to collaborate even more on the development of smart cities right across Asia. Working together to build a future that is safer, more free and more prosperous for all. The UK looks forward to joining you all on this exciting journey.